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PDX OPERAbeat | A Company Blog is the blog for all things Portland Opera, featuring a variety of guest contributors who will provide insider's tidbits on all we do to celebrate the beauty and breadth of opera.

More adventures in music librarian-ing: Salome edition


This is my last week in the office until July. I'm off contract for three weeks, then return for three weeks in July to work exclusively on the gala, then off for three more weeks, returning in August for the 13-14 season. Being away from the library for the summer, as most librarians are, presents an interesting set of challenges. It's like preparing to go on a vacation except the vacation is many weeks long and nobody can call you if something goes wrong. (Technically they can call me -- I'm not going anywhere -- but because I am off contract we try to avoid that.)


My main goals for this period between the close of Falstaff and my final day in the office have been 1) to get all the rentals for the gala set up, so that the music arrives while I'm back in July; and 2) to clean and correct all the Salome parts in order to get them to the orchestra before I leave.


Salome horn 4

Salome horn IV. Yikes.


Yes. Salome. Salome, which begins rehearsing in OCTOBER. What can I say? It's a really hard piece of music. I can't give it to the orchestra with the normal lead time, which is 3 weeks before the first rehearsal. It's extremely, extremely difficult music, and they haven't played it since 1990. I imagine many of our people haven't played it at all.


Unfortunately, Salome is a headache. As is the case with a shockingly large number of operas, the parts are riddled with errors. Remember Galileo? Remember how I painstakingly combed every note of every part to check for mistakes? Well, fortunately for me, another librarian (at Houston Grand Opera) has already done THAT step for me, or I would have had to start this project a year ago. But even so, that leaves me with a whopping 2100+ corrections to make to the parts. TWENTY ONE HUNDRED. To give you an idea of the scale of this, I've been working on these corrections since the middle of April. I've mostly finished the winds. I haven't even started the strings.


Here is what the errata pages look like:


Salome errata


Though a number of the changes are important but not crucial (most dynamic changes -- from pianissimo to piano, for example -- fall into this category), a HUGE number of the changes are pivotal, necessary, rehearsal-stopping changes. Like that place after rehearsal 219 where it says "missing notes"? Yeah, you don't really want your music to be missing notes. Or bars of rest. Probably half the wind parts are straight up missing things. If I had put the parts out as they were in the box, rehearsal would have come to a screeching halt every five minutes.


So, surprisingly, the gala music has taken a back seat to this. As of today I'm mostly through the winds, with crucial changes being postponed until I return, because in many cases inserting extra bars of missing music requires re-engineering the parts altogether and I do not have time for that right now. I have to clean a set of string parts, and then mark corrections into those; corrections which are, blessedly, small in number in comparison to the winds. (The winds are more troublesome because we are using the reduced orchestra version of the piece and the reduction occurs entirely in the winds; the strings play the same parts as they would in the gigantic-orchestra version.) I only have time to fix one set of strings, so I'll have to do the rest when I return later this summer.


And by the way, cleaning all these parts produces a lot of eraser shavings. A LOT.





(That's Henry, my tiny desk shop-vac. He is a real working vacuum. He is also kind of overwhelmed by this project.)


I have been joking that doing this much erasing -- have you ever erased pencil marks off of HUNDREDS of pages? -- is going to make me look like a fiddler crab. One big arm, one tiny arm.


fiddler crab


Small consolation: if a fiddler crab loses his big claw (his -- only the males have the asymmetrical claws), the OPPOSITE claw grows huge during his next molt. So at least if my arm falls off while I'm erasing, I have a backup.