The comic genius of Steven Condy has given opera audiences belly aches from laughter in all the major buffo roles. His comic timing is perfect. And his creativity for crafting an impromptu joke has
caused more than one pause in a rehearsal process so everyone can recover from uncontrollable laughter.
Steven Condy is in this month's
HAPPY AMPER SPOTLIGHT!
This week's AMPED UP OPERA PODCAST focusses on Donizetti's sparkling DON PASQUALE. The title role is a calling card for Steven, who has delighted audiences in many opera houses with his portrayal of this lovable oaf. AMPED UP invited to Steven to share an anecdote
about a production of this opera, and to provide us with an inside look at this very crafty artist.
From Mr. Condy:
I sang the role of Don Pasquale for the first time in 1995. (It’s hard to believe I’ve been living with this character for over 20 years!) I don’t remember a lot about the production. Since the company that produced it no longer exists, I think I can share this funny story. The company was run by a very wealthy megalomaniac. He had his finger on every aspect of the production. Besides being the artistic director, he was also the conductor. While there was a stage director, I remember that a lot of the stage direction kept changing because he didn’t like it. It was very clear that he was doing this for his own status in society and with the wealthy friends who came to see him. His picture was up all over town. It was like, “Don Pasquale: starring THE CONDUCTOR.”
So we get to the performance. It was an old theater that didn’t have a lot of dressing rooms. I think there were 4 rooms. Our Maestro took dressing room #1 – the largest one by far and the one closest to the stage. There was a room that was closer to the orchestra pit, but apparently that one was too small. They made that one the stage managers office. I had room #2 as the title character but half the size of #1. Poor Norina was in room #3, but it was even smaller than mine and it was the farthest from the stage. She had these major costume changes and there wasn’t enough room for the dresses. I offered that wardrobe switch the rooms, but they said it wouldn’t make that much of a difference. So, in my too-often-loud, New Yorker style, I voiced my displeasure that it had to be this way; “[The conductor] doesn’t need that big room. He puts on a tux and isn’t even there until intermission. This is wrong.” Because he was such a megalomaniac, word got back to him of my displeasure. I was in make-up during intermission.
He comes in and says, “I understand your upset about not having the largest dressing room.”
“No,” I said, “I just think that it would be easier for us if you took one of the smaller rooms.”
“Well, this is the room I use. I need it.”
“For what,” asked I, the big mouth?
He was now clearly angry with me. “It’s important that I have the large room.”
“But you only have a tux and you’re not there for the whole show.”
In full voice, he yells, “I’m sorry you can’t have the largest room, but I need to room to entertain patrons after the performance!”
And in my take-no-prisoners mentality, “It’s not for me! I couldn’t care less. I have two costumes! But [Norina] is stuffed into that room and has to go into the hallway to put her shoes on. Perhaps you should consider what we have to do on stage instead of entertaining your friends!”
“I’m the artistic director and I need to have that room!”
Needless to say, I never went back to that company. BUT, the company is gone and I’m still here! For the record, it was NOT Douglas Kinney Frost!
After 20 years, I’ve been in smaller dressing rooms and had much better experiences. And, I’ve gotten much better at controlling my mouth. All of the energy I expelled in righteous indignation I’ve redirected into speed of singing patter.
Here is a charming look at Mr. Condy on and off the stage:
AU: What is the secret to making great comedy?
SC: For me, sometimes there's nothing more funny than real life. We all know those people who are completely crazy, but they take themselves very seriously. I try to play characters as real as possible. Pasquale genuinely believes that he can become a great ladies man and father a half-dozen children even though he is 70 years old and has probably never even dated a woman.
AU: What does the phrase "play Misty for me" mean in your house?
SC: It means this! This is our dog Misty. She's a long-haired Dachshund.
AU: You've been married to soprano Robin Condy Massie for 24 years. What's the secret to a happy, healthy relationship, especially with the amount of travel your careers demand?
SC: First you find the greatest, sweetest, most loving person in the world. Then you marry her. :-) For us, our Christian faith is very important. It keeps us focused on the things that are most important. We try to always remember the word "love" is a verb not a noun. It's not the ooey-gooey, romantic, passionate feelings. Love is a choice. Everyday (sometimes several times per day) we have to say to ourselves, "I CHOOSE to love my spouse." We don't always LIKE each other, but we always love each other by choice. Then there's my mother's wisdom: "I never go to sleep angry. I just stay up and plot my revenge." (She was joking of course - she and my father will be married for 59 years on April 12!
AU: If your smartphone could only play one selection, what would it be?
SC: If my smartphone could only play one selection, it wouldn't be very smart, now would it? But if I had to choose, it would be either "Be Still and Know" by Steven Curtis Chapman or "New York State of Mind" by Billy Joel.
AU: Is there a role you'd love to perform that has not been a part of your repertoire, yet?
SC: I would like to try Rigoletto someday.