Inspiration • Donald Palumbo

I worked in the wardrobe department at Opera Theatre of St. Louis in the late 80's. It was my summer job while completing my BFA in Musical Theatre at Webster University. The opera company, as it does to this day,  worked on the same main stage as the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. And my school.

Donald Palumbo, the Metropolitan Opera’s chorus master, rehearsing about 150 chorus members for “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.”  Credit Damon Winter/The New York Times

Donald Palumbo, the Metropolitan Opera’s chorus master, rehearsing about 150 chorus members for “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.” 

Credit Damon Winter/The New York Times

I started as a chorus dresser and graduated up to principal male dresser over two seasons. I loved it. I learned so much. I was surrounded by object lessons in art and life. 

Donald Palumbo was one of those who taught me, though I'm sure he wasn't aware of it. Because he was the chorus master he was backstage. A lot. Just as he continues to be in his current tenure at The Metropolitan Opera. He was, therefore, the artistic leader/creator whom I could most closely observe from my position backstage.

Donald Palumbo, the Metropolitan Opera’s chorus master.  Credit Damon Winter/The New York Times

Donald Palumbo, the Metropolitan Opera’s chorus master. 

Credit Damon Winter/The New York Times

What I learned from him then, like most lessons in my life, I continue to try and try and try to remember and integrate into my life and work today. I'm not a great student. I feel like I never really finish learning any lesson. Sometimes I remember, sometimes I don't.

No detail is too small. They all count.

The work is never done.

The work is not theoretical. It is actual.

They (the audience) may not know it, but they will feel  it.

The wings are still the world of the opera (the play, the dance).

I am so fortunate to have had the chance to witness this man's work up close.

He is a part of the artistic compass I carry with me now.