I went to opera camp. I can’t say which one. I have been advised not to comment. I’ll just say, New Jersey. My parents decided to send me to opera camp after I played Oliver in a middle school production of Oliver! They thought my voice was above average. Numbers such as, “Whe-e-e-e-ere is Love?” “Boy for Sale,” “Who Will Buy?” “I’d Do Anything,” “That’s Your Funeral,” and “Food Glorious Food,” really spoke to me, I guess. I sang and sang all over the place. Literally, all over New York City. My Mom was worried, but thought it was pretty cool. My Dad thought it might have been Tourette’s. My teacher assured them both it was a pre-pubescent phase and that her son had also behaved mysteriously at my age.
The summer after Oliver! opened off-off-off-wayoff Broadway, I told my parents how much I loved singing, so they enrolled me in opera camp. Opera camp turned out to be very different then I had imagined. They woke us up early to train our voices in cooler air temperatures—I don’t know why. Then they put us down again from 7:30am until 9:30am, but during this time, we weren’t left alone. The counselor watched over us. Literally, watched us sleep. He explained this was a familiarization technique, so he could study our breathing. He was a castrato; you opera sophisticates might be familiar with the ways of the castrato.
I remember lying on my cot, eyes closed, trying to master my breath, to breathe rhythmically. When you didn’t breathe rhythmically, he woke you up and breathed at you—in-out-in-out, heavily, without a word. Just breathed in your face—I guess to show you how they do it off-off-Broadway. There were other exercises they made us do that didn’t make sense. I can’t get into it now, but if you keep reading, maybe in a few years I’ll be able to disclose the entire experience without risking entrapment. Not that I, myself, am at risk. Anymore. I just don’t want to risk taking on more legal fees. It’s for my own protection. And yours, honestly. You may already know too much. In brief: I had imagined I would love opera camp. I did not love it in the least.