Thoughts from a Musician's Heart
OF PRINCIPLES AND PERSECUTION.
IS KEEPING A JOB MORE IMPORTANT THAN GOD? by Hannah Celeste Lu
I had the honor of attending the MasterWorks Festival when I was in college. It was such a wonderful training ground for me as an opera singer about to embark on a career. It trained me up musically, but it also strengthened my faith and put questions in my head about whether I would really be willing to quit a job if I was asked to do something on stage that I was not comfortable with.
This question came to reality several years ago when I was performing with an opera company in a production that featured its opera chorus. It was a compilation of many of the most well-known scenes from various operas. One of the scenes being performed was the “Witches Chorus” from MacBeth. In this unusual production, the staging for that scene had the ladies of the chorus taunting a man that was dressed up as a lady and stripping him all the way down to his white boxer-shorts as the scene went on. The “light-hearted” scene immediately and unexpectedly transitioned into “The Hallelujah Chorus” from The Messiah with the “boxer ladened, cross-dressing man” stretching his arms out laterally on either side of himself, emulating Jesus on the cross. “The Hallelujah Chorus” was then to be sung to this man that definitely did not emulate the Christ figure that I knew. I was incredulous.
I happened to be in “The Hallelujah Chorus” scene and as I stood in that staging rehearsal, I felt sick realizing that I had to come out and sing “in a mocking way” one of the most sacred & incredible pieces of music ever written, a piece where Handel himself stated “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself seated on His throne, with His company of Angels.” This was the first time I had ever felt the Holy Spirit prompt me to rise up right there in front of the music director, chorus master, stage director, several assistant directors and about 50 chorus members.
I went right up to the chorus master and said I was offended by this staging and I couldn’t sing in a scene that demoralized my Jesus and the incredible quality of this masterful music. He quickly told me that it wasn’t his doing and that I needed to speak to the director. An assistant quickly came to me and I told him that I could not do it. Other people in the chorus looked at me in shock, but then started murmuring things in agreement with what I said. They continued to stage the scene and I didn’t leave, but had a feeling of sickness the whole time and a huge sense that I would be fired the next day. I didn’t care. It was SO offensive and I knew that this would be offensive to many of the opera patrons and the Sunday afternoon audiences as well.
I was apprehensive to come back to rehearsal the next day, but I did. I found out at rehearsal, that after I had stood up for what I believed in, it had given many other chorus members the confidence to write several emails stating their disapproval of the scene choices as well and that they would not perform it.
The guest director was one that wanted to try “new things” and was big into the shock value, but he quickly found out that it wouldn’t fly in our opera company, so he was forced to restage the whole scene and I was able to sing that beautiful music with goodness, beauty and truth. Although it was the Holy Spirit that prompted me to say something, I am thankful that God used me in that situation, and it proves to me once again that God will always give us a way out if we follow Him.