In the Pit, a Future Without Phantom 歌劇魅影落幕 專屬樂手揮別伴奏歲月
文/Maria Clara Cobo
Last fall, as show No. 13,781 of "The Phantom of the Opera" came to a close, the applause overpowered the thundering music. The members of the orchestra, packed into the pit under the stage, could not see the crowd, but they could hear and feel them.
The standing ovation brought Kristen Blodgette, the show's associate conductor, to tears. She held her red-nailed hands in prayer, in gratitude to the musicians.
Andrew Lloyd Webber's smash hit — the longest-running musical in Broadway history — is scheduled to give its final performance at the Majestic Theater this month. These days, since the announcement of the closing last September, the musical "feels more like a rock concert," said Kurt Coble, a violinist with the show.
Coble is part of Broadway's largest pit orchestra, which will disappear along with the show. It holds 27 full-time musicians, 11 of whom have been with "Phantom" since it opened in the late 1980s. The consistent work has allowed many of the longtime musicians, who have essentially grown up and older with the show, to build comfortable, even lucrative lives. And that is no small feat for any artist seeking stability in New York City.
Unlike the principal actors who have short-term contracts with "Phantom," full-time members of the orchestra and ensemble get a "run-of-show" agreement, which guarantees their jobs until the production closes. In 1988, when "Phantom" first opened, "there were some wide-eyed optimists who thought the show could run as long as five to six years," recalled Lowell Hershey, a trumpeter who has been with the production since the beginning. "And I remember thinking, 'Wow, that would be really good.'"
"Phantom," of course, surpassed that prediction. During its 35-year run, the musical has created more jobs and generated more income than any other show in Broadway history, according to Michael Borowski, its press representative.
The security of the "Phantom" paycheck has helped many of its musicians start families, send children to college, buy property, save for retirement. "Broadway was never meant to be a steady job, but for us, it was a steady job," said concertmaster Joyce Hammann, who has been with "Phantom" since 1990. "I can't overstress how unbelievably lucky we have all been for all these years."
A Plan to Lift the Fog of War in Ukraine? It's in the Cards. 突破烏克蘭戰爭迷霧之計？ 在一副好牌中隱然成形
With billions of dollars in weapons, the West has sought to give Ukraine the upper hand in its war with Russia. But the dizzying array of arms headed to the battlefield could make it hard for troops to tell friends from foes.
So the U.S. Army has come up with a new training tool seemingly designed for the conflict: a set of playing cards with pictures of 52 different NATO-made tanks, armored personnel carriers, trucks, artillery pieces and other weapons systems, plus two jokers.
The idea, said Maj. Andrew Harshbarger, a spokesperson for the Army's Training and Doctrine Command, is to enable soldiers to quickly "identify enemy equipment and distinguish the equipment from friendly forces."
The Pentagon has issued similar decks in the past to help forces familiarize themselves with elements of warfare over a hard-fought game of spades, hearts or poker. Each card has a picture of a weapons system, along with its name, the country where it is manufactured, its export destinations and its main armament.
In a statement, Harshbarger did not specifically say the new cards were aimed at helping with Ukraine's fight against Russia. But he said they could be used across military services, and at all levels up the chain of command, and focused on "NATO equipment that has proliferated to non-NATO countries."
Nowhere in the world is that more pertinent now than in Ukraine, where NATO states and allies have flooded the battle zone over the past year with an estimated $68 billion in commitments for weapons and military aid — the vast majority of that from the United States.
Many of the weapons systems shown in the new deck have either been sent to Ukraine in the last year or are being used to train Ukrainian troops. Some are still under consideration for donation by NATO allies intent on Russia's retreat.
The cards will be printed over April, and officials said it's expected they will be made available to U.S., NATO and Ukrainian troops. The Ukrainians are likely to need them the most as they slog through not just a fog of war but also a menagerie of foreign weapons systems, some of which they are still learning to use. The cards could also help U.S. and NATO troops who are responsible for receiving weapons from around the world and shipping them into Ukraine.