Subbing in Japan

by Eva Burmeister, violinist

I began playing at the Met in 2006 while I was on sabbatical from the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in Germany. Last-minute, the MET Orchestra violin section needed an extra player for a tour to Japan, and I was thrilled to be invited. I joined the orchestra in their rehearsal room at the Met for two rehearsals of Die Walküre. The next thing I knew, I was at the airport with the whole opera company waiting to board a 747 headed for Tokyo. Apart from my fellow Juilliard classmates who were in the orchestra, I didn't yet know anyone. Starting right at the airport, I got into interesting conversations with colleagues from various departments: makeup, stage crew, dance, wigs, and costume. I was impressed by the depth of talent, and was touched by how warm and welcoming everyone was, regardless of his role in the company.

One morning in Japan, the orchestra and singers took a train from Kobe to Tokyo. We were each given boarding passes and were assigned departure times. For some unknown reason, I was separated from the orchestra, and found my assigned seat to be right in front of Maestro Eschenbach and across from Debbie Voigt. I looked around, and there were no instrumentalists in sight. Instead, the car was packed with famous opera singers. Once again, I was impressed and humbled by the vast talent around me. I felt shy and out-of-place, but was warmed by the graciousness and friendliness of everyone, as if it were the most natural thing that some of the world's greatest operatic talent was rumbling across the Japan countryside with a lone violinist in their midst. Turns out, it was one of the funniest and most entertaining travel segments on that tour!

Back in New York, I finally had the opportunity to perform in the pit at the Met. My family has had a subscription to the Met for generations, well before Lincoln Center was built. As a little girl, my parents brought me and my brothers each year to NY to hear an opera in these family seats. While a student at Juilliard, my mother gave me the subscription series and I went to performances often. However, walking into the orchestra pit in 2006 for the first time and peering up at the many balconies and at our subscription seats was a new and thrilling experience. It was also great fun for my family and the families we have sat next to for generations to look down and find me in the orchestra.

Playing at the Met was a great privilege: the artistry, repertoire, and warmth of working environment. While there, I forged many close friendships and miss the orchestra dearly.

I am now a member of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra where I happily reside with my husband and growing family.