Laurie Rubin makes her debut with LACO at this weekend’s concerts. The mezzo-soprano, who grew up in Encino, gives the US premiere of Do You Dream in Color? by Bruce Adolphe set to a poem by Rubin.
Laurie, blind from birth, was asked the title question by Adolphe’s young daughter and was struck by the openness and candour of her enquiry, free of the prejudice and fear of being politically incorrect that stifle would-be inquisitive teenagers and adults into polite silence.
Rubin’s memoir, Do You Dream in Color? insights from a girl without sight, was published in 2012. It’s an eminently readable book, vividly bringing to life experiences of the everyday and the extraordinary as a blind person – from taking a cab ride to mastering the hardest ski slopes in the Rockies. Laurie recounts her music lessons and how, after a few years of not practicing, her piano teacher suggested she might prefer to study singing! There followed invitations to perform the national anthem at high profile public events, a summer at Tanglewood and a winning performance at Music Center Spotlight Awards in her teenage years.
Dotted throughout the biography are poems reflecting Laurie’s associations with colors – white is “the luscious carpet of snow, quieting a town with its gentle soundproofing” and yellow “the color of laughter, of excitement, of new adventure.”
She recounts major events in her school years – the first day at a new school, daunting for anyone, when she was singled out by a teacher when using her talking laptop – “you look like a robot all hooked up to your machine like that”. There’s a heartbreaking description of when her mother lists her classmates’ reasons for not befriending her – among them her outdated outfits and her attempts to join in with conversations. There’s the amusing anecdote of her motivation to learn Hebrew Braille quickly so as not to spend any more time than necessary in the teacher’s apartment, which “smelled strongly of dirty dog”.
The later chapters cover her time at college; a summer on the Britten-Pears Young Artist ProgramYale Opera during which she was assigned her first guide dog, Mark, and met her future life partner, Jenny.
And her answer to the question “Do you dream in color?” Well, why not read Laurie’s book and find out for yourself?