Day 0 - Sunday
We arrived on Sunday after 20 hours of travel, so understandably tired. I say we, because I met my first fellow participant (Catriona, Scottish mezzo-soprano) in the program on the bus from Calgary Airport to Banff. Apart from meeting a couple of participants (it was nice to catch up with Dan Joy, who was our Tamino in Opera'r Ddraig's Magic Flute in 2010) and our diction coach, sampling the fantastic food in the canteen and having a sit in the steam room, nothing exciting happened.
Day 1 - Monday
45min warm-up in the morning was very energetic, fusing dance, thai-chi and yoga, a great start to the day. Next up was orientation and a tour around the Banff Centre's campus. It's a mix of new buildings and older ones going as far back as the 50s, so there's a certain sense of the architecture being all over the place, but this is somewhat mitigated by the fact that the campus is surrounded by woodland and has trees in almost every available outdoor area. The facilities are stunning - rehearsal studios with full-wall windows looking out onto the valley, numerous practice rooms, movement studios, a gym, pool, steam room, climbing wall, etc. There are 2 theatres, an amphitheatre (as of Day 1 still under construction - basically a pile of rubble and the beginnings of landscaping), conference centre, 3 buildings with accommodation, and much more. The programs run during the Summer Arts Festival range from theatre, through dance, circus, opera, to instrumental and orchestral music. All this in the heart of the Rocky Mountains... Europe should be jealous.
In the afternoon, a surprise! A session on Lillian Alling (a new opera receiving its second performance here) which was meant to be table work suddenly turns into a music call with the newly arrived conductor. My scene falls apart musically (it's a barber-shop-esque number with some odd harmonies), but we comfort ourselves that we hadn't ever sung it in context before. Still, some work to put in before tomorrow's coaching on it.
Evening session: diction coaching to get my brooklynese accent up to scratch, and then sitting in on Cosi rehearsals (myself covering Guglielmo). Nice to hear and meet the principals, director, conductor and stage management team. But yet another surprise: David Agler wants to go through the whole opera with the covers on Friday. Yikes!
After dinner - succumb to jetlag.
Day 2 - Tuesday
2.5 hours of movement this morning! Pilates is brutal, but after that a change of teacher takes us more into the realms of abstract stage movement, a bit less physical, but more engaging and by the evening all this proved to be very draining.
Afternoon session: dashing in and out of Cosi rehearsals to attend our first proper music session on the Brooklyn Boys quintet with the conductor and my first singing lesson with Adrian. I've underestimated the effect of this climate! We're fairly high up and the humidity... is nonexistent. I'm drinking 3-4 litres of water a day and still feel dehydrated. Halfway through my lesson I get hoarse and it's a struggle from then on. Apparently it gets better after a few days. Oddly enough, an hour or so of a break is enough to 'reset' the voice to a usable state again, so should probably ease into things for now. Have a swim to clear my head and a sit in the whirlpool (a bit like a jacuzzi) to give my muscles a break.
Evening: more brooklynese coaching, this time with all of us and it's good fun, the quintet sounds quite good now. Then more Cosi rehearsals, where us covers organise ourselves to have a sing through on our own in another room. This raises my stress levels considerably, as it turns out that I'm a bit behind in terms of preparation. From now until Friday (at least): spend every waking moment looking over the score.
There was a huge storm today, we were having food in the glass-walled canteen and could see the torrential rain and there was even a momentary power outage. A good reminder that we're in the mountains. Also doesn't bode well for tomorrow's planned hike...
Day 3 - Wednesday
First living creature I saw today other than my roommate
Morning: the weather is clear and the hike is on! We meet up behind our accommodation to see an elk resting in the grass outside the door... Second one I've seen so far, the first one being in town! Kelly (Lillian Alling director, and overall program boss) takes us up Tunnel Mountain, but this is more than just a hike - in breaks he gives us some coaching in stagecraft, culminating in a bit of a session at the summit. Issues raised: far focus, walking upstage, catching the conductor, tackling 'rough terrain', a healthy attitude to result-driven direction, and effective work structure when 'blocking'.
Banff as seen from Tunnel Mountain
Afternoon: Brooklyn Boys! We started staging the scene, it requires a lot of energy and 'stage noise', so we need to come up with some 1920s Brooklyn banter. Great fun though, it's nice to be able to wolf-whistle and harass a pretty blonde without feeling guilty.
Evening: we got the evening off to be able to go see the ballet and dance programs put on their show. I'm not going, as I want to spend more time on Cosi, writing this blog in my breaks.
More photos here!