A young(ish) opera singer's random thoughts and observations.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Opening nights

Day 32 - Thursday

In the run up to tonight's performance Lillian Alling we get an opportunity for a bit of a lie in, as we are only scheduled for a brief rehearsal in the afternoon to work out the curtain calls and some notes. Then it's the usual: hair & make up, chorus warm up, and we're off. As we rush onstage for the Ellis Island scene it hits us: there is an audience out there! Well, I suppose that was to be expected, but honestly, I hope I never become immune to that rush of adrenaline. It's an extra kick of energy to be harnessed to bring something new to a performance. Kelly would maybe disagree with me, as he has his own view on the phenomenon of performing to an audience (which I'll touch on later, but I hope the two aren't mutually exclusive), but I feel that the audience brings something very important to the space. What we do as performers can be broken down into a myriad of basic elements, and most of these are grounded in repetition. Our work on vocal technique is based on repetition and refinement, we learn music by going over it again and again, internalising staging and the overall rehearsal process is incredibly repetitive... They do say (this isn't a completely abstract 'they', I've actually met and worked with some of 'them') that the goal is to perform every time as if you were doing it it for the first time: it's the first time you have that thought, you say that line, you meet this person. Unfortunately it is sometimes a struggle, depending on what the process has been, how the work has gone, what difficulties have arisen. But then you walk out onstage with the audience out there, in the dark. You know they're there, the air in the theatre is different, the temperature, the acoustic, etc. That moment, when you walk out and know that this isn't Kansas any more, we're not rehearsing, that's what I find helps me break away from 'singer Jan'. You surrender and trust that the work is done and is there to help you cope with any problems that may come up, but it's sort of out of your hands, there's no getting off, no going back, no more polishing to be done. The 'rehearsal' part of you switches off and you're free to be the character. It's a great feeling, what can I say, and this is just speaking as a chorus member / minor role.

Cairan and Melanie, or Scotty and Lillian
Both winners tonight!

The show goes very well, not perfectly (they never do), but it has an energy about it that I think let the story shine through the performance, and that's what it's all about. The audience's response and the feeling in the company were both very positive, and we retire to the after-show reception in (/for) good spirits.

Room 413 at the after party... shame about the hair

Day 33 - Friday

Today is Simon's birthday!

Before we get to this evening's Cosi fan tutte opening, we have a notes session with Kelly in the afternoon. It's quite philosophical this time, with a long chat about how we feel it went, 'digging past the surface of awesome'. This is where Kelly delivers the line that makes me worry that he may not agree with my feelings from last night: 'Never feel you need the audience. We should perform the same whether they're there or not.' The thing is, we never quite manage to do the latter. Of course I agree with never saying 'it'll be fine with an audience', and perhaps I'd rather think of it in terms of always thinking/pretending there is an audience, rather than pretending they don't make a difference.

Cosi opens to a great reaction from the crowd, with plenty of laughs and applause, as it should be. I'm happy for the principals, as they've been through a difficult process, and they deserved a show they could be proud of, and judging by the audience's appreciation, they got just that.

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