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

Monday, 15 August 2011

Opera, opera, opera, opera... and then a day of being human?

Day 27 - Saturday

Morning: Catriona and myself have a coaching session on the Il core vi dono duet from Cosi with Joel Ivany (the director of the main production of Cosi here) and Robin Wheeler (one of the repetiteurs). It's great fun to get the duet on its feet and see how different it is from the last time I did it. New team, new approach, and it's good that Joel prefers to explore the scene with us, rather than have us copy the blocking of the principals.

Our input into the War Zone's decor

Afternoon: more Cosi as we launch into the piano dress (or stage & piano, as they're known in the UK). It's the first time we're in costumes, so that provides some fun, but for the most part it's sitting around for the chorus, which I try to put to good use by working on my dialogue for Orpheus.

Costume fun

I don't get much of a break between sessions, as I go to a presentation of the Banff Centre's new commission: The Last King of Scotland. It's a new opera by Stephen McNeff, with a libretto by Giles Foden (the author of the book on which the 2006 film of the same name was based). At present it's a work in progress and has been workshopped over the past two weeks here with some of the OAT participants, as well as soloists brought in to work on the main roles of Idi Amin and Garrigan. The presentation is of a couple of semi-staged scenes from the opera. It is interesting comparing all of the new operas I've been involved with or close to over the last couple of months. They are all so different: John Estacio's Lillian Alling is almost like a film score with singing, cinematic, grand, accessible; Tom Floyd's operas are more modern, but quite melodic at the same time; while The Last King is eclectic and atmospheric (with great use of African percussion and the vocal ensemble), but the sung solo lines are rarely melodic and quite difficult to follow, which makes for a more demanding experience. There seem to be fans of each of these approaches, and I don't think I'm enough of an expert on contemporary music to have an informed opinion (or one worth sharing for that matter).

Evening: stage & orchestra time for Lillian Alling. The stage element is definitely the stronger one this time round, but hopefully there'll be enough time to tighten it all up. The principals once again deliver full performances, which considering it's their third day in a row is no mean feat.

Day 28 - Sunday

The long-awaited day off! First order of business: sleep in. Then another inspired initiative: we rent cars and drive to Lake Louise for a day of light hiking.

Lake Louise: 'Yes! Nature! I win!'

The lake itself is stunning (if the atmosphere is slightly spoiled by the huge hotel by the shore), and then a short hike later it only gets better.

Mirror Lake

Agnes Lake

We reach a second lake, then a waterfall, and then a third lake with a teahouse and free range chipmunks bustling around the tourists. We enjoy some tea and cakes (yes, even in the mountains we manage to maintain a high degree of sophistication) and then head back to enjoy some mexican food in downtown Banff and then a soak in the hot tub. Some of the tourist infrastructure here dates back to the turn of the century, when the railway was built through the mountains (as I find out from helpful information signs by the trail today), and at first catered for well to do people and was run by the rail company, who brought in Swiss guides (who promptly went about conquering the local peaks) and built luxurious hotels, picturesque chalets and isolated teahouses. See, it's not just about the singing, sometimes it's nice to have a day when you can just be normal.

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