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

Monday, 13 February 2012

A tsunami every day

Wow, it's been a while since I've written, the reason being that it's been a hectic couple of weeks: music calls for Le Nozze di Figaro, henceforth to be known as Figaro, a visit to WNO studio rehearsals, the start of our Figaro rehearsals with our director: Harry Fehr, a couple of concerts, the dress rehearsal of WNO's Traviata, and auditions galore (St Magnus Festival, RWCMD vocal scholarships and prizes, BYO). 


With such a plethora of topics to choose from, what should I write about? My thoughts on auditions haven't changed since the (quite popular by this blog's standards) rant, the concerts and dress rehearsal weren't all that interesting, so Figaro it is.


Our first taste of staging the opera was actually at WNO, where we were invited to sit in on a studio rehearsal of the Act 3 sextet. It was in fact the first rehearsal of that particular scene, so we got to observe the entire process, which as you can imagine was fascinating. I suppose the most surprising thing was how small the difference between their process and every production I've done so far is. Yes, the average age is higher, the standard of singing as well, and I would assume that the risk of someone being underprepared is much smaller, but watching the WNO cast banter, joke about and have such a good time overall, I thought to myself: 'The way I am now is probably the most grown up I'll ever be...' And my friends can attest to the fact that I'm as childish as a 15-year-old at times.


Our own rehearsals are also great fun. It's just that kind of opera! We spent the first couple of days reading through a translation of the libretto together as a complete team, then made decisions about our characters: age, background, relationships between them, etc. With the scene thus set, we got started on Act 1. As I type this the act is pretty much set, though of course there's more detailed work to do. Tomorrow it's on to Act 2...


Figaro is sooo complicated to set! The interplay between characters is very intricate if you delve into it a bit, with plans and intensions shifting and changing with almost every line, the risk is you overcomplicate it to the point where you don't know what your character is thinking, which leaves the audience without a chance in hell! You can't imagine how many times we have discussions along the lines of:

- So, why are you saying that?

- Because this...

- OK, but considering what you say in Act 4 maybe your motivation is this...

- But doesn't he find about that only in Act 3?

- Ah, but what with the French revolution in the background...

- So exactly which line are we talking about anyway?


The director (who by the way is doing a great job of finding a balance between detail and clarity that should ensure that we have enough thinking on stage to give the audience a sparkling show, without muddying the clarity of the story even if they don't catch every little shift) told us that he'd been talking to Sir Thomas Allen about this opera, and got the advice: 'Every day will be like a tsunami' in terms of questions, clarifying the plot, making decisions as to where to go with the text, etc. 


I suppose for us, especially those who haven't done Figaro before (it's my fourth, and I'm finding tonnes of new detail and countless new thoughts and possibilities), the tsunami effect is even more tangible. Today we were revising Act 1, and were negotiating changes of plans / ideas / motivations with the director (plus technical notes about moves, angles etc) to make it work better, while being bombarded with extra notes from the conductor and language coach... It's mad, I tell you! Maaaad! But brilliant :)

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