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

Saturday, 16 June 2012

How long does it take to stage Carmen?

Well, in our case it's been five days! Today was our final studio rehearsal, we now get a day off and on Monday we fly to Kirkwall for the sitzprobe, and then have a couple of days to adjust to the venue and we're opening on Thursday.

Admittedly, we are putting on an abridged version, the show is about 2 hours long with the interval, but still, getting to full runs in 4 days is something of an achievement, and trust me, I wouldn't be posting about it if today's sample audience were saying things like 'It's a shame you have so little time' or 'It looks good for what it is'. Singing Escamillo, I actually get to sit out a fair bit and see what's going on from an audience's perspective (not too often though, as most principals also bump up the chorus), and those moments make me proud to be in this cast.

How did we do it? Well, the bare bones of it is that the director made us blunder our way through it with some extremely rough geography on the first day, and we then set about filling in the detail. I think it's fair to say that the speed with which we got to where we were this morning is firstly a testament to the talent of the individuals involved, especially the two main protagonists, who created fleshed-out characters largely by themselves. There wasn't much time for a company exploration of the piece or discovery of the intricacies of the characters, so I am greatly impressed that Sam and Joe inhabited their roles (Carmen and Don Jose respectively) so fully and decisively straight off the mark.

The second reason probably has something to do with how we are trained (I was going for something profound here, but I'm not sure I can actually put it into words). Being in these rehearsals, it always puts a smile on my face to observe how good my colleagues' instincts are! This is at its core a college production, and it shows that the RWCMD is doing a lot of things right (picking talented people first and foremost, I guess). For myself I think a lot of it has to do with how much we get to perform, and that even in concert mode we are encouraged to put on a bit of theatricality (in a tasteful way, of course). I often jokingly refer to these improvised mini-stagings as 'blagging our way through', but I have to say they build up confidence in our instincts, which is invaluable. It also means that we have good chemistry as an ensemble, seeing as we get to rehearse and perform together a lot, which has also payed dividends in this particular production of Carmen.

I'm not saying that putting on an opera in 2 weeks is the way it should be done (though what with the funding situation these days, who knows if it won't become the norm even for established companies), but this experience goes to show that, with the right group of people, it CAN be done, and to a good standard. I'm thankful that I get to work with just such a group!

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