Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Flying with 200% concentration

Music Director David Angus, photo by Michael Dwyer
David Angus, BLO’s Music Director, on the final rehearsals for Macbeth

Tonight’s the BIG one, where everything comes together for the first time. 

The thing I love about working on opera is the way it grows and grows. We start preparing at home on our own, then we get together and sing it through with piano, begin to sort out the staging, gradually add props, substitute costumes, bits of pretend scenery, and bring in the chorus. The director and designer know what they want it to look like, and I know what I want it to sound like, but we have to get to know each other and work together for several weeks to make a complete picture where everything coordinates and drives the piece forward in an exciting and intelligible way.

On the side, I prepare the orchestra and then we add the singers, but this week is the exciting week, when we first try things out on the actual stage. Tonight is the “Stage and Orchestra” where all the elements are put together and we see our show complete for the first time, with full costumes, wigs and makeup, and, for me, the most exciting element that has been missing, the lighting. It is an old joke in the business–whenever you see a tatty old bit of scenery or costume, someone always says “just wait until it’s lit”, but it’s true–lighting can transform everything, give instant atmosphere, change night into day, excitement into fear, just at the press of a button.

Darren K. Stokes, Carter Scott & Daniel Sutin
Opera is incredibly expensive to put on with all these different departments working so hard, quite apart from the actual performers–soloists, chorus and orchestra, so rehearsal time with everyone together is extremely limited by cost. Tonight I will have just under 3 hours with everyone to race through the entire opera, stopping to fix anything that is wrong in the music, whilst allowing the staging and lighting to run with minimal interference. It is an intense balancing act. I have to get to the end of the opera, but I have to fix things as well, so every time I am aware of anything wrong I have to make an instant analysis of how serious the problem is, whether it will fix itself next time, or if I really have to stop, explain, go back and do it again. Performances are easy in comparison–I just have to do the show, without any analysis or decision-making.

We started planning this show nearly 2 years ago, and tonight it will all come together for the first time, and we will know if we have a great show, just a good show, or a disaster! From all the elements that we have worked on so far, it has the makings of a great show, with wonderful singing and playing, and a very strong visual presentation. In 2 day’s time, we’ll know for sure, when we have the Dress Rehearsal and add the final element, an audience. But for me, tonight is the really exciting one, when I am flying with 200% concentration in a race against time, but also when we really see our show properly. I can’t wait!

(Rehearsal photo by David Angus)

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