Thursday, March 21, 2013

BLO Exposed (Part 2): Sir Thomas Allen Answers Audience Questions

Boston Lyric Opera is in its second season of presenting BLO Exposed. This intermission conversation series gives audience members a behind-the-scenes look into each production and invites YOU, its audience, to ask questions through social media during our Wednesday night productions at the Shubert Theatre. For BLO’s recent production of Così Fan Tutte, Megan Cooper, Manager of Community Engagement, and Cecelia Allwein, Development Coordinator, interviewed Caroline Worra and Sandra Piques Eddy, who played Fiordiligi and Dorabella, respectively, as well as Sir Thomas Allen, the production’s Don Alfonso and stage director. 

Sandra Piques Eddy, Sir Thomas Allen, and Caroline Worra. Photo: Eric Antoniou.

Sir Thomas, we wanted to start off right away with one of the questions from our audience, “How do you deal with the acting problem of four people who know each other so well suddenly not recognizing each other?”
It’s what they call acting. I think Olivier famously said to Dustin Hoffman, who spent about six weeks on the street living to find out what it’s like to be rough, said, “Why don’t you try acting, darling?” And so we do a bit of that up here. Of course… you do get to know one another very well, but you start from scratch. We’re playing a play here; it’s not real life, although it feels like it at times. But it’s pretend and we’re just children basically. I’m a very big child. And that’s what we all do.

In this production you are acting but are also the director. What has that experience been like, wearing both hats?

It’s been very, very interesting. It’s the first time I’ve ever done it and I thought, well this will be a voyage of discovery. But it’s much more difficult than I’d ever imagined because I stage things and then sit on the stage and I have no idea what’s going on behind me. They may be misbehaving really badly but I’m not really sure. … [Y]ou really need a backward-looking mirror, like a car, to check on what’s going on around you. But it’s quite complicated and I have to make a decision during rehearsals either to wear one hat or the other, but ideally not both at the same time.

Once the performances have started do you find yourself tempted to try to tweak the performance at all, or do you put it away?

I’ve just been doing it [indicating backstage]. I can’t stop myself. I see things and basically it’s settled and we’re finding our natural way into it, but there are one or two moments that I see every now and then.

Do you have a favorite scene in the opera?

It’s very short, and it’s coming up shortly in the second act, I suppose. The trio, of course, is wonderful – somehow time stands still when you’re up there and you sing this wonderful trio about gentle breezes. But the moment of, it seems contradictory, this, to put this four singers onstage and say that the favorite moment for you is when they don’t say anything at all. Total silence. You’ll see what I mean. I hope.

Don Alfonso has become a signature role of yours. Could you tell us what you like most about him?

At this stage what I like most about it is that I spend most of the time being silent and watching everybody else work. And it’s always been like that actually, come to think. From the time that anyone sets foot on stage as Alfonso, of course, you never stop working. If you’re on stage and not singing ,you’re pulling strings, invisible ones maybe, but you’re in control of the situation. And that’s a skill that… I’ve learned quietly along the way over a long period of time and it’s a fascinating piece and it continues to fascinate me because it is a work of great, great genius.

BLO would like to thank everyone who participated in this BLO Exposed event and for continuing the conversation with us post-performance here and on our social media pages! To have your questions featured here in the future, join us at the Wednesday night performance of The Flying Dutchman for BLO Exposed.

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