Friday, November 2, 2007

Opera Musings

This week we have finally begun staging for L@ Tr@viat@ (I do all those crazy symbols so that someone doing a google search for our local production won't come up with this blog. Hopefully) Monday we had our first rehearsals with our principals (so far we've just been meeting as a chorus) and when I first heard the tenor sing, 2 words in the midst of us singing, I nearly fell to the floor. He is amazing. His voice just fills the whole auditorium, and when he sings you can hear it echo off the back wall. With no microphones. THAT is singing. I just want to lay down on the floor and listen to him sing. But instead I have to try to remember my notes. In Italian.

Our tenor, our baritone, and our director have been flown in from Italy. This makes me more than a wee bit nervous about my awful pronunciation. As if worrying about hitting the right note was not enough stress in my life.

The staging, however, is fun, and the combination of the lights, and the amazing talent, and the energy of creative people on a stage is invigorating. The director speaks mostly Italian, and others translate for him. Sometimes. Sometimes we are left to try to figure out exactly what he means. He is very expressive, and uses his hands a lot, and so if you pay attention you can get the general gist of most of it. At one point when he was showing me where to stand (by snapping and pointing, apparently this is a universal sign) he paused, looked at me and said "How do you understand Italian?" I repeated "How do I understand Italian?" (to make sure I had it right) and he nodded and I said,very simply "I don't" There was much general laughter. But I took it as a compliment, that I am paying attention enough that I can figure out what is going on. The same can not be said for everyone.

I have always thought that being in the chorus is a hard and often thankless job. Harder than having a lead, in fact. For me, acting wise, there is very little worse than having to fake a conversation with some other chorus person while the real action happens elsewhere. Not for vain reasons, nor for a want to be the center of attention, but for the want of DIRECTION. Give me a character and some lines, and a wee bit of background and I will tell you what my character wants and her relationship to everyone in the play and how she goes about achieving her goals, etc, etc, etc. But tell me "you're a partygoer" and make me fend for myself, while mouthing words to someone who is equally as lost as I am, and frequently far more disinterested, and it's not much fun. Then try to carry on a fake conversation in something that looks like Italian in the late 1800s. It's not easy. But I'm trying. Hard. Yesterday our lead soprano complimented me, saying I was so "cute" and that it was really fun to watch me because I had expression while everyone else was just singing with a bored look on their face. So maybe all those years at acting school have paid off.

This has been truly a learning experience, which is what I knew it would be when I signed up for it. I don't think that I will ever do an opera again. I have enjoyed this, although I find it much less satisfying than a play, and it is very time consuming for something I am not passionate about while not getting me much closer to my own career goals. But fascinating it has been, and I have a much deeper appreciation for a style of music I was, before this, nearly ignorant of. And I am hitting notes I have never hit in my whole life. And I have my first stage kiss with a girl. But that's another post.

**REMINDER FOR MONDAY MISSION** Monday's Mission, should you choose to accept it, is to write a post in the style of a News Article

20 comments:

Family Adventure said...

This is a world that is completely new to me, acting, and it was just fascinating to read this post. I don't think outsiders really appreciate how much work goes into a stage production. Especially in this case, when it's in a foreign tongue.

And I never thought all that much about what it must be like to be one of those acting as the 'crowd' around the action. I see now how that can be harder without proper instructions/directions.

So interesting. Please keep posting on this - I'd love to follow it all the way up to performance :)

Heidi

niobe said...

It sounds wonderful (despite the language and other challenges). Like many of your other readers, I really wish I could see the production.

Mary Alice said...

It does sound like an amazing experience. I wish I could see it.

Rimarama said...

I know that opera isn't your first love, PM, but this opportunity sounds just amazing! An director and leads flown in from Italy? Whoa! I'm sure you are blowing the other members of the chorus out of the water with your mad acting skillz ;)

I wish I could see the performance, too. The choir I sing with is currently learning one of Mozart's Masses for a concert later this month, and we had our first rehearsal with the soloists Thursday. I loved what you said about wanting to lay down on the floor and listen to the tenor, because that's how I felt, too!

Chrissy said...

That IS a whole 'nother post. Can't wait to hear about that.

I did musical theater in high school (I know it's not even close to the same thing as this), and I swear, every play I was a partygoer, street person, ballroom dancer, waitress, or maid. My friends used to tease me that every character I played had a number. Like Kitchen Wench #3. Seriously.

I just think it's so neat that you're stretching yourself to learn something new, and throwing yourself completely into it. That's more than a lot of people, including me, would have been willing to take on.

Karen said...

let me just say how very much I agree about your comments on being in a chorus. In the play I was in about Birth as one time I had to pretend to be a family member raucously watching a soccer game - silently - I told my fellow silent soccer game that I felt I was going to need alcohol to achieve any sort of realistic effect. It never happened.

Blog Antagonist said...

That all sounds wonderfully exciting and fun. My son recently started taking theatre classes, and I hope he will find it as capitvating as you do.

Kathryn said...

Ooooo. I LOVE that opera. One of my favs.
This post sooo makes me want to be on stage again. The way you describe the lights and the excitement, ahhh. There is nothing like it.

One of my favorite directors used to tell us that he LOVES watching chorus members more than the leads sometimes because there is always one or two people that stand out and shine. He would just love seeking out that person and watching them the whole show. Maybe he just was saying that to make us strive to be that person, but I loved hearing it none-the-less. I bet you are that shiner! :)

thailandchani said...

This all sounds very exciting. :)

amanda said...

I am soooo jealous......

Mary Beth said...

It sounds fascinating! Not having any musical talent, I would never be able to attempt this. But I often want to just block out everything else and let a beautiful tenor voice just envelop me. There are certain songs that give me goosebumps.

theflyingmum said...

Oh, that sounds so fun and exciting! I dallied in theater when MUCH younger. I sure had fun, I even remember some of my lines form "Oklahoma" in high school (I was Aunt Eller...)
What a fascinating career.

Chaotic Joy said...

Maypole, I am just so thrilled for you that you are having this new experience. I know it is a struggle for you in some ways but your excitement about it just leaps off the page. I love to read about it.

And now for the girl on girl kissing????

thirtysomething said...

I too notice and can almost feel your excitement. I wish I could see the opening night.

Jen M. said...

I wish I could come and hear one of your performances! What a fantastic thing - which reminds me...did you ever see that man, Paul something or another from England who won the England's Got Talent contest for opera? It gave me BODY CHILLS. You can see it on YouTube...

Accepting your Monday Mission!

Julie Pippert said...

It sounds like such a thrilling challenge! I enjoy hearing about how much you are enjoying it and wish I could see it. :)

Julie
Using My Words

Sober Briquette said...

Yeah, we'll all come down and cheer you on opening night. Then the director will really notice you!

Even though you think it's not taking you in the direction you want to go, you never know. Enjoy.

(Doubt I'll be posting a Monday Mission - I'm double booked in the morning as it is. But I'll think positive!)

Susanne said...

So finally I get to know which oepra you're singing in. (Not that I know it that well...)

Please, don't stress out about you're pronunciation. I said it before, nobody every understands a word in opera. (But your voice will blend in better if your vowels are close to the ones the others are singing.)

And your remark about the tenor reminded me about how I never sing classical anymore (and so I always need a microphone), and just last week I showed a student something, started singing a classical piece and was totally blown away by my own voice. It was so big! Wow. (My student looked a bit shaken though.)

Christine said...

oh i WISH WISH WISH i could go!!!!

Flower Child said...

I just gave up tickets to La T - with Renee Fleming singing the role of Violetta. I am crying.