Friday, 30 October 2009

Enter the orchestra

We've got to the stage now where the orchestra joins in the fun, and I always find it the most spine-tinglingly magical bit of opera-creation. Don't get me wrong, I love singing with piano in recital, but opera, in all its crazy and wonderful depth, is inseparable from that glorious full-blown orchestral sound.

The Sitzprobe (literally, sitting rehearsal; singers and orchestra get together and sing/play through the score, concentrating on the music) was a couple of days ago. I know I'm not the only singer to get horribly nervous at such times; it feels, especially with an orchestra new to me, as though I am being judged, re-auditioned. However the sound was so superb, and so interesting (as I had not heard any recordings of this opera, I had only the piano reduction in my head, and it was fascinating listening to the different textures and grains of the sound as it passed from instrument to instrument) that I forgot all notion of nerves, listening intently instead to what happened in each instant as voice and orchestra combined.

Once we moved into the theatre itself, and the orchestra descended into its pit and started to do its thing, it struck me just how strangely tangible the sound seems to be. Of course on one level that's complete nonsense, it's sound and therefore by its nature intangible; but on another, the orchestra is definitely another player on the stage, to be interacted with and reacted to, reaching out of the pit and throwing its energy out into the space around. I couldn't think how to describe this until at the end of a bike ride today I came over a bridge and saw a huge flock of starlings wheeling around before eventually retiring squabbling noisily to bed. Made up of many hundreds of individuals, all making decisions for themselves, the flock nevertheless has a shape of its own, wheeling and re-forming continually, shifting in quicksilver patterns; magical. (Although it occurs to me I probably shouldn't be comparing the orchestra to a flock of starlings; it could conceivably be taken the wrong way!!).

There's over a week to go before the première, and of course much remains to be done; but the essential ingredients of opera have now been thrown together, and it is tremendously exciting to be a part of that!


  1. A flock of Starlings!!! Hrumph!

    And who may I ask directs, cajoles, nurses and inspires this flock? Double Hrumph!

    But I take the point, and in its way it is a nice poetic description of the sound.

    But... Hrumph again!

  2. Thought that one might ruffle your feathers ;-) However if I push the metaphor any further I might get into conductor = god territory, which would be dangerous!!