Monday, 22 February 2010

Last-Minute Preparations

In a few days' time I shall be starting stage rehearsals of the Strauss opera I have been waiting for since I got here. I can't wait! My particular vocal and dramatic talents are itching to get stuck in, and my eagerness has been whetted by the musical rehearsals I have had of late with my stage husband; but before things really kick off later in the week, there are details I need to double-check, the minutiae of which might surprise the non-singer (they are decidedly unglamorous).

As with all operatic preparation, we started with the actual music. One-on-one coachings with various répétiteurs, picking me up on (especially) that DAMNED "ü" vowel, rhythms, pitches, everything, and hooray for it! I spend enough time going through it on my own, learning it laboriously and carefully, but there's always something you miss, or are not quite exact enough about. The perfectionists among you will recognise the sense of relief upon being picked upon for trifles. By now, I have the music I shall be singing firmly fixed in my voice, and the musical cues I need for each entry stored in my brain. I know exactly what I am singing about, and have translated all the scenes in which I am involved, so that I know what I am responding to.

However, there's more to check before launching in. Yes, I'm responding to X saying Y. Has he said it before? To me? Have I ignored him? Does the chord pattern upon which I am relying occur elsewhere? (Some of these questions are particularly pertinent to Strauss, his music being through-written and devoid of "OK, so you sing this aria then we have a duet, during most of which I can turn my back and clear my throat, then there's that tricky quartet"... nope, you're on your own in a lot of Strauss, especially if the role is bitty; but it's so much truer to life - meaning, damned difficult to learn but very exciting to sing.) Am I being talked about? Am I being talked TO? Can I hear this? Do I choose to respond? If not, why not?

At each point I have, through learning and singing the music and the words, formed an opinion of what I (as a character) am thinking and feeling. I have to be very careful here NOT to crystallise this. Whatever I feel may not converge with the director's thoughts. At this point, I deliberately allow my interpretative possibilities to widen, to embrace all possible viewpoints. Naturally, this leads to brain-ache (and is actually often best done with glass of wine in hand), but it has to be done. A particular joy of my situation is that I then have to make sure that for every possibility, I have the German words and phrases that will allow me to argue my case, should I need to. Or indeed to understand the opposite case. I am learning quite a bit of vocabulary this way!

The one glorious thing about this amount of nitty-gritty work is that the music comes completely alive through it. I know it will be obscured during rehearsals, it always happens; but the time put in now and beforehand will never be wasted; here's to the final shape of the performance!

PS the photo is of the Berliner Dom, taken from the direction of the Hackescher Markt heading towards the Museumsinsel last week. I am amazed it's vaguely upright as it was so dratted slippery on the pavements I barely made it to the museums!

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