Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Today I had occasion to really appreciate the work of our prompter.  Before coming to Germany I really hadn't worked much with prompters, and so hadn't quite realised how hard they worked, especially in the rehearsal period of a musical.  In opera, we are supported by the music (well, so long as it is through-written, and thank goodness I generally sing that sort), and the roles I've had over here haven't been the massively wordy kinds, so I haven't really ever needed the prompter (oh, except for one slightly panicky moment in Salome one evening, when my mind went blank, I goggled around dry-throated for the prompt box, only to discover that, because it was to one side for staging purposes, I couldn't see the damned thíng from where I was standing...).

I had my own reasons for being thankful, of course - we're in the early staging rehearsals for these scenes, so this is the first time we're out there without scripts.  Naturally a few words get left out, or mispronounced, or (in my case) accidentally bunged in the wrong language or mis-stressed.  The prompter carefully noted where my mistakes were in the first run-through, and even before my facial muscles had had time to tense, the missing or mangled word came through clearly just before I needed it.

The exactness of her timing and the precision of her prompting, though, I had time to appreciate from a dark hole of a storage room in the very depths of the theatre (lots of stage curtains, miscellaneous lumpy, well-wrapped objects and audience-gathering ropes, and who knows what else, since I couldn't see the edges...).  It's where I ended up after an offstage-right exit in this particular scene.  No getting out from there (well, none that I could see or knew about.  Buggered if I was going to explore pitch-black corners!!)  So, as I couldn't very well trot back across the stage without upsetting the others' concentration, I gathered my garish red polyester dressing gown (with original 70s cigarette burn - ahhh, rehearsal dress is such a joy) and lay flat on the floor to listen before my return to the scene.

Without visual clues, therefore, and from a position behind the protagonists, I could hear all the prompts. I was massively impressed.  I knew how much work she put into it - her scores are a riot of colour, with every part marked up differently - but goodness, in full flow, this is amazing.  Prompts were clear and precisely directed, at exactly the right moment.  And they're not always the first word you have to say or sing - this isn't much help if it's another "and" or "so" or something.  Nope, she picks the one which is going to recall the sentence to you.  And apparently her voice is so clear and focused that if you need a prompt on stage, you can hear every word and the audience nothing.

And as a person, impressively scary for someone who comes about up to my chest, and that's if she's standing on tiptoe.  The sight of her coming towards you with a scowl and the score held out in front like a weapon can make the strongest man here quail...  In such moments it really doesn't help to remember that she's a mad Harry Potter aficionado, good company and bakes like a professional.  Abject apology and learning the damn thing perfectly before the next rehearsal is the name of the game.

Still, always good to learn a bit more about what various people who inhabit the underworld of the theatre actually DO!

(Unrelated photo of the day is of the new synagogue here - saw most of its construction whilst living nearby and was fascinated to see it complete whilst on a bike ride last weekend.  Beautiful!)

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