As the countdown to production rehearsals for the Modern Opera starts, I have got hold of a fresh new copy of the vocal score. I needed it because the first one I was given pretty much fell to bits as soon as I opened it (tut tut, Ricordi!) and so I copied just those pages containing my part and scribbled madly all over those in an attempt to drum the thing into my head. Of course now we've started ensemble music calls, you need access to all the pages. I got the office to swap the score I was given for another, but the ensemble member who had it previously (and I think gave up the role, declaring it unlearnable) had written all over it in pencil, and rubbing everything out simply wasn't practical in the end. So, I now have my own personal copy, rather than a hire copy, and can start marking it up again; feels like a fresh start (which I desperately need, because the ensemble rehearsals have made me very conscious of how far I have to go!).
First off, then, putting in bar numbers. Every fifth bar is already numbered, but it helps me to have them all marked in - I still occasionally have trouble with German numbers when flustered - and with so much textual repetition, it's difficult to pick up where you are by ear alone. Amazing how even such a simple task can have its problems - I have had to look at my tattered copy a few times to confirm that I have marked the bars correctly, and there is one little 3/4 bar that evidently wasn't important enough to be included in the numbering so I just left it alone.
Next, translation. Because this is one of my better languages, I would normally just scribble the English underneath those words or phrases I was not familiar with. However, studying the Shakespeare text and the Italian translation together shows that the latter follows the former very closely indeed, and while it naturally doesn't include everything, what it does contain attempts to mirror the original.
While it's not quite as bad as sticking phrases through Babelfish automatic translation software from one language into another and back again, simply translating the Italian translation back into English can be ambiguous or downright misleading. Therefore it makes sense for me to write in Shakespeare's words wherever I can. With sub-notes to self where the original is a little obscure, and crib notes of the main words and concepts in German, for when it comes to interpretation discussions during staging. (Originally I did this in pencil and for my scenes only; the pencil wore off as I studied the music, and I have now realised that I am to be on stage throughout the entire piece and therefore need to do this throughout. My writing fingers now have cramp and the sort of reddened depression in the callus on the finger that supports the pen that I remember from long-gone exam days!).
Next, writing in the beats, as the conductor has agreed to beat them (a lot of the tempi are so slow in this piece, he has to subdivide the beats, and it's important for me to be very clear at all times what he's up to!). Pencil for this, or one of those super new pens which write like ink but are easily rubbed out (just in case the conductor changes his mind; or indeed, another conductor chooses different options.) I'm copying this from my existing music, thankful for a nice fresh copy, as the beats have been written in, rubbed out, rewritten, argued about, shifted, paper accidentally poked through in frustration, etc etc.
Next to highlight those notes which the conductor and I have agreed are pivotal and have to be spot on. These I have been practising separately, just to try and fix them absolutely in my voice. The conductor reckons he ought to be able to ring me up at four in the morning, give me a word and I should be able to hit the correct note. *I* reckon if he rings me up at four in the morning, I might indeed hit the right note but shan't be held responsible for the words I intone upon such note.
And lastly to try and decipher all those odd little arrows and exclamation marks and scribbles and metaphors, transferring them as neatly (and as lightly, as they can be extremely ephemeral) as possible into my nice new copy.
By which time, of course, I shall have set my coffee cup down in a few places, dog-eared a few corners and bent the whole thing by being too lazy to bring a separate bag into the theatre and stuffing the whole thing any old how into my handbag, and it will be my familiar and inseparable companion.
If only that were all I have to do to actually LEARN the blasted music!!!