Thursday, 21 March 2013

Once again, deep in the mire that the Germans call Endproben.  Those sticky, uncomfortable times before the première, when everyone is tired and emotional and could probably benefit from a week in bed but hey the orchestra (heavily unionised) is called for these rehearsals and so you just have to turn up and either repeat the same scene until you're hoarse, or wait endlessly and fruitlessly to be called...

These orchestral rehearsals, for me at least, are about calculating to a decimal point just how far in advance I should anticipate the conductor's beat.  (Now you see, those who consider singers stupid probably don't know about this sort of thing.)  All to do with physics.  The sound travels out from the orchestra to the public.  It travels at the same rate back to us singers.  Therefore if we wait until we hear the music from the orchestra, the public is going to hear our voice as late, compared to them.  The phenomenon gets worse the further back on stage you are, so there's a lot of thinking, hmm, moving back as I go here, must anticipate the beat earlier and earlier as I walk...  It's a particularly difficult aspect of staging for me, as it's pretty counter-intuitive.  You want, as a musician, to sing WITH the orchestra! 

Add to that occasionally-open side stages, meaning that any singing in that direction at certain times in the production is severely counter-indicated (i.e. all your colleagues say your voice is completely lost if you look left at a certain time).

And the beauty of the props or costume department substituting something totally unfamiliar at the last moment, probably without telling you.  I survived a new main prop - my samovar (sturdy Russian tea-making equipment) fairly unscathed, and even managed to maintain a freeze despite a colleague frustratedly ripping off her shoes in my ear, and throwing them, one by one, over the stage; was however despite everything proud of a conversation with the props department about sticking this new samovar together (I knew they were going to do it, there were a LOT of ribber bands around) where I actually managed to convey my wants / needs in succinct sentences, conveying (hopefully!) the fact that if they get the angle wrong, the spout of the kettle will probably end up embedded in my larynx at some point,

Not to mention the bittersweet loss of the spontaneity of rehearsals.  This is when a production is coalescing; solidifying.  From now on we are performers, but the playful, joyfully free, creative aspect is of necessity curtailed.  Every performance will feel different, of course.  However this loop back in time and memory will always take place on THIS harmonic shift; the envelope will be placed in her hand on precisely *this* chord.  Satisfying to have worked out the ways to get there at the right moment;  sighing for the time when this was all to play for and meant the world. 

Nitpicking is of course necessary at this point.  Doesn't mean we have to like it :-)

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