“What would you give yourselves as marks out of ten?” he asks.
“Two!” we compete to be self effacing in our judgement.
“Well, I’d say it was a six, so let’s see if we can get to nine and a half… I never give more than nine and a half.”
Every ten minutes or so someone gets up and disappears to talk to Briony about costumes, and the collection of clothes on the rail is gradually growing. They report back that we sound very good from the back of the hall.
Nick takes a break to explain about the themes in the music with Duncan providing illustration from the piano- Tatyana’s theme, how it is completely reversed by the lead peasant in ‘my poor legs’, and echoed in Olga’s ‘I’m not one of those people’. He goes on to describe this use of a three note motif as like a single repeated stitch in a knitted jumper, gradually creating the whole. He also tells us the The Miller’s Daughter is based on a Russian Folk Tune called “Twine Around Little Cabbage” unless I misheard? He suggests we might have a go at the original sometime. I think it must be at least as good as the words A and I have been making up.
I had been vaguely thinking something similar about the peasant songs, not that I’d noticed the inversion of the theme, but that I wondered whether the choice of a song about a rejected proposal is there to foreshadow Tatyana’s disastrous letter to Onegin, and if she’d paid more attention to what was being sung, whether she’d have been more cautious.
We move on to a later scene in Act II, when Lensky and Onegin are quarrelling in the lead up to the duel, and we are being shocked and disapproving bystanders. Nick cuts an entire page and a bit, which actually makes better dramatic sense- there’s only so many times you can say ‘what’s going on’, ‘this is dreadful’, ‘we should stop them’, ‘ why must they spoil the party?‘ and variations on this theme, (I’m paraphrasing, but this is the burden of the song… I love that phrase, especially since discovering what the burden of a song actually IS) although as there isn’t a vast amount for us to sing, there are disappointed groans as we get out our pencils. I am sharing my pencil with several people, and Suzanne goes out in the tea break to buy several more (although not 3Bs), one of which she presents me with, as mine is quite blunt already. We are partially compensated for our missing lines by doubling up on some of the bass lines here and there.
Speaking of the tea break, Nick sings Larina’s line about getting us some food and drink just before we break which is a nice touch.
Act II ends with us all singing at the tops of our voices, “Now for bloodshed” which reminds me of something we used to claim the cats said when one of them either started a fight with a neighbouring cat or caught a bird or mouse and brought it in- “Will there be blood?” which should be said in an eager, hopeful and ultimately cruel tone, I’m sure we pinched it from somewhere, it sounds a bit Blackadder. I don’t yet know what tone we’re going for on this, but I’m guessing it won’t be much like the cats!
Nick lets us tenors and basses go early so he can work with the sopranos and altos on a scene they have to themselves.
Copyright Cherry Potts 2011