The hours running up to first night can be quite nerve racking, but this year it coincides with my 50th Birthday, so I have plenty of distractions. Our dear friends Tonnie and Kate (Foley) are over from Amsterdam. K & T are big fans of Blackheath Halls Community Opera, and came over for Orpheus & Eurydice as well.
Why do you need to know all this? Well, Kate is wearing a rather fine tuxedo… which I try on and it fits, so I finally have a decent jacket for Act III, on the proviso that I post it back at the end of the run, as K&T aren’t back in London for a bit. Kate is rather pleased that her tuxedo is going to the Opera!
First night, as it always is, is both awesome and chaotic. The dressing room is awash with unsuitable snacks and hairspray, and we have to fight with the windows to be able to breathe at all. (Overheard: Pearse to Simon- I think- “I’ll be back later to make you look like Clark Gable”)
Simon Marsh is glued to his iPad, checking out the 250+ photos from Dress rehearsals on Tony’s website. There are nearly 1000 on the DVD, which is as much about what will fit on it as anything else- I know he took nearer 3000!
Harry has a long list of notes, all of which he is absolutely spot on about, including something (I never got what) which turned into a double act between him and Ollie:
Ollie, (whispering) : I think it’s Doreen…
Ollie: and Pauline,
Ollie: and Maureen is it?
But it turns out it isn’t Maureen, it’s Maggie, which quite spoilt the rhythm, I was already mentally setting it to music… never mind.
Nick is more restrained in his notes, asking only for calm and precision, but all this takes a while and we don’t get time for a proper warm up, not that it worries us much; our off stage chorus in Act I sounds stunning, and, despite half the corn baskets being left behind because they have been put somewhere different from rehearsal and people don’t notice or can’t find them (which means we have to pack the leaves down very tight to not have slipping hazards everywhere); Act I is a rip-roaring success from where I was standing. I didn’t see or hear anything go wrong, and we had great fun. Nick was looking happy too.
Act II, and the musical chairs Cotillion works, finally, including an hilarious bit in round two or three when a child is making for the chair Caroline has her eye on, and she physically picks her up by the shoulders and moves her away, impeccable timing, very funny.
arrives when it should and I don’t have to eat it, there is enough lemonade for the action between Lensky and Olga, and everyone sings and dances and acts with conviction, the chairs don’t collapse and I hit all the cues correctly with the right words. Yay!
Act III is slightly less good, despite yet another run through from Duncan. We are called very late for our entry, and many people don’t come on with their allotted consort, or at the right door, and it throws us off a bit. Our entrances are not as wonderful as I would personally have liked.
And we manage to mess up the curtain call!
The orchestra are supposed to go first, because they can’t be seen through us when we get up on the verandah; and people forget and surge forward. Nick looks rightly annoyed; the orchestra deserve their acknowledgement: they played a storm.
Kate and Tonnie pronounce the evening a triumph, and Kate shows me a couple of sketches she did during the performance. I didn’t know she drew, I know her as an award winning poet (considerably better than Lensky was every going to be!) A and I already commented that Kate matches the wine description at the restaurant we went to Monday night (warm, generous and peppery), and I now add multi-talented! Here’s one of the sketches:
Kate asks me later why in Act III the men were all sitting to one side like it was synagogue. I explain about getting our cues and tempo right; but thinking about it, dramatically I think it works:
I’m imagining that Gremin has put on his soiree as a charity fund-raiser, one of those things people of a certain sort have to attend, whether the entertainment is to their taste or not; and the men have been dragged there by their more enthusiastic spouses. However, ballet not being their thing, they gravitate together to talk business (I was having a very earnest with the British Ambassador about the car industry in Detroit) or more likely the baseball world series, which they could have stayed home and caught on their radio or television sets, if they hadn’t been dragged to this darned party!
We have a nearly full house, there are probably only ten spare seats, so if you are thinking of coming Wednesday 13th, Friday 15th or Sunday 17th, and don’t yet have a ticket, you’ll need to be quick.
Copyright Cherry Potts 2011