Eugene Onegin – Third night – 15th July 2011


I’ve realised that the reason my post for the 2nd night was so short was that I was completely bowled over by what a good night it was, and I was just revelling in the glow.  Nick had come up and told us that he didn’t allow sliding or regression and we took him at his word, and really went for it.

We’ve had two more reviews! What’s on Stage  and  spoiler alert  classical source , all the things I’ve carefully not revealed in this blog so as to keep Harry’s innovations fresh and exciting for anyone coming along, are splashed all over this review.  However I think it’s safe to say we have a hit!  We are sold out for tonight and for Sunday, so if you don’t have a ticket you are too late – but please let the Halls know you would have come, it’s good to know whether there is enough of an audience for another night next time, if there is a next time.  This is one of the topics of conversation in midge alley waiting to come on for Act II. 

Simon Marsh has suggested Vaughan Williams’ Hugh Drover, as it has lots of small parts, plenty of chorus work and the possibility of some financial assistance from the Vaughan Williams Trust; however I’ve just checked it, and they don’t fund performances of RVW’s work; but they do fund performances of neglected 19th and 20th century British composers, so my thoughts on the subject are now taking on some shape.  I would love us to do Ethel Smyth’s the Wreckers or the Boatswain’s Mate; I’ve only heard extracts from either, but they are exciting pieces.  Unfortunately my efforts to find performance sets have drawn a blank, there doesn’t even seem to be a full score available of either piece anywhere but in the British Library, if anyone knows different, or has at least one copy, contact me!  I wonder if the RVW Trust would go so far as to pay for a new edition of the score?!

The other idea I am keen on is Aida.  I have grown to love Verdi whilst singing the Requiem, and now I want to do one of his Operas. I know what you are thinking: what about the elephants?  If you have seen the massive papier-mache Minotaur in the corridor of Brooklands school, you will not be wondering.  I know we can do it!

Anyway, enough of the forward planning.

Katie Slater & the heroic Harriet Williams copyright Cherry Potts 2011

We arrive early and I am running around the Halls distributing fliers for the book and for Tony’s photo DVD when I hear a strange buzzing on the stairs, like a trapped hornet.  I turn a corner and there is Damian Thantrey warming up in the only quiet corner he can find.  Harriet Williams, on  the other hand, is minus most of her voice, much to everyone’s consternation – the budget doesn’t run to understudies.  She soldiers on, managing the very high and very low notes, but losing most of the middle.  The audience don’t seem to mind, but the rest of the principals, most of whom seem to kiss or embrace her at some point in the action, are being more arms length than usual.  I come out in sympathy and have a coughing fit at the end of the Miller’s Pretty Daughter.

Leonard Arthur Clarke, my grandfather

Rosey, our assistant costume supervisor bounds up to me to show me her ‘dinner jacket’ jump suit, which she is wearing in honour, she says, of how magnificent A and I look in our tuxedos.  We do look rather good, and we have stopped being cautious (though not as incautious as Damien) with the Brylcreem, and I have managed to make my hair sweep back from my forehead – I’m not sure sweep is a word that goes with hair that’s barely an inch long, but what I notice is that with my hair done like this I look like my maternal grandfather in his youth, which is a pleasant surprise.

A and I have been developing our ‘characters’.  In act II M. Triquet is claimed as her ‘oldest friend’ which is why she is so furious with Olga for giggling. In act III, we are making something of the fact that we abandon our ‘wives’ so quickly, (sorry, Laura and Suzanne) and have decided that, appropriate to the just-post McCarthy era, Pre-stonewall setting, we are closet gays, with marriages of convenience, and are much more interested in each other; although hypocritically, when we are singing ‘he’s been abroad we hear’ about Onegin, I’m thinking ‘Russian name, bet he’s been to USSR, the damn Pinko should be shot, disrupting the Prince’s entertainment’.

Mona and Simon copyright Cherry Potts 2011

It is Mona’s birthday, so she is serenaded, of course, with piano accompaniment which means it is more tuneful than when we sang for Simon; Terence has also brought in his guitar and in the long break between our appearance in Act I and the start of Act II, he and a large chunk of the chorus sing American Pie and Moon River.  We were hoping for a sing in the bar after the performance, but by the time A & I left, it hasn’t happened.

We have a wildly enthusiastic audience tonight, who applaud Damian to the rafters before the orchestra have played the final bar; and there are shrieks and yelling and whistling and I don’t know what all.

I have a chat with Andrew Greenan (Gremin) in the bar afterwards, and I tell him that we are all singing his aria in the dressing room, although one (or even two) octaves higher than it is written.  Kate Valentine tells me that Damian knocked one of her earrings into the audience this evening such is the passion with which his grips her face between his hands.  You couldn’t script that, but what a fantastic moment. 

There is a lot of discussion of the duel scene with our friends who were in the audience, it seems that Harry’s take on it is contentious!

Copyright Cherry Potts 2011

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Author: Cherry Potts

Cherry Potts is a published fiction writer, publisher, event organiser, photographer, cardmaker, NLP master practitioner, life coach and trainer. She is an enthusiastic singer. Through Arachne Press she publishes fiction and non fiction and runs spoken word events and cross-arts workshops for writers at interesting venues. Always interested in new opportunites to perform, write or explore writing.

3 thoughts on “Eugene Onegin – Third night – 15th July 2011”

  1. Extremely ambitious staging very successfully brought off. Excellent singing from soloists (shame about the laryngitis) and chorus, and generally good orchestral playing. An excellent musical night out – there has to be another next year!

  2. Once the again the Blackheath Concert Halls displays its huge diversity. We thoroughly enjoyed Onegin, it was an amazing production.

    The concept of a ‘community opera’ is simply brilliant. The involvement of the very young to the not so very young and everyone else in between is surely what the word community means. These youngsters have been able to sing alongside fantastic soloists an experience that will stay with them for ever.

    As a member of the audience we loved the intimacy evoked from being so near the participants.

    Keep up the good work.

  3. I loved the opera which I’d never heard before. I really liked the staging, sitting so close and able to see and hear everything. I loved the combination of great solo singers (especially Tatyana) with the energy (and good singing) of the community choir. It was a joy to see how excited some young people were to be part of this. What a loss if funding cuts mean it can’t continue.

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