The audience are never going to experience an opera the way the chorus does. Even though performance in the round gives them some idea, as they peer through the crowds to catch a glimpse of th action, but actually, the action is what they are peering round.
Our chorus experience is sweaty, loud and partial – we never get to see the whole show, but the bits we do experience are visceral.
This is quite a physical show, and we are very glad that the carrying corpses off stage was cut, and we weren’t convinced we’d manage it without injury, to us or the ‘corpse’. The costumes are very hot (winter weight flying jackets with 2 inches of wadding in them, gas masks…) but at least there are no quick changes – last year’s nun-to soldier-in-3-mins is mercifully not challenged for award for fastest change. The emotions change faster, one minute a concerned civil servant,
the next an anxious guard,
then a cheery well-wisher (although an imagined one!)
and finally a zealous follower of Poseidon turned vigilante – (no photos of this, will have to see what we can do in the dressing room!) but there is a lot of anger throughout, I just have to remember what I’m being angry about and ‘on whom rest the blame’.
If you would like to discover who is to blame, we are performing again tonight at 7pm and on Sunday at 2pm. tickets and info here
One of the delights of being involved in the community opera at Blackheath Halls is working with the Blackheath Halls Community Orchestra. We don’t get to hear what they are up to until the sitz probe, when we run through the entire opera and work out the corners. This is one of my favourite sessions, because we rarely hear the whole work. Then we get two stage & orchestra rehearsals and a couple of dress rehearsals (two of everything because of the split between the schools we are working with) to get used to what the music sounds like full on, before the first night.
And very necessary it is too, when we’ve been working with a piano accompaniment up until then. Jeremy, our assistant musical director plays a cut down version of the orchestral score magnificently, and it doesn’t always seem possible that he has enough fingers.
I wonder how much attention the audience pay to the orchestra, there is so much going on in an opera, although they are at least visible in our production.
I know I listen differently as a performer to how I would as an audience member – ear tuned to the instrument that will play the note I need a bar and a half before I have to sing it, that sort of thing; making it hard to take in the whole, but two things really struck me last night during the first performance of Idomeneo.
One was how very full and brassy the sound is considering how little brass there is playing – Mozart makes fantastic use of horns, but that’s about it.
The other was during a brief interlude when the tenors & basses are up with the orchestra for our ‘off stage’ chorus of drowning mariners during the storm. We all creep on and lurk at the side and wait for our cue. This gives us an unusual ‘conductor’s eye view’ of the orchestra. I can’t imagine the concentration and eye for detail it takes to conduct an opera, with orchestra soloists and chorus to pay attention to – I couldn’t even begin to make sense of the full score. Nick Jenkins, I salute you! Anyway while waiting for the music to cue us in, I noticed these waves of movement going through; not the documentary film cliché of the bows all moving at the same time (although of course they do), but for example, a point at which all the violins put down their bows as one, and plucked the strings instead. It was an incredibly elegant little movement, which delighted me – and then I had to get on with singing and had no thought for anything but coming in correctly on the tricky bit…
“‘… Shame you can’t find a good solid man,’ Nan said.
‘You make blokes sound like tower-blocks,’ Mam said.”
It is no accident that the cover of this book has a tall building on it. The built environment plays a strong role in several of the stories, as does “The Neighbour”, but despite that there is a heavy dose of the fantastic in this anthology, with child mediums, houses which reject their owners, would-be suicides turning into birds, and casual sidestepping of issues such as a probable murder.
The most fun had is in Angela Readman’s There’s a Woman Works Down the Chip Shop, in which a child interprets her mother’s burgeoning lesbian identity as her being possessed by the spirit of Elvis. It is a…
“I need your skills, and your strength. I need your knowledge of men. I need your guile, my traitor, and your deceit” (Wizard’s Domain)
I first read this collection when it was originally published back in 1981, an important year for me, coming out and on the lookout for (to be honest, any) books that were positive about lesbians. As a convinced fantasy enthusiast I fell on the work of Elizabeth A Lynn with delight. Thirty plus years later (long enough to have forgotten all but the general shape of the stories with the exception of the title story which haunted me for years), these stories have worn well, although I can see their faults more. Lynn does herself no favours…
“Looking back, he sees it now. Twirling was Dani’s escape, and Rosie a twirler, too, with him. Twins, they twirled together. Two as one, coltish, early…Holding hands to spin together, faster, faster. Tandem spinning. Spinning till your hands broke apart and you staggered around, drunk with the swirl in your ears.“
This is a cracking collection, by turns lyrical, gritty, warm, funny, frightening and eccentric. Mary Akers‘ imagination is given full flight, from a historical story with just the suggestion of a ghost (The House of Refuge), through to a devastated future world of plagues and cults (Waste Island), by way of marital infidelity (Bones of an Inland Sea), murder (Viewing Medusa) and sex change (What Lies Beneath). Through it all flows the…