Greetings from the depths of the National Arts Centre. Could there be a better time to be writing for Ty’s blog than during the TURANDOT Sitzprobe?
This is just about my favourite rehearsal on any opera: it’s the one time that the director is utterly and completely superfluous! Most of the time, it’s all about staging, watching, correcting, repeating, revising, nagging, adjusting, discussing and, usually, nagging some more. And then suddenly you get to the “Sitz”.
It’s the first and only full opportunity for the conductor to bring all the musical components of the show together–principals, chorus, kids, offstage coro and the all-important (and fantastic) orchestra–and the process is sacrosanct. The principal singers tend to dress up a little, the stage is bare and all that “directorial acting stuff” is put on hold for the night, people sit with scores and music stands, the focus is completely on the music…and the maestro makes it all happen. And my sole job tonight is to keep my mouth shut. Woe betide the green director who intrudes upon this crucially important rehearsal: his or her head will almost certainly be found in the pile of those princes who received Turandot’s decapitation decree!
As a director, I love the chance to sit here in the darkened house and simply listen to the beauty of the work, the beauty that drew me to the art form and Puccini in the first place. Tomorrow night, I’ll be obsessing about seeing the wigs and makeup for the first time, worrying whether or not the Ping, Pang and Pong units will topple into the pit, praying that everyone is showing up, finding ways of flinging notes over a shoulder in back hallway, and generally attempting to find order in the chaos that comes with every opera dress rehearsal. Our job as artists is to take all of you away on some magical journey, and to make it all seem effortless…but trust me, you don’t wanna see the hysteria backstage!
Home base may be Edmonton (don’t hold it against me!), but I’m really lucky to direct all over the place. Sometimes, in all the cities and rehearsal halls and apartment hotels, things can begin to blur a little, and it’s easy to forget the who, what and where of any given opera company. Can I just say…NOT HERE! This is only my third show in Ottawa, and yet, when I walk into the Ottawa rehearsal hall, I feel like I’m back in one of my “homes”. And why? I attribute it wholly and completely to the wonderful and amazing Opera Lyra Chorus. This is one wonderful, delightful, dedicated, fun and funny, committed and crazy bunch of people…and that’s just the grownups! Don’t even get me started on the hilarious and helpful kids’ Coro: they’re the first to notice and point out whenever one of the growups misses a cue or louses up a piece of blocking, and what drives me crazy is that most of their ideas and suggestions for how to make things better are really, really good. No matter what this director has thrown at this crowd, from the impossible-to-see-through masks of TRAVIATA, to the bouncing flower pot headpieces in DON PASQUALE, to the tortured and tormented bent knees of our current adventure with TURANDOT, the OLO Chorus is joyously game to give just about anything a try. They make me laugh, they make my cry (for all the right reasons), they work their proverbial tails off, and they even invite us on their cycling trips! I just hope that Ottawa audiences appreciate the quality and class and professionalism that these incredibly dedicated and passionate volunteers bring to the arts scene of this city. It’s a huge privilege for me to work with this amazing lot once again, and yes, this blog entry is a love letter to them all. Ottawa, you have a musical treasure in your midst: celebrate the Opera Lyra Chorus! I know I do.