There was a great interview with Adrian Noble in Sunday’s NY Times in advance of tonight’s opening of Macbeth. I’ve had a few short conversations with Mr. Noble over the past few weeks, and I was already sorry I didn’t get to work with him more; this article makes me even more so! It’s been great to watch the process, though, and I hope I’ll get a chance to do more with him in the future. Tonight’s prima should be thrilling!!
One quote resonated with me, especially: “…there’s a huge difference between the way an actor approaches a part and the way a singer must approach a part,” Mr. Noble said. “Many actors say they have to learn their lines in rehearsal as they develop an interpretation. Singers know their roles cold on Day 1.” I realized this major difference between theater and opera in grad school, and I was (still am, a bit) daunted by it. I had never had to sit and try to memorize anything, because after two weeks of rehearsals with scripts in-hand I knew my lines. They secured themselves on the same pathways of my brain as my blocking and characterization; everything was formed together. Easy.
But I did get a chance to work this way in a scene’s program in grad school. I was asked to step in at the last minute (less than a week before the performance) to sing the love scene between Anne and Fenton in Vaughn-Williams Sir John in Love. (The soprano originally cast became uncomfortable with the “love” aspect of the scene…) I didn’t realize it until after the performance was over, but that week of learning music and blocking and character together was a welcome throwback to my days in theater. These days I can work on my ideas of the character, but blocking can only come after everything else is learned and memorized. (eeek!)
Time to put on some black clothes and head up the street for Macbeth! It’ll be an “LBD” tonight; there is a party afterwards, of course!