I've been asked to contribute to the Dayton Opera Artists' blog, and what follows is my first post. It was interesting to write a "get-to-know-you piece," of a sorts, rather than just building on my established relationship with the the blogosphere... I hope I found a good balance, and hopefully I'll introduce a few new folks to the glory of the opera blog world!
Rehearsals have begun! Today we started getting Barber up on its feet, yet we spent nine hours together before we started the staging process.
The first three were spent in “table talk,” a conversation led by our director, Gary Briggle, which took us through topics like characters relationships, what sort of story we’re hoping to tell; and how exactly we hope to tell that story. For my character, Rosina, this led to questions like “How did she come to be the ward of Don Bartolo?” and “What is her friendship with Figaro like?” and “How does her attraction to and intention for the Count change over the course of the opera?” This is the sort of conversation and work that is crucial to good honest story-telling on-stage, but due to short rehearsal periods, it is so often skipped over. What a joy to start off with this level of detail work! It felt so indulgent! It was also a great way for us all to get to know each other a bit before we started the business of being friends and adversaries and lovers on stage.
Another thing Gary asked each of us was how we are hoping to define a success in our work here with this production. What a wonderful question! I am the only member of the principal cast who is performing their role for the first time, so my idea of “success” has everything to do with the music. There are so many notes, and so many ornamentations and fancy outbursts (often called “cadenzas”) that are “traditional” or “stylistic,” and, frankly, they are a bit intimidating! I will feel that I have given a successful interpretation of Rosina if every one of those cadenzas is inspired by the emotion Rosina feels at the moment or is motivated by the action she is carrying out. I am looking forward to discovering the emotions and motivations behind all of those little black dots...
And speaking of little black dots, the other six hours were spent in music rehearsals with our “maestro,” Neil Gittleman. In a masterful example of efficient time management, we worked our way through the entire opera in two rehearsals! With an opera like Barber in which there is a vast history of “performance practice,” it is so important to take the time to make sure the singers and the conductor are on the same page: what ornament are you singing here? what tempo do we want there? how do we get from here to there? what cuts are we doing? We found a lot of answers and established a great foundation that we can build on as we work through staging.
For me, singing all this with colleagues for the first time, it was a great opportunity to see which spots need a bit more attention! As would be expected, there are a handful of moments when Rosina and Almaviva sing very intricate lines together, expressing their excitement and desire for each other. It was so fun - and a little terrifying! - to sing those with John, hearing the potential for an absolutely thrilling musical experience. Everyone is being very supportive and patient with me as I work out my routines. They all sang their roles for the first time once, too, so everyone understands my nerves!
As rehearsals progress, these moments that are new will become familiar, nerves will give way to excitement and fear to joy! Stay tuned…