Sunday, 14 July 2013

From the sublime to the sensational

It has been a week of stunning contrasts,  staggering music and pretty heroic endeavour from all concerned.  Any season demands a great deal from everybody at OHP; having now closed three operas we open another triumvirate of them but they are beyond "normal" by any real standard. With the glorious weather came the first of the three in L'elisir d'amore, with a dress rehearsal on Friday that was fizzing with humour and glamour. But that wasn't before a sitzprobe at Cadogan Hall on Thursday, followed by a full studio run the next morning, of I gioielli della Madonna, two events that felt like the first culmination of a long, hard road. And today, with Alice's Adventures in Wonderland tech rehearsing on the yucca lawn, the mighty forces of the gioielli orchestra assembled for the second sitzprobe, the oppressive heat not dulling their instincts. 

On Friday, at the run through, I had been poleaxed by the visceral nature of the production, the invention of the music, the talent of our principal cast. I shed a small tear when that exceptional artist Diana Montague sang her Act 1 duet with her stage son, Joel Montero; artistry, experience and a beautiful piece combined to simply hang my guts from the ceiling. And then there are the choruses, the deeply anxious music of Act 3, the deaths and the pain. I have decided, quite simply, that gioielli is no longer about whether people "like" it or not (although the music is glorious) but is more about the impact it will have on audiences; you simply will never forget it. It is tempting to go one by one through the cast and praise them but I will resist and say nothing, save for a reassurance that they are committed to their very cores to this production.

If gioielli represents the pinnacle of full-throated angst and turmoil writ large, then L'elisir is the balm we need. From a morning with Wolf-Ferrari's relentless tragedy to an evening of Donizetti's delicious optimism felt like an impossible chasm to leap. Yet the contrast only served to demonstrate the wondrous variety of this art form we love.

It has been a hell of a few days that threw a bit of new light onto why we put ourselves through it. The next week, with three openings, is going to be emotional, nerve-wracking and exciting. By now we are running on fumes, dragging ourselves over the finish line, our families relegated to snatched mornings over breakfast, but we seek our satisfaction vicariously, through our audience, and if their reaction is half as powerful as mine has been to the past few days, the rewards are glittering indeed..

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