Take Note

CURTAIN CALL: What happens behind the scenes on opening night?

DSC_2200

A run down from our Stage Manager, Linda Brewster…

Once the backstage door is open, I do a walk through and check the building. Running my eyes over every nook and cranny, ensuring things are in the right place.

I like those few quiet moments before the flurry begins. To be honest it is a lot calmer than you would expect, because we have everything in place. By now cast and crew are arriving and signing in.

There is a sense of anticipation, lots of laughs as faces we thought we knew emerge from make up, and lots of happy conversations going on. Costumes are being donned, last minute repairs; the crew are checking their props list, and that comms and lights are working.

An intensive warm up with our conductor helps us all get into the right space, and has the sense of bringing us together.

By now the orchestra has turned up and we hear the strains of them tuning and running through passages of the music.

Then the countdown begins. I will begin to advise the cast and crew of when the house is open, and how many “minutes to places.”

“How many are out there?”, someone asks nervously.

We are concentrating now, and getting into our ‘zones’.

“Beginners to stage”; “Orchestra to Pit”: now the adrenalin pumps in. There is a bit of a serious hush and some nervous giggling backstage now – “This is it guys, we are doing it!”

“Quiet backstage!”

Check my crew is on standby.

House lights down, Overture starts and curtain up!

See you there tonight!! Tickets are available at the door, cash only.

Entrance 10

For more information: http://www.ticketdirect.co.nz/event/details/127613/the-magic-flute-presented-by-opera-otago

Untitled

Post by Linda Brewster, Stage Manager

Julia: The First Lady’s dressing-room essentials

DSC_2392 DSC_2426Dressing Room 1

Once you get into the dressing rooms during preparation for a production, you know it is all finally coming together and you see the collective work you and your cast mates have brought to life. You now rehearse in costume, you see what your hair and make-up will look like and you see what it’s like to sing in the space you will be performing in. It is the final stages of putting together a production.

Every performer has their own pre-performance ritual [read about Sophie Sparrow’s here!], just as we all prefer to have different things in our dressing rooms. Some love to be in the thick of the excitement, laughing with other cast members, and others prefer to have a little more space to internalise and prepare for the show ahead.

In the dressing rooms, each member of cast will, of course, have his or her costumes hanging – one of mine being an Onesie that is so cozy I never want to take it off! Most also choose to have some form of hydration – I like to have a big water bottle, that is frequently refilled. Personally, I always have a warm layer that I can throw on over my costume because going on stage when you’re a little chilly is no fun at all.

bananas_by_Ptooey_stock

And I cannot survive a show without SNACKS. From the time of the cast’s arrival, to our departure, we are in the theatre perhaps five hours, and when you are preparing for performing in scenes throughout the opera, keeping up your energy levels is essential. Bananas and nuts are my super foods, but a little helping of sugar is always helpful too. My favourite ‘treats’ to have on hand are Gummie Worms. Pair these with a hot cuppa during the interval and I am well prepared for the second act!

434687439_e3a1f3e62b_oMaintaining one’s stamina is crucial. Adrenaline definitely plays a part, but good food and even better company makes a performance come alive. As I write this, I am mentally preparing for our final dress rehearsal, and dreaming of Gummie Worms. Opening night will come around extremely quickly – I am excited to finally reveal this marvelous show all of the cast have been working so hard on!

Opening night is tomorrow! Have you got your tickets??

IMG_5824

Post by Julia Moss-Pearson, First Lady

Heleen Du Plessis: A perspective from the orchestral pit, literally!

Can you spot 'the pit'?
Can you spot ‘the pit’?

Writing to you at 1:00am after our first dress rehearsal of The Magic Flute in the Mayfair.

With my observations from the perspective of an orchestral player in the pit I have to clarify that my point of view is not exactly based on having a viewpoint –with my back to the wall and the stage partly hanging over my head in this ‘lowered’ concert space, I can’t see a thing! As usual I am unable to sleep after a rehearsal/concert since I (pà!) continuo playing, counting, anticipating entries, getting (pà- pà) something stuck in my head – my own part, yam pam pam pam pam , or more adventurously, ha- ha- ha- ha- hah hah … haaaa!.

'The view from the pit'
‘The view from the pit’

Entering the pit I recalled my early career as cellist in the National Orchestra of South Africa, playing for operas in the State Theatre, Pretoria – glamorous décor, costumes, standing ovations, internationally renowned singers, inspiring conductors (although some would have given me nightmares were I sleeping now), but also, a pain in the neck and acute sinusitis.

Turn right and duck your head to enter 'the pit'...
Turn right and duck your head to enter ‘the pit’…

There are a few things pits seem to have in common…a lack of space and a draft! Soon I realised why experienced players brought thermometers to work and threatened to strike – nothing makes up for the discomfort of having to sit with your instrument, the stand and the conductor in 3 different directions while having to play all dynamics, expressive/ articulation markings in the middle of the bow, with little room to move to avoid a collision and nasty stares from fellow awkwardly positioned colleagues feeling the draft!

This and a previous experience in the Mayfair [Heleen played for Opera Otago’s This Other Eden in 2014]  made me come prepared with wearing all the orchestral outfits I collected, making sure my socks are made of pure NZ merino wool. I am pleased with the amount of space, thanks to the small sized ensemble and arrangements allowing us to see, hear, move, and avoid stand lights from glaring into each other’s eyes! I find comfort in the confinement permitting glances, facial expressions and comfortable sitting positions, which might not be appropriate were we to be seen.

The ‘sweetest’ thing was Nick[Cornish – Bassoon]’s caramel slices that made me realise – it is about whom you know, choosing your friends wisely, no matter where you are. Here’s to an enjoyable 2nd dress rehearsal – pure intonation, articulation, ensemble, balance and turning pages in time without too many unwanted sound effects.

Have you got your tickets yet? Opening night is only two sleeps away!

Heleen with her cello,  in the opposite of 'the pit'
Heleen with her cello, in the opposite of ‘the pit’

Post by Heleen Du Plessis, Cellist

Sophie’s ‘Diva Diary’: Preparing for her Debut

Debuting in an opera in the town that you studied in is a great honour and an amazing opportunity. I get to put four hard years of university classical voice training to the test. But it’s only just the beginning hopefully, with many more years of training to go I’ve only just started singing after four years at university.

So a diva diary I will write. People often call sopranos divas and it’s always said with a negative connotation too: a Prima Donna they say. However, if the term diva originates from the Sanskrit word ‘deva’ meaning radiant or shining referring to a god in both Vedic Hinduism and Buddhism, I’m fine with being called a diva!

Performance days are time to breathe and chill out. I would usually sleep in and have a good meal for brunch but nothing that’s going to make me feel bloated or sluggish. I need to feel energised and alive.

During the day I would normally warm up slowly and quietly to get the voice moving and prepped for the big sing about to come. I may head down to the practice room to sing through a song to do some more warming up, just lightly though and nothing that could tire out the voice.

The call time might be around 5.30pm so I will make sure I’ve had another light meal before that that would keep me going through the evening. I find it really hard singing on a full stomach and eating before a performance. Everyone’s very different in that aspect.

While in the dressing room, I like to keep to myself a little bit just to think through my character and what and where the character is going throughout the opera. I would then relax and once again breathe so I don’t feel too stressed on stage.

This time it’s a tad different during the day, as I have exams to prepare for. My lead up at the theatre will all be the same but instead of chilling out during the day and sleeping in I will be at university studying for my accounting exams for the first 3 performances. It may be stressful but it keeps my brain on high alert and active.

No matter what the situation that this diva is in, the opera is so much fun and is going to be a great show! I can’t wait to get into it…

Buy your tickets now if you haven’t already, you don’t want to miss it!

Magic Flute _7

From left: James Adams, Sophie Sparrow and Robert Lindsay in rehearsal

Magic Flute Star_2

Post by Sophie Sparrow, Pamina

Who is Monostatos?

“Girl meets boy and Boy meets girl. Love will fill our hearts with joy.”

This quote from Act I sums up a lot of the action in Opera Otago’s upcoming production of the Magic Flute. But this blog is to introduce you to a much less loved character from the world of Mozart’s Magic Flute, Monostatos.

Everyone knows and loves the good guys. Tamino singing “Dies Bildnis” or Pamina singing “Ach, ich fühls.” On the other side of the fence, the Queen of the Night sings arguably the most famous aria in the repertoire “Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen.” But who on earth is Monostatos?

Monostatos is the character tenor of The Magic Flute. Much like Basilio in the Marriage of Figaro [also played by Benjamin Madden in Opera Otago’s 2012 production], Monostatos appears at strategic moments to propel the story forward. When he appears he is a catalyst for action onstage. Isolated from the rest of the cast to a degree, he is equal parts exciting and terrifying.

11111614_461607857331609_8584881627551506963_n
Monostatos singing while Pamina sleeps – early stages of rehearsal

A lot of his time on stage is spent trying to force himself upon a certain female lead. Poor old Pamina (Sophie Sparrow) spends plenty of the first act running from the terrifying Monostatos. Monostatos isn’t a comedian, but one finds oneself laughing at the sheer outrageousness of his character and the silliness of some of the things that happen to him!

Monostatos is challenging character to portray for many reasons. The character is angry, and resentful. Mozart marked all of his music allegro to emphasise the energy he brings to the stage. There’s no time for thought on stage. His impulsive manner of moving through the world is aggressive and balancing this with the demands of singing is at times difficult. Time as Monostatos flies by in a storm of syllables and chase scenes, but it has been a pleasure learning to juggle the many facets of performing as Monostatos. From the moment he bursts into the world of the Magic Flute, Monostatos is a firework on stage. Come to Opera Otago’s Magic flute and enjoy the carnage that follows in Monostatos’ wake. [Buy tickets here!]

Post by Benjamin Madden, Monostatos 

WordPress.com.

Up ↑