Monthly Archive: March 2013

Giving birth

Posted on Thursday, March 14, 2013

(Chroma and the cast in the sitzprobe for The Firework-Maker's Daughter)

It's the third week of opera rehearsals, and things are building to a head. The premiere is less than 10 days away and next week the whole crew moves up to Hull for the final week and the premiere in Hull Truck. Tonight is the 'sitzprobe' - the first time I'll get to hear orchestra and singers together. It does feel a little like I'm in the delivery ward and experiencing all the worries, stresses and exhaustion of an expectant father.

The first time the singers+piano ran through the whole show last week, I was left with one of those feelings familiar from instrumental rehearsals. Things are still at an early stage and so inevitably many things aren't right yet. 99% of the things that aren't right everyone involved is totally aware of, that's what these things are for. Next time they will remember to take a breath here, or move that prop over there and next time it will go infinitely more smoothly (as indeed it did only a couple of days ago). But it's inescapably quite upsetting to see your baby mangled in this way. Many young composers who arrive in their first instrumental workshops you will see in some kind of state of bewildered panic/anxiety at this point. I've learned through bitter experience it's just something you have to sit through and trust all will come right. It's funny though that you still have the feeling even if you learn to handle it a bit better.

Somehow this was all compounded for me last week by the arrival of George Benjamin's Written on Skin at the Opera House. It's a piece of mesmerising beauty, and one of those very rare entities - a new opera that actually works. It feels like the fulfillment of everything George's music has promised for so long. As my mum could tell you, I tend to be highly critical of new operas and the fact is statistically inescapable that almost all of them will be failures in one way or another. And although there were a few aspects to Written on Skin I could criticise, it felt like something so deeply thought-through and successfully navigated, so beautifully finished, I could only shout for joy 'so this is possible'! From where I stand today, I take that only as a positive, but caught up as I have been in my operatic labour ward, it made me feel very inadequate for a day or two. A good job my arrogant ego always fights its way back in the end!

Speaking of egos, nice to fulfill one minor life ambition and get myself on a poster on the underground:

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