Happy

Yes, I’m happy!  *does Happy Dance* Sure, there were bits I didn’t sing as well I would have liked in a perfect world, but I’m not going to beat myself up over them. (Maybe I’ll do that when I hear the recording). But hey, I’ve ticked something off my bucket list, so that’s a bonus, right? 


It was a big day in more ways than one. Because we had musicians coming from Dunedin, the rehearsal was held the same day. Certainly not ideal, but when you’re on a strict budget these things sometimes have to be done. The rehearsal went pretty well, and I tried not to sing to full out to help preserve my voice for the performance. 

‘Belinda’ sang her first aria then we were into the first chorus, the short ‘Banish Sorrow’. By two-thirds of the way through my heart was beating so hard and fast I thought it was going to leap out of my chest. I stepped out and tried to look as if I were ‘press’d with torment’. It is entirely possible that my expression could have been interpreted as ‘deer caught in the headlights’. The first ‘Ah’ was a bit short due to me not having prepared for it properly but I had myself sorted by the second one and the aria went well – I even got through the longest ‘I languish’ phrase with breath support intact. 


I enjoyed the latter part of the performance best, as I was able to interact more with other characters, in particular Aeneas in the scene where Dido compares him to ‘a deceitful crocodile’! And finally the Lament. About half way through I thought ‘Let go! Don’t think, just be Dido!’  and so I just let myself get swept up in the emotion and it felt amazing. Someone afterwards told me that I really conveyed Dido’s despair, which made me feel pretty good! I stood there and let the choir’s ‘With Drooping Wings’ wash over me and wished I could do it all over again. Although ideally I would want it to be a full opera performance. 


Now my performance calendar has a bit of blank space, so I can sit down and work on some things that I haven’t had time to – Tornami a vagegghiar from Handel’s Alcina for one. Here’s La Stupenda in a 1960 rendition….


When I am laid, am laid in earth…..

…squeeeeeeeee!!! ♪♫♫♪♫♪♫♪ !!!!!

Ahem…..sorry about that, normal transmission is now resuming…..

Yes my friends, I have secured the part of Dido and to say I am excited would be the understatement of the year!

Right enough excitement…. Ah, ah, ah Belinda, I am press’d with torment………

Waiting…..waiting……

I had my audition for Dido and Aeneas today. My favourite opera and one which I know very well having studied it at high school. It turned around my perception of opera and allowed me to open my ears to singing that was greatly different to the angelic but small voices of the girls in the choirs I belonged to at the time. 
My choir is doing a concert performance of D&A in late April and all solo parts are being done by choir members. Obviously the plum role is Dido, and in other circumstances I wouldn’t even get a look-in, but there are no dramatic sopranos in our ranks and for once my voice has sufficient weight, compared with others, to be considered. I also threw my hat in the ring for Belinda as in general terms it is more suited to my voice. If I were to get either I would be thrilled but I’m secretly harbouring a yearning for Dido, as it likely the only time I’ll ever get the opportunity to sing the full role. I want to imperiously dismiss Aeneas with a dramatic gesture and an ‘Away! Away!’ that bounces off the walls. 
I think the audition went ok. I probably rushed a little in some places where I could have allowed more space but overall I was happy. I should know by the weekend. Please cross fingers, toes, eyes etc for me 🙂

Three steps to the right and sing.

I promised in an earlier post that I would write about my experience of my first solo role in an opera. That makes it sound as if I have sung in lots of other operas as a chorus member but I haven’t, in fact only one which was Canterbury Opera’s production of La Boheme where I had the pleasure of seeing barihunk Teddy Tahu Rhodes as Marcello. And incidentally where I first met mezzo Sarah Court who I then ended up working with many years later in Hansel & Gretel.

For Hansel & Gretel I was asked to sing the dual roles of the Sandman and the Dew Fairy. The director  and conductor was Ravil Atlas, Mother/Witch – Amanda Winfield, Hansel – Sarah Court, Gretel – Rebecca Ryan and Father – Ian Reeves. Ian has had many years of experience as a musical theatre performer and all the rest have sung professionally. And then there was me. No acting experience. Limited solo performance experience. Can you say nervous??!!

Firstly, I was afraid that I would embarrass myself by sounding like the wind in the willows when I sang compared with all those voices around me capable of filling a large concert hall, but worse still that I would embarrass my teacher who was singing the role of Gretel. What if all the others pulled her aside after the first rehearsal and demanded to know why she had asked me to sing?

As it turns out, that was the more minor of my worries. As musical friends who have known me for a few years will know, when I sing a solo I have a tendancy to stand there like a stuffed duck, afraid to move or make the slightest gesture. So first rehearsal and Ravil paints for me a whole back-story for the Sandman character. And then proceeds to give me instructions on where to move at which beat in the music. And until then I also had no idea how many different ways you can say “I am!” (my opening spoken line). Oh and did I mention that all this moving and emoting had to be done while wearing a voluminous floor length cloak? I was so busy muttering “raise up on toes, four steps to right, stop and pretend to throw sleep-dust” that any thought of a) proper singing technique and b) coming in at the right time went right out the window.

But here’s the lovely thing about this first-time experience: no-one rolled their eyes and muttered “Bloody amateur!”, instead I received nothing but help and warm encouragement from people who had far more things to think about than some nervous, neurotic amateur with two small arias to sing.

And so by the second performance I was able to surprise (and judging by his expression, delight) Ravil by adding a little ad hoc bit of acting to my role. So to Ravil, Amanda, Sarah and Rebecca – a huge thank you for making my first solo experience one to remember for all the right reasons.