MADRID DAY 1
An interesting first day of rehearsals for 'The Perfect American' by the amazing and intriquing Philip Glass. A soft spoken man not looking at all his age of 75, happy to greet us, he smiled and greeted me warmly. I sang Beketahten, a daughter of Akhnaten in the opera of that title at ENO in the 80s; long high lying lines repeated on vowels only, no one had words unless they were Egyptian words for God or prayer. I am not sure if he remembered me but it doesn't matter. To be making a new work is exciting, and with a director like Phelim McDermot with whom I did Glass' 'Satygraha' at ENO more recently, one knows it will be a journey worth waiting for.
In fact we do nothing. We meet at 4 and by 5:30 some of us are eating in a restaurant on the square outside. Always nice to have social arrangements with colleagues; a treat in fact, and for me only happens abroad where I have more time to myself. Anyway, Chris Purves (Walt Disney) is not arriving till tomorrow night, so we pootle through some changes to Act Two and arrange to have music rehearsals tomorrow am.
We have all only just got the score; It looks simple on the page but I know the depth of the tricky rythymic patterns, catching you out unless you stay awake. We have words and conversation, a new style of vocal line, on top of the unmistakable Glass mesmeric and haunting orchestral writing. This music keeps you awake and present as a singer, for if you don't you lose your place and are left behind. It makes you face the "What is" in a way that can be enlightening and infuriating depending on how courageous you are! More of that later...
I've been to Madrid for concerts before, flying in and out, but now I am here for 10 weeks. Walking to and from the Opera today gave me an insight into the beauty of the centre of the City; how it will be at Christmas with my family coming out and the buzz of a vibrant and fun-loving people. AND on Saturday, Rufus is playing La Riviera. A lucky coincidence...or is it?
MADRID DAY 3/4
Sun is shining but crisp and cold. I waken up immediately thinking about Michael Chekov and our session yesterday with Phelim.
We molded, floated, flew and radiated and as a group faced our familiarity or new aquaintance in exercises.
I am realising more and more how my approach to acting which comes from various sources is mostly connected with Michael Chekov---and this is what Phelim works with . In Opera Factory I had 10 years of shades on this approach -- the giving and recieving exchange with the ball exercise --- improvising for long periods (2 hours and more at a time) pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone but always surprising yourself -- diving in to the unknown --its Peter Brooks "empty space" -- the the place of Shambala open eyed meditation where clarity is a void and you give yourself permission to stay there-- where "present" is so present you are almost in the "future" before you know it-- and a future thats not dependant on the past.
I find it endlessly fascinating and a constant nudge to be there in my life not just on stage. Its the same in singing where the same gap exists in the change over between inhilation and exhilation --where the balance of breath and resistance hovers like a continual sense of wonder or surprise.
So back to Glass -- our Walt has arrived and is hot housed with new music learning---while we bonded with the dancers ---- --
In the afternoon we start to work on Act 1 sc2 with Walt and I Hazel his confidante and nurse -- speaking through followed by a series of improv- playing back recordings of ourselves singing the scene --so physically we could really explore our feelings without getting stuck in a plan according to the music layout. Chris is great to work with -- we had a lot of fun with serious and wild advertures -- giving us a a whole gamut of possibilities --none of which we may use in the public scene --well, some maybe . Following him keeping eye contact was fine till he started jumping on the bed and over the bed whilst I was in my character tight skirt and heeled shoes --not fair!!
DEAD MAN WALKING
What I mean by lucky coincidence is that I believe ---it was meant to be --- like to many things -- new meeting -- re-acquaintances -- repertoire that comes to us----
my Madrid blog fizzled out, as I knew it would not that there was nothing to say but a new opera -- not just production is time consuming and demanding .My part is very small --like all my colleagues except Walt and Dantine but we are on stage a lot and it was technically tricky. Its a beauftiful production -- visual -- haunting and though not with the epic long stretched harmonic journeys of his earlier works it is a beautiful piece of GLASS!!
I had time to work on my next project --- Dead Man Walking an opera by Jake Heggie --- so between that the Glass and loving every moment of Madrid and its wonderful people and opera team ---I couldnt continue the blog.