What does it take to get from knowing nothing of the Pearl Fishers (except the famous duet of course – for my money the one with the late Jussi Bjorling) to being able to perform it?
For me, as a member of the chorus, it takes a lot of hard work!
Rehearsal one, under the baton of Musical Director Michael Withers we start note bashing a section. We are rusty, it’s been a few weeks since we did any singing, sounds a bit ropey! Note bashing continues for a number of weeks, all accompanied by our marvelous pianist Tim Nail who has played for Heber Opera rehearsals for many years. We start to think we know some of it.
Well, all that note bashing then falls apart (for me at least) as soon as we start on production with Director Dorothy Withers. We begin by blocking moves in our rehearsal space, each of us frantically writing down what we are supposed to be doing and when in our scores. Musically, at this stage, everything gets forgotten as we use a different part of our brains to physically orientate ourselves. Tim is a great help as he instinctively knows what sections we are struggling with and plays our lines out.
Weeks follow with less music only time and more production. Gradually the music and moves join together in our minds and we are encouraged to put down our scores and work from memory. Some of us, myself included, like to write out the words along with the moves and cues in a notebook. This forces us to remember the tunes as only the words and moves are in the notebook.
Then the Sitz Probe: this is essentially the orchestra’s rehearsal. It is the first time we sing with the orchestra and our last chance to go through the whole show with our scores, although we try to use them only as a quick reference point and to note if there are sections that need revision.
Dress rehearsal – a whole new ball game! Now we have costumes to contend with, we are in a different space, there are new exits and entrances to get used to, the sound is different. Sometimes they say a poor dress rehearsal means a good first performance! Usually that is so because the dress rehearsal highlights bits we need to review, either musically or with movement and we go away and practise at home.
First night nerves kick in, we are all tense and many of us will have had a restless night going over the show in our heads. The tension of performance brings us all together and, at the end of that first show, we are relieved and pleased that it all came together. Always room for improvement in subsequent performances, of course!
After the show – we are bereft, those months of being part of the Heber show family are over, what to do with Sunday evenings with no rehearsals?
But then, it all starts again for the next production ………….