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Sublime Surreality

Yesterday was our final “dress rehearsal” (we oddly still refer to the final rehearsal for concerts as a “Dress”, even when costumes aren’t involved), but because the Edinburgh Festival is such a hotbed of activity with over 240 classical music performances in the span of a few short weeks, rehearsal space is at a real premium. As a result, we soloists, the Maestro, Sir Roger Norrington, and the whole of the stunningly wonderful Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Festival Chorus were hauled out to a local Junior High School, and we preformed a nearly uncut version of Mozart’s Idomeneo, surrounded by brightly colored poles, construction paper mosaics of various animals, petites toilets and paper trees praising the efforts of various students for “improved handwriting” and “finishing the race”. It was incredibly surreal to be singing such a heart-wrenching drama under paper penguins and basketball goals, but somehow it all worked:

Surreal

Elettra, the fiercely wonderful Emma Bell, stands next to a pole that reads “Responsible Citizenship”. Hardly a candidate for that, I would venture (Elettra, that is – Emma is a lovely citizen!):

Elettra = Responsible Citizen

The ravishing Rosemary Joshua as Ilia, sings under the watchful horns of a Rhino. Naturally:

Sopranos and Rhinos

And of course the basses endure the Marching of the Penguin above them:

March of the Penguins over the Celli

It’s always the little things, isn’t it?

Speaking of education, this is off topic, but I found the following video endlessly interesting, revolutionary and one of the most intelligent, hopeful and improbable things I’ve seen in a long time:

And finally, a bit more on topic, but also intensely related to the above video. Tonight’s performance of Idomeneo will be dedicated to the late, and truly great Sir Charles Mackerras. His presence has been deeply felt during this week of rehearsals and will surely be quite overwhelming this evening. We singers have been speaking non-stop of his deep impact on us as musicians, and it’s clear that his impact on not only the music business, but on the many people he touched during his enormous life was beyond profound. I am eternally grateful that the world experienced his passion, his expertise, his enthusiasm, his creativity, and his youthful spirit – all the things Ken Robinson is trying to salvage in his approach to education. I know I am richer for it. And I’m certain that of all people, Sir Charles would have loved making music underneath penguins. Ain’t life grand?

Tonight is for you, Sir Charles – I hope we will do you proud!

P.S. If you liked the above video, here is his sequel from a few years later:

3 Comments

  1. Georgios said…

    Brilliant post again, Joyce. Rehearsing under paper penguins must be indeed surreal, but hey you have a trouser role, a perfect match to the surroundings.
    Maybe next year the Ed. festival can have performances in some of the rehearsal spaces they use. I'd find it really interesting having a traditionally staged opera in the round…in a school gym, or a disused council building. In a beautiful city like Edinburgh there must be some really architecturally fascinating spaces to use (e.g. how about the Land Form in front of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art? I can surely imagine Norma or La Vestale on it!) Here's a pic I took of it: Flickr

  2. Taminophile said…

    More penguins! I recently saw stuffed penguins being tossed about during the party scene in a Don Giovanni in Munich, and included a comment about it in a blog post. Now the use of penguins in opera has become a running joke among my friends. May I link to your post?

  3. Klassikfan said…

    A penguin at the opera # 3:
    Vienna 2006 – Staatsoper – Romeo et Juliette (Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazón): A distinguished English gentleman, sitting in a "Loge"/box next to me, held a large, inflated plastic penguin in his hands! At curtain calls he stood up and threw it down onto the stage. Villazón picked it up, and he and Anna Netrebko put it between them when they took their bows. ;-))

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You are here to serve the words, the director, the melody, the author, the chord progression, the choreographer ~ but above all and most importantly, with every breath, step, and stroke of the keyboard, you are here to serve humanity.

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