Insight: La Boheme. What I saw, what I heard
An old saying says be careful what you wish for coz it might happen. You know me, always curious to know how things happen behind the scenes of a production, who's involved, what they are doing and so on. I wished to attend a rehearsal day at the Royal Opera House. And it happened. It was an amazing experience! Thank you, thank you, thank you!
*Location: a rehearsal room inside the Royal Opera House, a huge space resembling a warehouse having, I guess, the same size as the main stage.
*Participants: members of the cast involved the the second act scheduled for rehearsal on that day. Angela Gheorghiu (Mimi), Vittorio Grigolo (Rodolfo), Massimo Cavalletti (Marcello), Irina Lungu (Musetta), Lauri Vasar (Schaunard), Gábor Bretz (Colline).
The pianist, the conductor the assistant director and three of his assistants: one taking notes, one following all the movements of the participants, their entrances and exists from the stage; and one in charge with the props, putting them in place each time the director decided to start over from a certain bar. And some extras, replacing the chorus for the cast to know its approximate position and movement. I found this extremely interesting as this was the first rehearsal of this type I had ever attended.
*In rehearsal, the second act of La Boheme. That day it was more about direction than singing. Of course, all the members of the cast had already performed this production, either at the Royal Opera House or on other important stages. Casually dressed, singing, acting, laughing, joking, they offerred me such a great experience.
*Among many papers on one a table, my attention was drawn by three things: first, the orchestra score, of reasonable size.
Next to it there was another score of La Boheme but at least double the size of the first one. I waited for a while for the director to open it then I understood what that was. It was the piano-vocal score printed on one side only. Both the white page on the left and the page on the right containing the score were full with colored post its, schetches, notes, red and black lines. All in all, it contained all the direction notes necessary to put the production together at any time. Wish I hade some more time to look into it. But the director didn't take his eyes away from it. At least now I know that such a book do exist.
Next to these two scores there was also a pile of black and white, old photos from the production, used as guidelines for the placement of the sets, cast and chorus.
*The set was improvised. A few tables with chairs, the position of some other tables at Cafe Momus was marked by empty barels and cases, no background sets. No full costumes, except a jacket or a scarf here and there, for a certain singer to know where to place it or when to put it on.
The director was running from left to right, giving indications… "don't go too far behind" ... "Hold her and move together to the far left" ... "Find yourself a position behind him so you could grab the glass with the right hand and the plate with the left hand, following the rhythm of the music so it makes more sense".... And he kept asking for retakes to correct any small mistake he noticed.
These are just a few notes for you, all the curious people like me, to know how things are done behind the scenes. Trust me, it s a lot of work, patience, passion and emotion involved during a long period of time for us to enjoy a two hour performance. I respect so much all this work and i love opera even more!
Now I'm waiting to go back to London. Soon, very soon. Si, mi chiamano Lucia, ma il mio nome e Mimi ;) ….