Virtual Opera's Inaugural Production -
Ravel's L'Enfant et les sortilèges:
one of the coolest projects I've been a part of
At the beginning of the summer I got wind of, completely by accident, a project based out of the UK. This group, called Virtual Opera would be putting up Ravel’s one-act opera L’enfant et les sortilèges in the autumn, and everything would be conducted online. An announcement of this sort, was for me, was like a ray of sunshine after months of rain. My interest was piqued, along with a hundred questions as to HOW this could work. I applied and received an audition date and time. At that point what struck me the most was how positive and accommodating the project organizers were. We auditioned from whatever space we had available, online. No accompanist was required, though we could have one. If we wanted to sing karaoke-style we could, and they even made back-tracks available if we wished to sing something from the opera itself, but again, not required. I ended up singing one of my staple arias, a cappella.
Let me just say here that after all of the lockdowns and performance cancellations we’d experienced by that time, this audition was so. much. FUN. Performers (in any field) must have an audience. And at the beginning of this pandemic, we performers did the best we could; practicing in our bathrooms and basements and living rooms, some even putting it up online to share. But to have an audience in real time is another thing entirely - even if it is an audience of 2 or 3 on an audition panel. It was such a relief to have back this modus of expression. It was the most fun I had had in quite (what had felt like) a vey long time. You know the picture of the stereotypical opera singer with her mouth open about a mile – that Is I think exactly how it feels when the music comes out of you. And while singers cannot claim to own the market, we do make up a particular niche for expression as the sound is made with our own bodies and include poetic text. I don’t remember ever before having quite this sensation of the music POURING out of me – it had just been bottled for so long, there was no possibility of letting it trickle out slowly!
So, I was invited to participate in the process as a chorus member and of course I agreed. How could we pass up the opportunity to SING in times like these? Even besides this, though, I am fairly certain I would have accepted this engagement even in the best of times because it is SO COOL!
We had online rehearsals with the conductor and with a diction coach. We were all there together in real time. Granted, technology has not yet caught up to our desire for full ensemble rehearsing with no time delay, so we were muted and everyone rehearsed alone, but together, at the same time. Even with the (weaknesses, d-word, deficiencies?) it was a lovely process. Everyone involved was really just so committed to putting together something amazing, in spite of the difficulties faced. And this, my friends, is one of the reasons art exists in the first place. It was a friendly, safe, creative atmosphere that I know I needed. After the many months of (dare I say it) depression-cum-vocal silence in my corner of the world it was a joy to be involved in a project that openly acknowledged that we might need some counselling (and made a therapist available to us if we needed one). It was a joy to be a part of a group of people who were ready to tirelessly support each other in any way they could, but with a creative purpose that I am sure will produce an amazing result – more about that in a minute…
Then came the hard part – the recording! We were instructed and supported in every way possible, but in the end, we had to set it up (with whatever equipment we had available) and push the red record button. It sounds easy, but in all honesty was SO difficult, and for the same reason that I had so much fun in the audition. Even movie actors have all the crew around when they are filming a scene, but we were all alone, making crazy faces and emoting the sorrow, the anger, the confusion, the forgiveness of the scenes to a silent and rather unforgiving lens and microphone! It was difficult, but incredibly interesting to see what I could do with the task given me. And this has always been one of the primary requirements for me to want to spend time on anything – it has to be interesting! We were asked to keep our hair out of the face as they would be digitally cutting around our heads to put them inside our "costumes". That worked for me, because the hair salons were closed anyway! So I made my recordings as well as requested extra video footage for non-singing scenes and sent them off. The majority of my work for the project ended, but for the tech crew it was just beginning. We have received several updates since September and I can promise you all that this production will be amazing! So without further ado, here are the details: