Wednesday, October 26, 2011

TSO Aida - 23 and 25 October 2011

This is probably the craziest thing I've ever done: agreeing to join the chorus of the Taipei Symphony Orchestra and Teatro dell'Opera di Roma's co-production of Aida with only 18 days to curtain up, which among other things entailed memorising the entire score within this time (and you know how much Verdi loved his choruses). I literally had to put everything in my life on the shelf as I attended nightly rehearsals on the weekdays and whole-day rehearsals on the weekend. By then the production has moved on to staging so its up to me to work on the music on my own in between practices. Sounds like a huge rush, but then if Maria Callas can learn I Puritani in 2 weeks while singing La Valkyria, then so can I do the same with Aida.

The production was riddled with problems from day one: the Italian production team and local administrators were beset with differences from cultural, artistic and administrative standpoints, which made the already daunting task seem even more difficult.

Unbelievably, this is only my first time taking part in a full opera production. It really is quite a jump forward from the recitals (solo or choral) that I usually do, with staging and some really bulky costumes to consider. But then these things give the music so much more meaning that you can't help but sing better because of it.

Chorus Boys

This production stars Isabella Kabatu as Aida, Rossana Rinaldi as Amneris, Mario Malagnini as Radames (replacing Salvatore Licitra), Giacomo Prestia as Ramfis and most impressive of all in terms of star power, Juan Pons as Amonasro. While the other personalities are not quite big-name draws, they are top-drawer singers at top houses like La Scala, working with folks like Baranboim, Abaddo and Muti.

Rossana Rinaldi

Isabella Kabatu in plainclothes, which already makes her look like Aida.

Mario Malagnini

If there's one thing I learnt about top-flight international singers, its that they don't like to rehearse much. These singers only arrived a few days before showtime, and hardly sang a high note during rehearsals. So to accompany us during the rehearsal process, management has engaged the services of Emilio Marcucci, Elena and Daniella, three professional singers in less starry houses, to be understudies (a classmate was engaged at the last-minute to understudy Radames). Having inside connections to the understudy cast was great, and the small bunch of us would go for late-night dinners after rehearsals, where we got to discuss how the opera industry worked in Europe among other things. Emilio was especially kind and offered to give us free coaching lessons, simply because he had nothing to do in the day (I of course skipped every class and told him that I'm free whenever he is).  The two of us even organised a masterclass for him and became a kind of entourage around him.

Second from left: Emilio Marcucci, fourth from left: Juan Pons, third from right: Giacomo Prestia, bent over lady: Rossana Rinaldi

With Elena (right) and Daniella (left)

And then came the production itself, three nights of rehearsals and two performances at the Taipei Arena, performing to an audience of 16,000 in total. I was quite astonished that I managed to learn all of the words and music (even though I admit to the occasional memory slip, but I was at least competent enough to recover quickly, got my entrances correct, sung with the required dynamics most of the time and the had confident to go full-throttle when required). So it was quite a surreal experience, with much hard work put in and rewards gained. Right now I'm just thankful to resume my regular life, and will probably look back at this experience with great satisfaction.

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1 comment:

  1. Cool!!! Get to act in operatic scenes.


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