Music calls and text work on The Duenna began this week. I went along on the first day, and was delighted to hear how well the singers worked with the text as well. Richard Suart and Nuala Willis have brought all their considerable experience to this project; it’s rare for me to laugh at much in opera, and I astonished myself by laughing out loud at their performance during the read-through! All in all, it’s so-far, so-good: Joseph McHardy has clearly prepared the score with diligence and creativity, Adam Wiltshire’s designs look smart and light, and Michael Barker Caven has become a fully fledged champion of Sheridan’s only opera, enthusiastic and persuasive.
Of course I am nervous about starting rehearsals for Promised End (the new King Lear opera by Alexander Goehr and the late Frank Kermode) next week. I’m always nervous about starting rehearsals, maybe even more as I am more experienced. Maybe it is because it is Lear that I am anxious? Or because I don’t want to let down Sandy Goehr?
The only thing that calms me down is remembering the excellence of my collaborators. There could be no better MD for the project than Ryan Wigglesworth; the singers are experienced, hard working, interesting people; the design has breathtaking simplicity and clarity. And I guess it is likely we are all worried and excited in equal measure about Monday! After that it will take a particular course determined by the music and the text, which may or may not be one that we have long prepared.
Last week I went to see Sandy Goehr, and we filmed an interview for the website. Frank Kermode’s sad death earlier in the week was on both our minds. He was a great scholar and writer – and, as Sandy says, a kind of poet – and a real hero of my university days. In recent years I was lucky enough to get to know him, meeting him with Ursula Owen, and when ETO was in Cambridge.