From the rehearsal room

Friday 25 February 2011

Tito’s head starts its journey towards London

This is an exciting and very tiring stage in the preparation of so many new productions. Fantastic Mr Fox has opened – it was very good, and it will be better in theatres with orchestra pits. Neil Irish’s designs are enchanting – and the cast are all deeply committed to the piece. I have a soft spot for sneaky waltzes, especially when danced by animals.

Oddly, we are going on stage with La clemenza di Tito this evening, even though it does not open until 12 March. I think most directors would be made crazy by this – but I can see the advantages. While I will be worried that we have not achieved yet the big shapes that this piece needs (more than any other opera I have directed, it is a terrific piece of architecture, even though it is not long), and I am sure to fret about contrast between the thrilling, intimate scenes of recitative in the second act and the ‘long’ (as in deep, using the whole stage) scenes that frame it, the blessing is that we can go back into the rehearsal room for two days (while we are doing technical rehearsals for the Puccini double bill) to work in a very detailed way before we go back into the theatre with the orchestra. I think it might be a lucky way to approach this piece, which has to be very specific in every moment.

The Puccini double bill had its first run last night. Crikey, the pieces could not be more different. Il tabarro is the saddest opera ever – with the most extraordinary, passionate score. I’ve directed it in a very confined way, on the furthest downstage 2 meters of the stage (while the set for Gianni Schicchi is hidden behind), and I hope that the claustrophobia of barge life is conveyed. It’s a pretty overwhelming experience.

Liam Steel’s production of Gianni Schicchi is terrific! There is so much going on, very precisely, all the time – all of it in perfect consonance with Puccini’s score. Richard Mosley-Evans could scarcely be bettered in the title role: I don’t think I knew that he had so much mischief in him. I think this pairing is going to make a great night of opera, for aficionados and for first-time attenders. I don’t know that we have ever been able to put together such a varied programme… and I don’t know if I would have the energy to do it again.

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