How to plan six operas at once

Monday 14 June 2010

Terrible lot of balls in the air, all of them good, but not so good if I start dropping them.

Thalia must have asked me for a blog update 100 times, over many weeks, but then something urgent came up; now, as I am faced with the narrative for our Arts Council report on 2009-10, I am delighted to turn to the blog –

Adam Wiltshire had delivered beautiful set designs for Promised End (Alexander Goehr’s new opera setting King Lear) and The Duenna (RB Sheridan’s only opera), which are the operas we’ll tour in the Autumn. Now we have to see how much of the design we can actually afford. Guy Hoare was in the office for the whole morning, working out the implications of each design for lighting, and specifically for lighting on tour.

It’s all planning now, really. The plan for Spring 2011 is unusual, and we have to have the right creative team to make that unusual plan work. I suppose we’d better speak to the agents before anything goes in writing here – but it looks to me like we might have just the right people. It’s quite an ask to design La Clemenza di Tito, Fantastic Mr Fox and a double bill of Il Tabarro and Gianni Schicchi. They aren’t chosen because they are similar, but because they present an interesting and varied season wherever we go – and also because we have a chance of doing them especially well!

I’ve been treating myself to Tabarro pretty regularly. Crikey, what a fantastic piece. Tough roles. Excited that we seem to have found in Luigi the perfect part for Charne Rochford, who has always shown such promise. Just spoke to his wife Julia Riley (who is singing Sesto in the Mozart opera in the same season), who eight weeks ago gave birth to a daughter, and find that she is already back at work in Toulouse, singing Second Lady, while Charne is preparing Cavaradossi. Suddenly don’t feel I have the right to say I’m tired.

Last night I heard Mark Wilde sing in a sort of dinner concert at the RAC Club the rapturous tenor aria from Tippett’s A Midsummer Marriage. I had pushed him into it, as I knew it would suit him – and then felt badly, as it is a hard thing to learn quickly. In the event, it was beautiful and exciting. How honest Tippett is! And how well he writes for the voice. Clearly, too, he was in love. It was remarkable to hear that Sunday evening, after going to the RADA double bill of La Dispute and Sarah Kane’s Cleansed on Saturday evening. Both plays are hard to bear, the Kane almost insupportable – but I know that when she was asked what her plays were about, she said it was love, and of course knowing that is true transforms the experience of the play.

Next weekend I want to take my own tour of lodgings occupied by my great-great-grandmother’s half sister Rhoda Randall . While g-g-g was a laundress and mother of 10 in Bow, Rhoda was a servant, mantle-maker and mother of 10 in Lambeth. I know it has nothing to do with anything, and that these people don’t even have graves, but I like finding the boarding houses, tenements or houses where they lived, when those buildings still stand. I wonder if it is a bit of the feeling I used to get when I was a kid and we could say a certain combination of prayers on All Souls Day in the confidence that those pious ejaculations could spring someone from Purgatory to blessedness. Or at least out of undistinguished suffering. We weren’t supposed to be able to choose the souls we sprang, but I know that my brother and I were thinking about the same relatives named in our evening prayers.

But in the short term I’ll focus on the here and now: sign off on the schedule for the 6 month preparation around the country for Fantastic Mr Fox, set out a firm brief that will enable the creative team to get three new productions to stage in the same week in March, work on a funding plan for 2011-12, take the plunge on the Tito conductor, lose weight, take up exercise, laugh more, read improving literature, become expert in matters relating to the basset horn.

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