Stage-Write blog Festival and Tour 2012

Stage-Write: The next generation 

Thomasin Trezise of the Glyndebourne chorus is our intrepid backstage blogger.

The Cunning Little Vixen Hens, Festival 2012. Photo by Bill Cooper
Thomasin as a Hen (centre) in The Cunning Little Vixen at Festival 2012

About Thomasin

Tour 2012 Blog

14 November 2012

 I want to talk about Rob Poulton in this blog, who died tragically on the 30th October. I was unsure whether or not to do this, but I feel moved to. 

 I was on my way into the theatre in Norwich for a massage (bad back, remember?) on the Wednesday, when I got the message that Rob had been killed the night before in a car crash on his way home from Cardiff.  Like everyone else I wanted it to be a nightmarish mistake, and spent the rest of the walk in in a sort of waking dream.  The awfulness of it hit me when I got in backstage and became part of the outpouring of grief that was affecting everyone.  I had my massage and wandered the streets for a while, blindly.  It was such a relief when I had texts from colleagues who were all in the same state and couldn’t settle to anything.  At the suggestion of one of the orchestra we met at a real ale pub (Rob’s favourite tipple) and raised a glass in Rob’s honour, it seemed the only thing we could do. We filled out a whole room in the pub.  Singers, conductors, orchestra, backstage crew, wigs and make-up were all there; everyone had loved him.

Rob was a very special man.  He was a joy-bringer.  He laughed a lot, not like a fool, but from the sheer joy of life.  I never heard him complain.  In Act 3 of Rusalka, after the wood nymphs have gored the game-keeper to death, everyone comes off stage covered in sweet, sticky fake blood.  I don’t mind telling you that there are a few swear words to be heard in the dressing room afterwards, as the nymphs scrub away at it with baby-wipes.  Rob came off stage COVERED in it, laughing, of course.  That is not even the half of though, because Rob was a great artist too.  He had a beautiful voice and he played characters properly, thoroughly.  He didn’t just make faces, as some singers still do, he acted the roles.  He filled out the characters and made them human, so that you could always relate to them.  Anyone that saw him perform will know this, and count yourself lucky, because it’s a rare combination.

I want to end by saying that there are not enough people like Rob in the profession-in any profession.  It’s easy to take someone like Rob for granted because he was so easy to be with.  It’s the moaners and complainers that draw on your time and sympathy, and the needy who preoccupy your thoughts.  It’s such a loss when someone like Rob is taken away because it is like a light going out.  Let us all try and be a bit more like Rob.  This awful event can, at the very least, inspire us to see the joy in life and in living.

*Sincere apologies for the wrong date posted previously - this has now been ammended.

1 Nov 2012

It seems a long while since I blogged, and that’s because it is!  I can only apologise and hope that the other blogs have kept you entertained.

I’m on a train to Norwich, week two of being on the road with the Tour.  Last week was Woking which I decided to commute and (is there a single road in the UK without roadworks?!?) rather regretted.  There is something incredibly tiring about driving those distances day after day, not to mention the ridiculous price of petrol.  How on earth do people do it all the time?!  Anyway, one bad back and two days later, here I am, positively whizzing along towards Norwich.  I have decided to do it by train because parking is dreadful in central Norwich, and, as my partner is joining me on Friday night, so that we don’t end up with two cars.  Heaving a heavy suitcase and laptop bag through London has been really rather unpleasant, particularly with my back playing up, but I’m on the last leg.  Once I am happily ensconced in my Travelodge I’ll be feeling a lot better.  There is nothing fancy about a Travelodge,  but they’re cheap, and you know what you’re getting.  That is, apart from a bed (with sheets), a shower (with water) and  a tele; precisely nothing.  Why would you need anything else?  Actually that’s why my suitcase is SO heavy; I’ve brought a few creature comforts.

The rehearsal schedule at Glyndebourne was particularly heavy for this year’s Tour.  Yes I AM making excuses for not writing my blog.  For some reason the casts for both Figaro and Rusalka have been doubled.  This means you have to rehearse everything twice.  Although, for Figaro, it was the understudy cast that bore the brunt of it.  Not all the roles are doubled, including Marcellina, understudied by yours truly, if you remember.  We had double rations of rehearsals as we were working with the second cast.  I have NEVER had so many rehearsals for an understudy and had only a handful of days off in the whole of the seven-day period.  We carried on rehearsing doggedly after the shows had opened, and only finished on the final Friday at Glyndebourne.  Mind you I know that role now, oh yes, I could sing it in my sleep. 

I had to break off then, as I just discovered that the conference pears I had in my laptop bag were a little past their past and have exploded all over it.  Fortunately I had a packet if tissues for now, but I will have to perform a big clean-up job when I get there.  Ho hum.  I wonder if that was a punishment for my whingeing..? 

I don’t like to whinge, really I don’t.  It’s great to have had all that rehearsal and to know it so well.  Anyone want to take a bet on my going on?  Shall we start a sweepstake?  Double your money if you get which city it’s in…  Actually, I don’t wish anything to happen to Jean Rigby, not even a common cold.  She is such a LOVELY woman.  I love her voice too; she sounds as if she is purring when she sings. 

The train has stopped.  Just outside Ipswich. 

Oh well, Wimbledon next week-easy peasy.

See ya.

Festival 2012 Blog

Wednesday 15 August: Paper shepherds and green paint

So who’s been to see the Double Bill?  No?  Shame.  It’s really good.

Let me tell you a bit about it.  It’s unusual, from our point of view, to be arriving so late to work.  Of course we’re not in ‘L’Heure Espagnole’, which is a five-hander.  We arrive just as the interval is starting, giving us plenty of time to get into our paper costumes.  Say WHAAAT?!  Yes, paper.  You see, our first entry is as the desolate shepherds and shepherdesses from L’Enfant’s wallpaper that he has ripped.  He has torn us from our shepherds and we give him a very hard time about it. He’s a very naughty boy!  There is a special quality to the paper; it doesn’t fall like fabric.  Actually it’s very comfortable, and someone was actually considering having their wedding dress made from it.  Even our wigs our made from paper, and we’re not allowed to touch them as they’re so delicate.  This is all very well, were it not for the fact that we only have eleven minutes to quick- change into trees, geraniums, box hedges and insects. 

So the second we are wheeled off on our shepherdess trolley, we hitch up our skirts and run as fast as eighteenth century shoes will allow to the back dock, where the dressers, wiggies and make-up department are slavering to cover us in green make-up and impossibly tight costumes.  Obviously not until we have been unlaced and removed from paper costumes and wiped off as much as the black bits of make-up as we can.  Somehow we all make it, but it’s MAYHEM backstage!  Not everyone has green make-up;  I believe the glow worms and the caterpillar have metallic black..  Anyway, it’s a bugger to get off afterwards I can tell you.  It doesn’t seem to matter how much you scrub at it, you still find it in your ears and your fingernails the next day.   I suppose they’re used to it, but I do sometimes wonder what the cleaners make of the bathroom after the Ravel.

There are only two weeks left of the Festival now, and only three Figaros.  I haven’t been on as Marcellina…yet! To be honest, I wasn’t really expecting to; she’s a trouper, that Dame Murray.

Needless to say, you’ll be the first to know if I do.

Tuesday 31 July: Chocholka's stilettos to fantasy shrubs

Well!  I can only apologise for having been so quiet!  I have been busy.  In fact, I think it would be fair to say that this has been one of the busiest Festivals I’ve had in ten years!  But WHAT a festival!

Having said goodbye to The Cunning Little Vixen, and hung up my Chocholka stilettos for the last time it was straight into understudy rehearsals for Michael Grandages wonderfully humane Marriage of Figaro.  These were fitted in around the last few Vixen shows, La bohème production rehearsals and music calls for L’Enfant et les Sortileges.  As the day of the cover run got closer I started to feel panicky that I hadn’t had enough rehearsal and that I wouldn’t do the role justice. There is just so much of Figaro to get through, and so many different schedules to work round. Ian Rutherford, who is the assistant director, and was putting us through our paces, did sterling work. When the day came, I felt confident and even enjoyed myself a little. It went well, and the powers that be were pleased-phew!

Now it really is going to get easier for me. We are performing the final  La bohème  tomorrow and the Final Dress rehearsal for the Ravel is on Thursday. Which is another story..

Wowza! Laurent Pelly has created the most extraordinary production. It manages to be moving, witty, ironic and chic (he designed the costumes as well)! The costumes are beautiful. If I tell you that the male chorus are trees and the female chorus are bushes, shrubs and insects it gives you an idea. Without careful handling and the excellent Glyndebourne wardrobe team it could have been awful, like the worst kind of pantomime. It’s not, it is truly amazing. We’ve had three rehearsals in costume and I’m still catching sight of something new that either drops my jaw to the ground or makes me smile stupidly.  

So if you want an evening of opera that will leave you wanting to see the whole thing again and again, come!

Friday 9 June: Preparing to go live

I seem to remember writing a blog on the eve of the live screening of Meistersinger, last year.  So here I am; writing a blog on the eve of the live screening of The Cunning Little Vixen. We have already recorded it, at the last performance on Thursday. This is a back-up recording, in case anything untoward should happen on Sunday. I think we were all quite happy after Thursday, so there is a slight lightening of the tension regarding tomorrow: There is good material to be used if need be. I don’t know if you remember, but this wasn’t an option for much of Meistersinger, as Gerald Finlay was indisposed on the night of the first recording. It all rested on the second one.

I think tomorrow is going to go really well, but, as before, there IS a certain amount of tension. This is you recorded for posterity.  For me, it’s getting the balance between being perfect musically, and being relaxed enough for a good performance to shine through.  Tension does NOT produce good singing, so you have to allow yourself to let go to a certain extent. I’m going to try and imagine that the cameras and microphones aren’t there, just people wanting to enjoy themselves. We’ll see…

Meanwhile, I’ve started music coaching for Marcellina, and have found out that my ‘E’ vowel and my ‘L’s need work. This is all good. These minute adjustments are what make the difference between good singing and REALLY good singing and I’m very glad to be reminded to strive for perfection at all times. 

Recitative is a bit of a bugbear for a lot of singers, and I am no exception to this.  It’s very tempting to keep trying to make it more interesting.  It is rarely the most exciting part of an opera, let’s be honest. I am learning not to try too hard, because actually Mozart has done it all for you. If you observe his rests and just sing it the job is done. Of course it’s very important to know exactly what you’re singing, and to have a strong idea of your character. It’s written within a comfortable octave range mostly, so that there are no unnatural vowels produced as a result of singing very high or low.  Ipso facto it should look and sound like conversation. Anyhoo, we start production next week. Yippee!

More anon, and if you’re watching Vixen somewhere tomorrow, enjoy!

17 May 2012 - Final dress rehearsal

I think it’s high time I blogged again don’t you?!

Sorry about that but May has been exceptionally busy, even for me.  The problem is that, if I see a day-off in my schedule, and it coincides with a concert I’ve been offered, I automatically say yes to it. What I don’t do is check the days either side of it.  Days-off are there for a reason..  I’ll never learn; no rest for the talented.

It’s the Final Dress of Vixen tomorrow!  Wish me toi toi toi.  I’m looking forward to it, but I will confess to being slightly nervous.  I’m sure this is a good thing.  It shows that I care.  I can walk in the shoes now-that was a miraculous moment-and I’m assured that I don’t look like pork wrapped in twine in the pink fishnets.  So it’s all good.  The production itself is just beautiful, and I am filled with frustration at not being able to watch it.  You can’t have it all ways though can you?  If you’re coming, you’re in for a real treat.  If you’re not, come!

My next exciting project is making sure I know Marcellina in time for understudy rehearsals for Figaro.  I’m very happy to be covering Ann Murray, I’ve long been a fan of her work.  You never stop learning do you?  I’ll let you know how they go in due course. 

Meanwhile, enjoy tomorrow, if you’re coming, and give me a big cheer at the end, in a sort of honking the horn, pally sort of way.

Ta ta, or should I say, TRRRRRP!!!!

15 April 2012 - I'm back!

Well, I have now seen my Head Hen costume and I think I can say, with a certain amount of confidence, that I will be noticed.  Needless to say, I can’t give too much away (ooh that rhymed!), but it has impact.  All the chickens have very high heels, which we have been granted access to during rehearsals.  So we have been navigating around the set all week, wobbling and staggering, and trying to remember music, moves and chicken characters.  WAIT A MINUTE!  I’ve just realised that we have the set in the rehearsal room at a VERY early stage.  Looking at the tricksy nature of it, I can see why Melly Still would have insisted on this, but even so, well done Glyndebourne!

There is an awful lot going on in Vixen.  There are a lot of characters, including children, who play foxcubs.  Staging is complicated and it feels, timewise, as if we are really up against it.  Of course there is plenty of time before opening night, and of course it will be fabulous, but in the meantime, it’s heads down and busy, busy, busy for everyone.  Very exciting!

See ya.

7 April 2012 - It all starts here

Welcome back to my blog, and a very happy Easter to one and all!

And what better way to have spent the preceeding week than singing about laying eggs as hens in The Cunning Little Vixen?  Please look out for yours truly, the Crested Fowl (I prefer Head Hen).   I will be singing TRRP! very loudly at the other hens in a rather rude way.  She is a most unpleasant character, but gets her comeuppance at the hands of the Vixen.  I can’t wait to play her and have far more than five notes on my own this time!  More of that later.  As always, I can’t divulge too much about the production but with Vladimir Jurowski conducting and Melly Still directing I probably don’t need to say much more. COME!  It’s going to be AMAZING!

There is no getting away from it though, coming back to Glyndebourne is a bit like going back to school.  You get quite excited about seeing your old pals again, (or is that just me?) and you have the new pupils to suss out. The classes are much bigger, and there isn’t a discipline problem of course.  Well, not really.  Playtime is very similar, with the girls in huddles chit-chatting and the boys playing football out on the lawn.  There is no streaming though, we’re all there because we’re all brilliant, and striving to be even more brilliant.

La Boheme is back, and has had a bit of refreshing in the costume department. I’m VERY trendy in it, you won’t recognise me… Wait a minute!  It’s true though , I do favour a far more classical style these days.  It’s great to get down with the kids sometimes.

All in all, it’s been a very enjoyable first week at Glyndebourne High-and so short!

See you soon.

 

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