Tuesday, July 24, 2007

La Boheme

Today I drove down to C'ville to fill in for my teacher at a rehearsal of Ash Lawn Opera Festival's La Boheme. It was incredible. I knew that they were a "real company" despite only playing in the summer, but I didn't realize how real. All of the singers were very impressive, the orchestra was good as individuals and as a whole, and the conductor was pretty easy to follow and kept everything together. Plus, the singers were good enough that the orchestra could actually play fully without drowning the singers out horribly, which I have to say is a situation in which I have never been. Parts of Elijah up in Damascus were like that, but nothing like this. It made the music incredible, that we were able to play as a whole and to do it that intensely. And, they had a (small) children's choir! Playing with this group surpassed the Les Mis pit of last summer.

( I have to say, though, poor strings. We have 3-2-2-1-1 strings, in a pit which has 2 hns, I think 2 tpt, and trb. They got a little drowned out.)

Also, they are singing it in English. I know a lot of people don't like/approve of that, and I don't think I could make a blanket statement for or against, but I highly approve in this case. It's a good translation, and it makes the music incredibly moving. Mimi's death scene, when you can understand what everyone is saying is awesome, because she's telling Rodolpho that she's fine, she isn't sick anymore, and then when she dies he thinks, or at least "thinks" that she's just asleep, and is asking everybody what's wrong, why are you looking at me like that. So sad. And his "Mimi" was so much better than the recording- no fake sobs. And playing that orchestra part...man. But the conductor stopped us about 10 bars from the end, which was horrible. I mean, the end is only about 20 measures long, it's already like having a rug pulled out from under you. But to stop in the middle? I really wish we'd gotten to finish.

We did play through almost all of it. I was happy with my playing, because my sound/tone were really nice, even if I was having a strangely bad day with key signatures and accidentals. Usually I'm better at things that are sight-read-y. But I played on one of my reeds that I'd made in a pseudo-Lorrie scrape, and it turned out REALLY well. Very good at soft entrances and at holding itself up pitch and tone-wise. So I was pleased at that. (Hopefully I'll be able to make more. Knock on wood.) I was not as prepared note-wise and knowing the work as a whole-wise as I would have liked, but I was still satisfied. Aside from notes I held my own, and most of the players were out of college, and, as I told Lesley, I did only have the music for three days.

I really do love La Boheme, even though I'm not yet super familiar with it. (I did listen all the way through yesterday and today, and play through it Sunday, Monday, and today, but that's not enough.) Part of this is because the music is superb and Italian and operatic and I just love mushy, overwrought classical music. Part, though, is because I know the musical Rent frontwards and backwards. And Rent is incredibly highly based on La Boheme. It's pretty amusing: character names, when the "arias" hit and what they're about (counterparts include "Take Me or Leave Me", "Without You", "Finale A" (there is no "Your Eyes" or "Finale B"), "Light My Candle", "Rent", the scene at street vendors at Christmas, and "La Boheme" including Benny, though he rags on Musetta, not Mimi. There are probably more, but we only had the vocalists for half the rehearsal, so most of Acts 1 and 4 were done without them), relationships, plot, everything. Obviously the sound is completely different from Rent, but I do think that Andrew Lloyd Webber knew his Puccini. I could definitely hear
Phantom and Cats.

I think it's really funny that the most famous aria from the opera is between Musetta and Mark (what would be "Take Me or Leave Me" in Rent), rather than between Roger and Mimi, who are rather dramatically the main couple. Though they do have "O soave faniculla", which is stunningly gorgeous.

I haven't played in a rehearsal like that since orchestra ended at the end of April. By the end of that I was definitely in pain. Of course, the fact that the room was utterly freezing (and I get hot when I play) didn't help. My oboe was actually getting cold while I rested, and many of those weren't super long rests, either. I know why my shoulder hurt, because I've been kind of bad about that recently, but my other arm was getting...fuzzy, a little bit. I can't think what I've been doing recently that would have caused that, so perhaps it was just a fluke from lots of driving and cold and not being used to rehearsal time. I didn't lose my embouchure at all, though, so YAY. I'm pretty sure that was because of the modifications I made to my reed copying Lorrie. It was much lighter to play, while still sounding quite dark and covered. And I have been good about keeping at least mostly in shape this summer.

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