Monday, November 5, 2007

Non, ce n'est pas le jour. Ce n'est pas la louette.

This weekend I had a gig with the Opera on the James, doing Gounod's Romeo and Juliet. I played second oboe (read: tacet 2/3 of the time, and doubling first another 1/6, with about 50 bars of English horn), with my teacher playing principal (which is how they got my name). And, I've gotta say, wow I love my job.

It was done at a high school, the auditorium of which actually had a sunken pit- the first time I've ever played in one. Not only that, but because it's just sunken, not under the stage, and because I sat up against the audience side wall, I was at a perfect angle to watch everything on stage.

It was so great to play in a professional group. The conductor was in complete control and on top of things, and all of the players could deal with playing in a pit. (And it's a HUGE pit- 4 or so of each string section except one bass, a full wind section, and timpani.) He had to show us things once and everybody could then follow him. And everybody had a sense of musicality, which really helped with that too. We were able to just kind of follow the conductor, and everybody knew when he'd gone into two or four or whatever, because it MADE SENSE.

It is, of course, a French ballet, and while I knew that, I hadn't really processed it all the way before the dress rehearsal. So I was quite surprised when an entire ballet corps (with more guys than girls!) turned up. There's a tableau at the beginning of each (of 5) acts, and the choir just sang, standing behind one of those magic curtains that you can only see through when it's lit, so the dancers did the action of everyone except the nurse, the Duke, Friar Laurence, and of course Romeo and Juliet. And they were good. (Have I mentioned how this is a really truly professional opera company?) It was actually really distracting at the dress rehearsals, because I wanted to watch, but I managed to not miss any entrances during the performance.

The lead singers were wonderful- I loved Juliet's voice in particular (French opera and its sweet sopranos), but Romeo's was really good too. It was also nice having professional singers, because while we did test audibility with one of the directors sitting in the audience, they were able to project comfortably over us. We of course couldn't blast, but we could play with fullness and a dynamic range, and the singers (and the choir) were still audible.

They even had supertitles, shown on a large piece of something (posterboard? duct tape?) on the top of the curtain. It was a little bit odd, though because for everything except stuff like Romeo and Juliet's (added) dying duet, the supertitles were just the text of the Shakespeare play. And while sometimes that's what they were singing, sometimes it really wasn't. But at least that way they were well written.

Because of the aforementioned tacet numbers, my part was mostly really easy. I was pleased in the performance, though, that the super low oboe part in the woodwind chorale came out sounding nice, and I hit all of my low, soft, exposed English horn notes. Plus, it's always comforting to be able to hold one's own in amongst professional musicians.

So, a really great experience. I love playing for opera, and it's always nice to get paid as well. (Another perk of a professional company.)

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