Two weeks have past now since the Young Artist Performance of Don Giovanni at Opera Holland Park and I'm still extremely pleased with both the process and performance so I thought it was possibly due a little blog post.
It was an absolute pleasure to watch and work alongside the main cast rehearsals lead by Oliver Platt and Dane Lam. Olly created a room that was joyful to be in and extremely collaborative. For me, watching him and the fantastic cast navigate this beast of an opera was insightful and didactic - informing my decisions weeks before my rehearsal period actually began. Observing the opera on its feet in this way also helped dramaturge and make sense of it for me in a wider context as the creatives in the room were generous with their time. I frequently sat near Stuart Wilde (one of the fantastic repetaturs at Opera Holland Park) and presented daily questions or new curiosities I'd found in the score (why does it sound like there are bells in Mi Tradi? Does he think the Don has ever sung Deh viene il finestra before? Etc).
This is just one example of how the whole main cast and production team were incredibly welcoming even though I wasn't officially working in their room. They let me experiment, trying out some of my own ideas and they even let me play with the cast when I stood in for the absent performers (my guilty pleasure as an assistant director!).
It meant that after 6 months of my own research and planning and then a further three weeks in the room with this team I was not only ready but quite keen to begin exploring and rehearsing with my cast as we created our version of Olly's show. All the design elements were to remain the same (including the lighting plot - which in turn means the majority of blocking) and as well as this my cast all had to be ready and prepared to cover the main show from the 3rd June (slotting in harmonically to the main show if the situation arose - which it did).
So to say it was merely a challenge would be an understatement but the rewards have been thrice fold.
I am always interested in the processes that theatre rehearsals can offer a room of opera practitioners - and I'm pleased that by the end of our rehearsals I thought the young artist performers were a real ensemble - who played, worked, explored and performed together. Constant games and exercises through-out the rehearsal process were absolutely vital for this to work - and of course on the surface they just looked fun, but each different activity developed something whether it was our team work, focus, spontaneity, creativity or musicality as a group. My inspiration here comes from companies like Kneehigh and Improbable who insist on Play coming first in a room.
There were a few stand out moments for me in rehearsals where people made breakthroughs in their individual performances or even just their thoughts about the characters or the scene over all. These were particularly special when the performers thought they were familiar with the aria or had been performing it for a long time in recitals or concerts. In two situations this happened and we created really honest moments of story telling, which is always my main goal. Helping to facilitate these shifts in thinking are incredibly rewarding and are part of what I love about directing in this way.
Opera Holland Park had done some incredible casting, offering me fantastic performers but also a dedicated and skilled core team without whom my job would have been much more complicated. I hope that they'd agree that our process was a collaborative one and that they were also as pleased as I was with the final piece. I also want to say a huge thank you to Ashley Riches from the main cast show who performed alongside our company as Don Giovanni for our performance. We are also hugely grateful for Thomas Humphreys who was our Don Giovanni for the rehearsal process.
I am extremely pleased to have had the pleasure of developing a show with this talented team:
Associate Conductor Harry Ogg
Repetiteur Yu Su
Leporello Darwin Leonard Prakash
Donna Anna Julia Hamon
Don Ottavio Joel Williams
Donna Elvira Nardus Williams
Il Commendatore Vedat Dalgiran
Zerlina Eleanor Sanderson-Nash
Masetto Ricardo Panela