We’re almost at the end of week 2 of rehearsals now, and we’re all the way through to the end of the opera (and it is a very dramatic end). It’s been a very good week in the rehearsal room; the finer details are being put into the action and we’re starting to see the whole picture. It’s going to be wonderful on stage as well as musically.
Armida and her her nymphs are very spooky by Act 3, as Armida’s psyche begins to unravel. The end is now in sight and we’ll be moving into the City Recital Hall in less than a week, and the orchestra starts as well. It’s a very exciting part of the journey - there is still time for things to be experimented with, personalties explored, and everyone’s confidence is growing with the piece. The final chorus where all six voice are singing is thrilling. Costumes are now being fitted (as I type this in the rehearsal room costume designer Christie Milton is sitting behind me sewing away), and scenic touches are being finalised on the set and props. We’re almost there!
We’ve now sketched all the way through Act 2, and are into Act 3. Remarkable progress for just over a week of rehearsals. Over our very, very wet weekend in Sydney (and yes we were rehearsing in the driving rain on Saturday) our nymphs came into our process. We have three nymphs who are essentially extensions of Armida’s psyche. Our three nymphs - Tabitha Woo, Mariya Tchachenko and Rebecca Casey - were wonderful in the rehearsal room fitting in very quickly and easily. We saw the start of Christie Milton’s costumes in the beautiful headdresses the nymphs were rehearsing in, and they looked very eerie.
Our new week began today with a visit to the Belvoir workshop where our set is being built by the amazing Simon Boyd. The set is large! And it was great for everyone to see exactly what they will be working with before they get into the theatre. We have a scaled down version of the set built in the rehearsal room, but we’re not able to get the height or scope of it; so it was important for everyone to see it all and begin to understand what it will be.
You’re in for a treat in the theatre! And all we’re wondering now is how Simon and Andrew (our production manager) will be getting it into the theatre! Here’s the behind the scenes team looking at it, without giving too much away! Thanks to Leif Aruhn-Solén for the pic!
Our next two days of rehearsals have been devoted to Act 1, and starting into Act 2. It’s a wonderful piece, and to hear and see it coming together is a joy. As Armida and Rinaldo, Rachelle Durkin and Leif Aruhn-Solén are incredible; their singing is exquisite. In spite of the magical elements it’s a very human story, and Crystal Manich’s direction is focused towards the human emotions and the story. The set is an unusual one and it’s taking a bit of getting used to (in a good way!), and it’s going to be wonderful. To see the cast working with the set, all the while singing beautifully is part of what makes opera.
We had a visit from some of our wonderful Pinchgut Heroes for lunch yesterday, a great break from the intenseness. Elsewhere at the Sport for Jove workshop part of the set (a very important part) is being made by our very talented creative team headed by set designer Alicia Clements. Measurements for costumes have been taken by costume designer Christie Milton and we look forward to seeing the start of the costumes. Parts have gone out to all of the orchestra and we’re on track! Come with us for the journey.
We’re very excited to start Armida; it’s always a wonderful moment after all the preparation when everyone walks into the rehearsal room and we begin. We began, as we almost always do, with two days of music calls. This is the chance for Antony Walker, who is conducting Armida, to work with all the singers, particularly on the recitative - working and shaping the music. It’s also a chance to work on language and ornamentation, and Crystal Manich, our director, came to both days and began giving insights into character and ways of delivering particular lines according to intent. It’s a great chance for all the singers to hear what everyone else has been doing (and to be impressed!).
Then today (Monday) we began production rehearsals. The day started with the design presentation for the singers - Crystal, Alicia Clements (set designer) and Christie Milton (costume designer) talked through the production, and everyone got to see what it will look like and what they will wear! Once all the explanations happened and all the questions answered it’s on with Act One!
Crystal began work with Rachelle Durkin (Armida), Leif Aruhn-Solén (Rinaldo) and Christopher Richardson (Idreno). It’s wonderful to see it happening, and by the end of the day we are a good way into the first act. It’s an incredible score - beautiful arias, and already we can see the production enhancing and explaining this. Looking forward to tomorrow!