Well, it's been a while since I last sat down to update this blog! The double bill I directed at the Opera National de Lorraine in Nancy has opened and closed and I'm now back home in London.
This project was very special and co-produced between the Opera and Nancy Opera Passion, an association that promotes young opera singers for 9 years now. L'heure espagnole and Gianni Schicchi, two fantastic comedies, with a group of young singers! In all, about 270 applied from conservatoires, schools and opera studios all over the world. I took part in all the auditions in Nancy, and we selected the team out of brilliant singers none over the age of 32. Some had never sung professionally on an opera stage before, others with limited stage craft or experience. But all very exciting and promising!
In June the singers meant in Nancy for a masterclass with Ludovic Tézier. I then started rehearsals proper on 23 August, to open the 27 September - a proper rehearsal period and the chance to do detail work and stage craft. I had the chance to work with a great conductor, Michael Balke, whose approach combines music and theatricality. I have the chance to be fluent in both French and Italian and this helped a huge amount in such comedies.
Finally I have to mention the rest of the creative team. Annemarie Woods designed the set and costume. It's my first collaboration with Annemarie and I know it won't be the last. She's super talented and the solutions she came up with very creative, exciting and fun. We were delighted when the opera agreed to the design and costumes as she'd designed them and we could really deliver on the vision. The character work on the costumes was fun and paid off. Finally the other first collaboration was with our lighting designer D.M. Wood. I was thrilled when she accepted to join the team and we got on like a house on fire.
I'm going to upload pics in the relevant section of the site. Let me know if you have any thoughts or questions! I was keen from the start to unite the two pieces with a strong visual element. There are clear contrasts - a French vaudeville set in Spain, and an Italian black comedy set in Florence. We felt time was an interesting element - the hour in l'heure espagnole, vs the stopped time for Buoso, and the time pressure for the rest of his family. Rather than a shop with hundreds of clocks, we opted for a singular clock, strong visual statement but also box of tricks. I was also keen on showing what actually takes place in the bedroom, if only with a "Tom & Jerry" view of it - up to knee. Imagination is much more fun and exciting. In Schicchi, the clock moved to stage right, stopped at 6.30. Yet whilst the audience thought that was it, it became a source of destruction when the family looked for the will. And in the end, it represented eternity for the two lovers, embraced in a view of Florence.