02 December 2010

A Night at the Opera

Okay, that’s enough philosophising about dead celebrities. I promised you all a write up of my insights into the swirling morass of emotion, drama, fame, riches, bright lights and fast women that is the Darwin opera community. And now that Nanowrimo is successfully done and dusted (refer right) I'm in a much better position to do it

Of the above list, “dramatic” is probably the only term that actually fits, being inextricably linked with opera and all, but apart from that it’s hard to find the right words to describe the experience. ‘Aquatic,’ ‘polynomial’ and ‘vengeful’ don’t even come close.

We, the good folk of OperatuNiTy, put on "The Merry Widow from Gumtree Creek," which is a modernisation and Australianisation of the original Merry Widow by Franz Lehar. There were plenty of laughs and a generous helping of good old fashioned racial stereotypes on display. I got to play a French nobleman, which called for my 'unique' talents in accent mimicry. If you can imagine the French peas from Veggietales having a conversation with John Cleese on top of the wall in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, then you probably need to take some sort of medication. But you'll have the basic idea of the vocal effect.

From the outset, it was clear I was always going to be slightly out of my depth with this one. Whereas I was approaching the production from the point of view of an actor who could hold a tune, most of the other cast members came from a background of singers who could hold a plot. That’s not to say that any of them were bad actors – far from it – any more than it is to say I’m a terrible singer – a little closer to it – but it did bring to light some critical differences in the way we approached the preparation for the show.

For me, learning lines and knowing where to stand when you’re saying them was the easy bit, while learning overlapping melodies for vocal ensembles was a daunting challenge. For most of the rest of the cast, it seemed to be the other way around, which made for some crazy upside down rehearsals for me in which from my perspective we spent five minutes quickly going over the impossible bit and then three hours hashing and rehashing the really simple bits. Fortunately I was just the comic relief and most of my time on stage was either spoken our sung with the whole chorus, so if I couldn’t land the musical bits it only really mattered for about seven seconds out of a two hour show.

We managed to get our costumes sorted out just in time for the dress rehearsal. My character was a master swordsman, and one of the other cast members was a fairly high ranking officer in the Australian Defence Force who lent me his military dress uniform sword for the show. It was, without exception, the coolest prop I have ever used. Although the plastic Voltron blazing sword we used during rehearsals was pretty awesome too.

And as always, it all came together on the night. We put on three really good shows to much bigger crowds than I was expecting, and I made it through the whole experience without succumbing to my morbid fear of sopranos or poking anyone's eye out with a sword.

So I guess that's a win for the good guys.

Garry with 2 Rs
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