A week or so ago I went along to the university theatre to try out for this year's Opera NT production. They’re putting on Gilbert and Sullivan’s Princess Ida (Or Castle Adamant) which has the demographic advantage of having an unusually large number of female roles for a G&S (I say advantage due to the ratio of women to men in our company) and the thematic advantage of taking a cast full of women and using it to poke a large and comically painted stick at radical feminism.
“But what of the males?” I hear no-one ask.
There are enough roles to go around, but rather unusually only two roles for tenors. After last year’s effort, which basically involved me poncing around with an outrageous accent and waving a sword around every once in a while (and hell, sometimes I just do that on weekends), I figured I was going to have to lift my game. It’s just one of those little challenges that present themselves when you join an opera company but can’t actually sing.
Not that I was going to let that stop me. I fronted up to the auditions with my most trusted and experienced accompanist (ie. Phil, who had nicked Pastor Holly’s guitar for the afternoon) and filled the auditorium (well, maybe half of it?) with the dulcet tones of Joss Whedon’s “Everyone’s a Hero”. It went alright, and I totally nailed the big finish, but I’m not sure the casters appreciated it when I called them a bunch of scary, alcoholic bums. It was totally in character, okay?
Much to everyone’s surprise, I got a call-back for the following evening. So now the big question was which part could I possibly be in the running for? There were only two tenor roles going after all.
Would I be Prince Hilarion, the dashing, heroic and completely mental leading man, storming the castle walls and winning the heart of the wilful, demure and completely mental Princess Ida?
Or would I play Cyril, Hilarion’s true, valiant and completely mental companion through thick and thin, who for reasons which seem to have more to do with harmony structure than with plot development, accompanies his master on his quest to Caste Adamant?
If you know me and my theatrical persona well enough, then by now you’ll have guessed which one I came away with.
I’ve been cast as King Hildebrand, who is father to Hilarion (I’m only twenty-mumble plus one…), king of all the good guys (that doesn’t sound right either), completely mental (well…) and, most notably, a baritone (?). Mind you, it’s a pretty cool role. At first I assumed it would be mainly speaking with a few ensemble bits like last time, but it turns out I’ve got a few solos to put together before October which will be … interesting. Fortunately none of them drop below what I can sing, so I can get away with it. Best of all, the choirmaster has offered to give me some help improving my singing voice between now and then, which will be awesome and will hopefully go a long way towards making me look a little less silly on the night. In the meantime I’ll just work on memorising lines and figuring out how to approach opera in my own way.
In my own not-that-operatic way.
Garry with 2 Rs