This past Tuesday we were fortunate enough to have the composer of Emmeline, Tobias Picker, join us in rehearsal. We ran Act I twice, once with each cast. Following the second run, Picker spoke up. “You made me very sad. Which makes me very happy,” he said. I could feel the room exhale.
Performing an opera by a living composer is uncommon and having the composer in the room while the work is happening is even rarer. The same could be said of theatre but not to such an extreme. I have seen singers approach music with a reverence that I see from actors approaching text and I have been pleasantly surprised by how much my company has been scrutinizing the opera. I was curious to see how they would respond when the composer came in to the room — would they turn in to a performance mode and focus solely on the notes on the page or would they make bold choices and take exciting risks?
Ultimately I saw a little bit of both in the two runs but it was certainly pleasing to see that the work we had been doing pulling apart the music and text and putting it back together again had not been lost, even when faced with the deified figure that is the composer. There was certainly a relief felt when he praised what he’d seen, but I think a satisfaction as well. We’re on the right track, I think. Can’t wait to see where the next steps take us.
Next week in Emmeline Stage Management Land: Onstage! Tech! Stay tuned!