26 June 2013

The Juniper Passion in Rome

Call me a little crazy if you like, but... Wednesday was looking potentially busy (yes, I was toying with the idea of driving to Nemi after teaching and returning in the wee small hours) so, with an hour and a half to deal with the remains of the day, we made a snap decision, threw ourselves together (Ok, so I researched train times, packed a train snack and wrote out how to get to the venue rather than get myself "together") and headed to the station. Why? Because my friend and I both wanted to see The Juniper Passion again.

WOW! What a cast! 

At Cassino I was impressed. It was a special occasion. It was grand, spectacular, and had so much to take in. But to be up so close to the singers last night was "something else".  It's well known that I love tenors, (I fall for a new one each summer, in fact), so it is saying something to claim that I couldn't single out one performer over another. The sopranos were so pure, their words so clear, the harmonies haunting, and the melding of male and female voices was exceptional. Italian and New Zealand singers in perfect unison, creating magic; music really does transcend all barriers. 

What really hit home to me was how "in character" the singers were, despite having limited movement in their roles (the dancers carried the movement). It is a long time since I have been to live theatre or a full opera. I have become used to concert performances, where there is little carrying of the story from one singer to the next. Yes, the concert performers are expressive, but out of context the passion, the drama, the suspense and the immediacy of the emotions is missing, somehow.

Last night, however, watching the dancers and Julia Booth in particular, I was reminded of how much performers put into their work, emotionally, physically, more than talent and training. They really do become those characters for the time that they are on stage. (Julia Booth played Helen in the show and so was the character of my generation, the daughter of a veteran soldier). 

And the dancers... I was in the front row, with no orchestra pit between us. Three metres from the dancers, almost able to catch the flying beads of sweat as they performed on a balmy evening indoors under lights. Yes, I have a favourite dancer... for a segment. Then another becomes my favourite... then another... 

For the singers, having the orchestra behind them and the conductor on the screen would have been challenging. But to me this unusual configuration in the theatre with no orchestra pit was something noteworthy. Full marks for how the singers coped with what must have been a particularly demanding scenario. I found that having the orchestra in the dark behind the action removed the distraction of wanting to focus on the instruments as I heard them, and allowed me to focus more fully on the singers and the sound, rather than on the production of the music.  (I was level with the screen in the front row, not in the tiered seating, so it is in the edge of my photo. Most patrons wouldn't have noticed the screen).

Having read the booklet with the songs and the scenes prior to the performance, and being so close to the singers, allowed me to think more about the words, and how this opera fits into my particular passion of educating for a culture of peace. I'll probably write more about this on the Legato blog some time. Reflecting on it this morning I almost want to put my teaching hat on again; how rewarding it would be to tease out with a class all the metaphor, the messages, the musical and literary aspects of the production that offers us so much. 

And a bonus to the evening, simply because Kiwis can always spot another Kiwi; we have new ex-pat friends coming to stay next week to look around the Cassino region. Life is always interesting, don't ever let me complain of being too busy! 

So, tick another box. I now know where the Rome University theatre is, and it is such an easy walk from Termini station that I feel a few more trips to Roma coming on... 

Today I am grateful for spontaneous decision-making.

1 comment:

Nicola said...