Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Rhythm and Effect

Chief Financial Officer Rauli Garcia recounts his second night as a supernumerary actor in Dead Man Walking.

During my first rehearsal as a stage artist, I happily played the role of a basketball player in Angola, the opera’s prison setting. Due to a last-minute decision from my doctor, I had to withdraw from this coveted role, not knowing whether I would be allowed to stay in the show at all.

Thankfully, director Leonard Foglia was concerned for my health and gave me a new role as a prison guard. Removed from the basketball game, I was able to watch my former colleagues “play,” this time with chorus members added to the mix.

I also noticed, for the first time, the number of non-performers in the room. There were several staff members from HGO’s stage management and music departments, each one with their own responsibilities for people, or movements, timings, or other mysteries into which I have not yet been initiated. I understood that rehearsals involve a level of expertise and complexity that I never before knew existed.
Every time something changed in the rehearsal process, it was as though a wave had washed through the room. A movement from the director or the conductor would flow through the music staff or stage management and into the performers until everyone was agitated like white water. Then, all at once, all would resume their places so the rehearsal could continue. This rhythm seems to be quite effective, even for such a large cast.

Cape Town Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve ocean wave

This rehearsal was the first chance I’ve had to hear the chorus sing this music—it was obvious that they had been rehearsing for multiple days by the time I heard them. They already sounded very good. I was shocked when Chorus Master Richard Bado stopped the whole chorus in the middle of their piece, pointed to one singer, and said he was three notes away from where he should be, demonstrating it on a piano. Out of twenty five voices, he knew just which one to fix. Wow.

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