Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Sitzprobe is not a Skin Care Device

Sitzprobe literally translates to "sit and study" and is the first music rehearsal where all the musical components of an opera come together. It is here that the singers and orchestra hear each other for the first time. The sitzprobe is their opportunity to sit down and go through the music from beginning to end, integrating both groups.

Up until the "sitz", the orchestra, chorus and principle singers have been rehearsing separately. Last week I sat in on a staging rehearsal where the singers would sing along to piano accompaniment as the director went over how he envisions a scene. A couple days later, I caught a note reading with the conductor and orchestra. And although it was rehearsed in a church hall, thus lacking the acoustics of the theatre we'll be performing out of, it was still wonderous to listen to, especially as I was sitting 3 feet away from the horns and bass section. It was like sitting right in the orchestra pit with them.

This afternoon, I had the pleasure to observe the "sitz" at work at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. We're a week out from the Carmen opening night and I sat enthralled, watching the conductor, Anthony Walker, fuse together all the elements with the jaunt of his baton and hand gesturing motions to the orchestra, as well as, collaborating and giving direction to the singers and chorus onstage.

The sitzprobe marks the first step to a very busy forthcoming week. On monday, it's the start of tech week which involves loading in, setting the stage, sound and lights. Then it's full-on rehearsals with the cast in costumes. The dress rehearsal is this thursday and Vancouver Opera opens for a 6 performance run starting next Saturday.

Think you don't know opera? Well, everybody knows Carmen. It's right up there with Madama Butterfly and La Boheme as the most popular operas out there. Even an opera neophyte will recognize the famous song, Habanera or the sweeping prelude, les toreadors.

George Bizet's Carmen has been performed thousands of time over, inspiring Jim Hensen's Muppets and comedian Benny Hill. There's even a carmen legos opera. that's right. LEGOS. Carmen joining the pantheons of legos tribute, alongside The Dark Knight, Star Wars and Indiana Jones. How's that for pop culture cross-over?

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