It's that time of year again, opera lovers - Verdi at Michigan Opera Theater. This time it's an opera we've never done before: Macbeth. Verdi was a fan of Shakespeare and transcribed a number of his plays for the opera stage, a feat for which we will always be grateful. Who can imagine life without Otello and Falstaff? 2016 is a special year for Shakespeare because it's the 400th anniversary of his death. He has influenced the English language in profound ways too numerous to count. Let's just say that our language would be very different if it hadn't been for Shakespeare.
MOT has just completed our sitzprobe (a German term meaning seated rehearsal, when the orchestra and singers have their first rehearsal together, generally with the orchestra in the pit and the singers sitting (sitz) on stage) for Macbeth, an early Verdi opera which premiered after Nabucco but before his other big blockbusters, Rigoletto, Il Trovatore and La Traviata. Aida, Otello and Falstaff were yet to come. The music of Macbeth is unmistakably Verdi and we have wonderful singers to round out the cast. Our Macbeth is none other than Stephen Powell who sang Germont in our Traviata a couple years ago. His rich and expressive baritone is something I've been looking forward to since hearing that he was going to return to the MOT stage for this production.
I am often asked how often we rehearse for an opera. For the orchestra, we have five rehearsals - two orchestra rehearsals, one sitzprobe and two dress rehearsals. We've already had two orchestra rehearsals just to get through all the music. The sitzprobe is the rehearsal I look forward to most when the music comes alive with all the musical components. The singers may not sing full voice but we can usually get the emotional impact at a sitzprobe - the music starts to make a lot more sense.
Next, everyone but the orchestra has a piano technical rehearsal, then a piano dress (which is fun for the orchestra musicians to attend because it's the only time we can sit in the house and see the stage without having to play our instruments). Then the orchestra has two dress rehearsals with the stage, which are both necessary because we usually have two casts for the main characters. Finally, opening night! It's very exciting because we're still a little on edge and all that work finally comes to fruition on that one night when the performance is being broadcast live on WRCJ, 90.9 fm and critics attend to give their opinions on our production. The MOT website also invites audience members to post their comments.
I am posting this prior to our opening night (April 16, 2016, 7:30 at the Detroit Opera House) with hopes that some of you may be moved to attend. I don't expect that we will repeat Macbeth any time soon but it is worth seeing if you are a fan of Verdi or Shakespeare or psychological thrillers in general. Did I mention that there is a lot of bloodshed and all the main characters die before the end of the opera? I should say that most of the murders occur offstage, however.
If you go to the opera, please let me know what you think by commenting on this blog.
Thanks, and Toi, toi, toi!