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Goliath (3) - rehearsing an opera

Wherein our heroine spends a lot of time on Zoom...

This is the third part of a blog series I'm writing about the process of creating an opera as a commission for Strange Trace Opera's Stencils Festival 2021. Part one of the blog can be found here, and part two is here.

Around the middle of January I was utterly delighted to receive an email from Strange Trace which contained a link to a "rough draft first take rehearsal recording" of my new opera Goliath. Actually, utterly delighted isn't a strong enough expression - I was gobsmacked! Using my mock-up orchestration, the cast had completely brought the characters of my opera to life - and I was suddenly able to hear them for real, not just in my head, or as Sibelius synth-voice playback. The effect on my opinion of this composition was incredible. I realised that I'd somehow struck gold with this piece. The cast were so committed to their roles - even in a rehearsal recording - that it was like seeing an oil painting whereas up to this point I'd only had a pencil sketch to look at.

My first response was simply one of great joy, but after a couple of close listenings, I could hear a few changes I wanted to make. Some of the music needed a little more space to breathe, and The Boy needed an extension to their solo in the 2nd Scene, for example, so I set about making a set of mostly minor changes, edits and fixes. I even found a silly mistake (Fb going to an E, I think) and fixed that.

Next up were individual rehearsals on Zoom with the singers, Joshua (Goliath), Elena (The General) and Erin (The Boy), which was a great chance to work in some detail on each part. This was actually very challenging, since they were all such great singers, there was no need really for me to do much more than talk about characterisation and to have my ego stoked by being told how great it was to sing my music. Which is always nice to hear! Being able to work with the company so closely through the development of this piece has been an absolute blessing though - their input has shaped the work at every stage, from conception, through libretto writing and composition, and now into the rehearsal process. I simply can't wait to share Goliath with the world, and I have cast-iron confidence now that Strange Trace will do it justice.

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