With less than a week till premiere night, one can imagine how busy things must be. They certainly are.
Often lasting until the building closes for the night (half of the time, we have to be kicked out by the building manager), rehearsals take place every day. When I first arrived at the beginning of this month, they consisted mostly of choir rehearsals and coachings with the soloists, but they have since expanded to include everyone involved in the production, including the orchestra and dancers. There have even been a few rehearsals with almost everyone together at the same time, which still only gives a small, distorted snapshot of what’s in store for next week.
I can’t say enough good things about the performers. Those who have been rehearsing the longest are members of the chorus, some of whom also sing small solo roles in the opera. In number, they are a little over half the size of Jauna Muzika (the choir which sang the excerpt last year at the Vox Juventutis competition), but with the amount of time they have spent with the music and the confidence with which they now sing, there is hardly any difference. Tomas (Julius) and Onutė (Adelina) are amazing! And I may have forgotten to mention the third soloist, Deividas Kairys, the ten year-old boy and absolutely professional musician who is singing the role of Juliukas, the child version of Julius who serves as a sort of narrator or commentator between scenes. Also amazing! ... Oh, and the dancers! The DANCERS!
Let me catch my breath…
The music is sounding great, or, more humbly, at least everyone is singing and playing accurately what I wrote on the page. I’d like to think that the clarity of my instructions in the score has made this possible, but perhaps more important is Ričardas’ dedication to the music. He knows the score probably better than I do and through his conducting is certainly able to better communicate to the performers all the details therein. He may have a reserved personality, but his ease of control of the orchestra and rapport with (and, when needed, authority over) the musicians could be compared to that of the most successful conductors. I mentioned in my first post about him that I felt lucky he agreed to conduct Julius, but now I know how serious an understatement that was. He is working the hardest out of everyone to make the music as refined as possible, and, combined with the enthusiastic performers eager to get into the music, will have the audience’s ear from the very first bar.
But the music is only half of Julius. I mentioned in a my last post a bit about the scenographer, who, by the way, is crafting the perfect combination of costumes and set design, but I really need to draw your attention back to Marija, especially since the last time I really told you about her was when we had first met back in 2008. Just like Ričardas, Marija is no stranger to hard work. And as energetic as I thought she was as a librettist, nothing could have prepared me for the amount of dynamism, physicality, and sheer force she brings to her stage direction and choreography (that’s right, direction and choreography). All in Lithuanian, English, and Russian (depending on the performer), she is yelling and gesturing wildly at one moment, instantly capturing everyone’s strict attention, and less than a minute later she either is intimately explaining something to a performer or has everyone on the floor laughing. Her constant energy and frequent but seamless fluctuation between sternness and intimacy is exhausting for me to even write about. And most importantly, the results she gets are immediate and always precisely what is needed at any particular moment in the sequence of onstage events in Julius. If for some reason the audience's ears don’t like the music, then surely their eyes will savor the acting, dancing, and scenography.
In other news, Julius is in the news! In addition to a segment with video clips of rehearsals aired on national television, on Monday a press conference was held at the Arts Printing House. Everyone participating in the NOA Festival was able to say a few words about their opera(s) and, in some cases, field questions… all in Lithuanian, of course. To my nervous dismay, a barrage of questions was directed at me, but I did answer all of them using my best Lithuanian. I won’t tell you what “my best Lithuanian” really entails, but let’s just say that some of my answers were in response to questions that weren’t actually asked. Links to the Lithuanian (yes, but there are pictures, too!) online publications are here, here, and here.
Five more days!!!! Things are really heating up, but I’ll try to get back to you at least once before the big night. Now back to work!