The silly things opera singers do to rehearse | Guest commentary
April 24, 2012 · Updated 5:43 PM
By Morgan Roberts
Some of you might be wondering where the people of the Seattle Opera rehearse.
Well, it’s no big ornate room with chandeliers or anything. It’s basically, in short — just a space.
A huge warehouse space with concrete floors and props from previous shows shoved in every corner.
When we walk in for music rehearsal for “Turandot” every Tuesday and Thursday we all head to a big chorus rehearsal room with things that look like mattresses on the walls.
There must be at least six of them on each wall that towers above us. These are sound proofers so that the singers aren’t relying on the echoes to carry out and project their sounds, and so they are prepared to project out when they enter the few rehearsals we have in the actual theatre.
In this room we do everything. We ‘block’ — which means to plan out each movement of where we will go and what we will look like.
We practice on the pronunciation of Italian. And we do warm-ups.
Speaking of warm-ups, you would be surprised how ridiculous we sound in rehearsals. I mean I don’t realize it at the time but when I look back on it, the things we have to say always make me laugh.
We have to do things like say the alphabet as fast as we can and do a sort of horse mouth where we let out the air and if we support correctly our lips vibrate and we have to hold that as long as we can.
Other than how silly we feel doing warm-ups, we kids are just naturally silly as well.
We are all super great friends already and like to hang out with the staff and each other during our breaks.
However when we get back to singing all eyes have to be on the Chorus Master, singing at all times and working as hard as we can to get the Italian said right.
Last rehearsal we worked mostly on how to say the Italian words and we also assigned harmony parts, which is where we split into two groups and we all sing the same words but on different notes.
The end of the last bit of music we get to do is my favorite — everyone joins together and we sing really high. Most of the kids in the youth chorus are sopranos which means we are more comfortable at the higher notes, but we do have some altos mixed in with us too, which means they are more comfortable with the mid-range notes.
So far, “Turandot” has been an amazing experience and I am loving every second of it, just as I did “Carmen.”
The music is running through my head already and I could break out into song any moment just like in the movies but I might get some weird looks for that.
If you’re still looking for that big lady with the Viking hat and two braids running down her neck with the oval shaped mouth, that’s too bad, because that’s not opera.
Opera is another way to tell stories.
My friend Alban Dennis, whom I did the play “A Christmas Carol” with, said this to me just the other day – “That is what we are after all, those of us on the stage, storytellers.”
Hopefully I can change just a little bit of what some people think opera is.
I can’t wait until next week when I get to tell you more about the process of rehearsals and how they are going.
Morgan Roberts is a 13-year-old from Maple Valley preparing to sing in her second Opera with Seattle Opera.