We had the dress rehearsal for the Houston Xerxes last night. Opera being opera, we now have a gap before the opening night, during which the most I can really do is phone the singers with some notes and explore the city. And catch up on admin.
It's been fascinating to work with this cast. Often I've felt that opera singers have a different approach to the creation of a performance from actors. The norm is that they sing the same roles in lots of different productions, so they know the text and the music well, and expect the director to provide something called "the production", which tends to mean lots of things to remember. What's been different with this group has been the open-ness to growth and process. It probably helps that they've not sung the roles before - but I think it's also to do with a particular approach which certain special singers have, which is closer to that of an actor. For somebody like Susan, direction is not just a set of notes - it's a creative dialogue which allows her to develop a performance in which music and acting are integrated and indivisible. She didn't turn up knowing the music - in fact it took her quite some time to learn it while we were rehearsing. And the reason for this is that she can't learn it unless it makes sense to her, unless it's something she can inhabit. The resulting performance is - to my, admittedly biased, mind - one of the most extraordinary things I've seen on an operatic stage.
Still working out some of the admin aspects of Re-Orientations for the autumn. As so often for us, there's going to be a last minute element to the project. I guess it's just the context in which we are operating - but it would be so nice to be free of these concerns in the way I have been on Xerxes. For a director just to direct is a rare privilege these days.