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Post details: Nabucco: the Submarine View

Nabucco: the Submarine View

A friend of mine plays piano for the Baltimore Opera and she invited me for the last piano rehearsal of Verdi's Nabucco. I never really saw an opera rehearsal, so I gladly accepted, even though the timing of the event implied a prolonged swim in the cesspool of Washington-Baltimore rush hour traffic. But seeing what is normally hidden underneath the glistening surface of an operatic performance was worth every minute of it. We were about to float through a teeming ocean of little components that fed into each other like a highly complex food chain: the singing, the acting, the props, the stage directions, the lighting...

Rather appropriately for this submarine experience, our little group entered the auditorium from below, through the orchestra pit, directly underneath the stage and past the piano that was to single handedly sustain the musical needs of hundred voices. I thought that this was a public rehearsal, so I was a bit shocked when I realized that we were pretty much the only audience for the show, except for the lighting crew behind us and a few theater pros in front of us. Still we felt a bit ambushed when, in the last act, the chorus members poured into the aisles and completely surrounded and outnumbered us.

But it was intriguing to see the Stage Director steering the ship with his thick Argentinian accent from just a few rows ahead of us. And he didn't let a single detail slip by, fine-tuning the positions and the entrances of players, making sure the spears would be raised simultaneously, rebuking supers for forgetting their false beards and constantly ironing out wrinkles on the opera's soon to be perfect face.

It was like watching a sculptor making the last fine hews on his monument, or like watching a obstetrician assisting the birth. So much action to watch for that I really have no idea what the actual opera is all about, except that there is a nasty storm in the second act and a huge boulder dragged onto the stage in the third. But I do remember divas and maestros making funny faces while waiting for the resolution of minor snags.

And I also recall the piano tirelessly churning its acoustic pearls.


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