In the second of a series of blog posts for Opera Australia, tenor Henry Choo lifts the curtain on The Pearlfishers rehearsals, and takes us behind the scenes on their first day in the theatre in Melbourne.
|Henry Choo and Andrew Keshan|
There should be a buzz in the air but all’s quiet in the warren-like back-stage corridors of Melbourne's Arts Centre as it’s 9.15am, and the majority of the company are not expected until 10.00am for a 10.30am start.
I’m always excited by the first day in the theatre when rehearsing a production. Things become more “real”. The sets are no longer substituted as they are in the rehearsal studio, the lighting state on stage creates mood and visual contrast, and our costumes, in conjunction with our stage-makeup, transform us from our usual selves into our portrayed characters.
The application of my makeup takes roughly 20-minutes. Head of Makeup, Andrew Keshan, greets me with a friendly smile and we chat (usually somewhat animatedly) about the latest camera equipment or most recent photographic shoot.
I’ve been asked to grow my hair longer for The Pearlfishers so that I won’t have to use a wig. This suits me, as I’m not a fan of wigs – loose strands of hair invariably find their way into my mouth when singing.
I forget to ask Andrew to cover the crown of my head with makeup. Under stage lights, it looks like I have a bald-spot – Argh!! How can this be? I’m not yet 35 years old! Andrew has attempted to placate me in the past by assuring me that there is no bald spot on my crown but a hair feature common to Asian ethnicity. I am not convinced and continue to remain sceptical.
|Props laid out backstage|
Photo by Henry Choo
Today’s piano dress rehearsal is mostly about familiarising ourselves with the logistics of the stage. Things invariably seem further apart when set on the expanse of the State Theatre stage. Blinding front and side lighting make it difficult to see television monitors that broadcast a live video-feed of the conductor. It always takes a few minutes to adjust to the new surroundings.
The two most noticeable differences between performing at the State Theatre and the Sydney Opera House are: 1/ the width of the stage (and auditorium), and 2/ the vast amount of back-stage and side-stage space. The State Theatre isn’t as intimate a venue as the Opera House, but what it lacks in intimacy it makes up for in grandeur.
The State Theatre also holds significance for me because it’s where I performed in my first grand-operatic work (extra-chorus in Opera Australia’s production of Lohengrin), and performing there brings me back to my hometown – Melbourne.
The Pearlfishers is now playing at the Arts Centre, Melbourne. For more about performance dates, cast details and ticket prices, click here.