I haven't been avoiding blogging because I have nothing to talk about - I just literally haven't had any time to get my thoughts together, much less write them down during this hectic week. But I'm certainly not complaining; rehearsing is my favorite thing to be busy with, especially when it's a really cool show like this one. Not to mention the fact that I actually have a lot of friends here in Berlin, either living here or just in town working here, which is SUCH an incredible luxury! One friend, accustomed to spending lots of time on her own in foreign cities said, "I feel like I've beat the system because I actually have one of 'my people' here!" and I couldn't agree more.
But anyway, back to the matter at hand; rehearsals. We have basically been having intensive musical rehearsals in the mornings and staging rehearsals in the afternoon. What I've learned is that the version of Agrippina that we're doing for this production has never been done before - it's something that Rene Jacobs has put together based on Handel's own original manuscript and various research the Maestro has done. For example, at the end of the second act, Handel wanted to end with a duet between two characters; Ottone and Poppea, but the singers of the time wanted to each have an exit aria to finish their roles, so Handel (sadly, apparently) removed this really beautiful duet and inserted some arias. The duet has now been restored and those arias have been cut. Also, one of the arias that was in the opera when I performed it last time is being cut because it was only added later because of singer demands. The musical rehearsals have been fantastic - we are working together with the harpsichordist and pianist to create recits that are every bit as musically fulfilling as the arias, and are filled with thought and detail. Jacobs' method of performing recits is to have them maintain their rhythmic structure instead of just ignoring the rests and treating them like spoken texts on pitch. Initially, it was a little difficult to adjust to this method since I'm used to basically ignoring the rhythmic values, but the results, when one does it right, are quite extraordinary. The text rings with far more clarity and distinction when the rests are all observed, and every moment has it's own dramatic impulse. Recits are very often thrown away as the thing taking up space between the "good stuff"; the arias. However these recits have a life all their own, and as such, are all incredibly interesting. I had only heard Jacobs recordings, and I didn't know what his exact methods were, I just knew that really liked the results. I feel like I've now been let in on an extraordinary secret.
And the staging rehearsals have been equally wunderbar. The young french director, Vincent Boussard, has already really impressed me by attending every single musical rehearsal (directors often don't come to those) so that he could be perfectly in synch with what we are being asked to do musically and what he is asking us to do physically. The staging process has been quite interactive, with plenty of space for the singers to come with their own ideas, but also a good structure around which we can work. The sets look like they are going to be really cool and with Christian Lacroix designing the costumes, you can imagine how freaking awesome those are gonna be (I had my first fitting with him yesterday, and he said (with his gorgeous french accent) "what a body!" when I put on my tight leggings and high heels costume. I almost keeled over in ecstasy! Christian Lacroix is not only designing clothes for ME to wear, he thinks I have "a body"!! Pinch me, I could be dreaming). I know, I know, I'm always getting all enthusiastic and telling you all how awesome everything is gonna be. I can't help it - it's my American-ness combined with my hyper and overly excitable personality.
And by the way, I know I should be putting an umlaut over the name Handel so it says Händel, but seriously, I can't be bothered to type option u before typing the a every time I write his fricking name! I mean, I'm gonna be writing his name down a million times in the next two months - you guys know what I mean, right? Here are a few for all you purists out there to keep you warm during the winter while I continue to bulldoze the correct spelling of his name; ä ä ä ä ä. Ugh - I'm exhausted - that took me like 10 minutes! You get me, doncha George Frediric? As long as I sing all the notes you wrote at super fast tempos, can I get a pass on the umlaut thing for the time being?