What is it about a show that makes an audience react? What about when you perform the same show for two different audiences, and one goes crazy, while the other claps politely but far from enthusiastically?
This has been the case with the first two performances of Barbiere at the Staatsoper, now located in the Schiller Theater. I did the exact same production last season, with many of the same cast members, and the audience went crazy every night. They clapped, cheered, laughed audibly at all the jokes, and applauded so much at the end, that we bowed and bowed for what seemed like an eternity. However, during these two performances in the Schiller Theater, the response seemed quite tepid in comparison. For my part, I sang better this year than last year - I was more relaxed and had more rehearsal, and I actually think the acoustic in the Schiller Theater feels a little better than in the Staatsoper (which is one of the things they are fixing in the Staatsoper while it's closed). The other cast members were all excellent and in great form, and both performances went extremely well. There was even an extremely positive review in the paper, which is totally unheard of for a repertoire production. And yet, the audience was VERY quiet.
My only explanation is that the production was made for the Staatsoper, and so somehow doesn't seem to have quite the same effect in the new theater. It's strange - the Staatsoper has more seats than the Schiller, but somehow the audience feels closer. I think it's because it is one of those typically European opera houses, where the theater goes up and to the sides instead of back, so everyone feels closer to you than in more modern theaters that have just one balcony in the back of the theater. I noticed it because in this production, we spend a lot of time singing arias and duets right from the front of the stage, actually standing on the prompter box (which I almost slipped and fell off of last night during the finale - typical Jenny move) and I remember feeling extremely close to the audience during those moments in the Staatsoper, and not so much now. I know one should never rely on an audience reaction for one's feelings of self worth after a performance, and I don't really. But I would be lying if I didn't admit to the fact that if I feel like I nailed Una Voce Poco Fa (which I really think I did, last night especially) and after I finish I mostly hear crickets........crickets........ - it can be a little disheartening.
But it certainly doesn't bother me nearly as much as it used to. Mostly because I have sung Rosina so many times, that I know now when I sing it well. And if I sing it well, and have fun while doing it, I can't really hope for much more. It's mostly a curiousity - what exactly makes audiences go wild? What's the secret equation that stirs them to a frenzy? Besides if you're Oprah and you're giving away cars or trips to Australia.
Speaking of Oprah, I'm on my way to Chicago as I write this from yet another airport. I have almost two weeks between performances, so I'm taking the opportunity to visit my BF. In fact, I think they're boarding my plane. Auf Wiedersehn, Berlin. Until the next one.