Director's Blog: Y Tŵr
Some reflections from me on our first week of rehearsal for Y Tŵr
This has been an exciting and rewarding first week of rehearsal.
Starting to take a new opera from page to stage for the very first time is always filled with anxiety and illumination: Will it actually function on stage, beyond the written ideas of the composer, writer and commissioner? Will the vocal writing bring the text to life in a dynamic and meaningful way? Will the production ideas and design work with the as yet unheard piece? And so on…
The answer to all these questions is categorically Yes – so far! In fact we have worked incredibly quickly on Y Tŵr, more quickly than any opera I have done before. This is down to two factors – the complexity and intensity of the text, and the somewhat limited timeframe we are working to (not least because things like Easter and Bank Holidays are stealing a lot of what would normally be rehearsal time!).
At the beginning of the week I decided to adopt an unusual approach to the rehearsal process by singing and then immediately staging very small chunks, one at a time. I suspect this is the only way it is going to be possible for the singers to memorise it, by giving each and every moment a physical and motivational imperative which will reinforce the writing. So far this approach seems to be working, but we will only know how well when we get to the end and start re-working it!
As we go further into the piece I am also starting to test the production approach created by myself and designer Samal Blak. The indications are good, and I am very much enjoying the risk and imaginative leap this demands of me whilst keeping an eye on how it will communicate to our audience. I am loving feeling the tension between the intense realism of the exchanges between the characters and the symbolism of the tower and the drama – which takes place in a continuous present but at the same time explores the journey of two people together over an entire life time.
The additional element we are working with is the intense focus on the pronunciation of the text. Parry’s original play is written in a very particular dialect from his home town Deiniolen in Caernarfonshire and the opera fully embraces this distinct quality. However, it is also an opera with every word being sung and needing to sound “right”, and that’s the challenge – to balance the sound of the accent and the sound of singing.