Composer Elena Langer shares her thoughts on the March 09 workshop
I have now had a chance to think back on the whirlwind of activity that took place leading up to the March 09 workshop. It was quite an adventure, but proved to be very helpful.
As a composer, my life is normally divided into three phases: 1 – actual composing, 2 – rehearsing with performers, and , finally (albeit the shortest one!) premiers and performances. I have been involved in opera in the last few years, and I have learned through experience that there is usually a huge time gap between the first and the last phase.
During our workshop with TOG, it felt as if time suddenly compressed and I was experiencing all of the three phases simultaneously, often in one day! I would compose early in the morning, then bring in some new music for the singers and actor to rehearse and improvise upon, and would hear a performance of that material in the end of the afternoon. It was very tiring and exciting at the same time. It is a different way of generating new material from my usual process. Some of the new spontaneously written scenes were more successful, some were less. But I learned equally from both. I found the singers’ improvisations, the different ways of interpreting the existing material very inspiring. Also, I kept finding new benefits from my initial idea of combining speech and vocal music in The Lion’s Face (i.e. a drama actor with opera singers). During the rehearsals it felt, that David Calder’s way of trying to unlock the meaning of the text and his way of acting influenced, even brought onto a different level the opera singers’ approach to text, interpreting and acting.
All in all we had a great cast and a very nice atmosphere during the workshops, and, as I hoped before, everybody found rather easy to relate to the opera’s theme. Now, after improvising and playing with the material, I just need to re-imagine the work again and start properly composing it. Back to phase 1.