Dear digital audience,
It is our second week and we have moved to our permanent rehearsal room in The Arcola Theatre. We are all very excited about this because now we can mark up the floor and bring in rehearsal props (basically the floor is covered in colourful taped lines that symbolise the measurements of the stage, and we have started gathering bamboo sticks and paper cups that stand in for most of the props we are going to use later on). But secretly we are also very grateful that we can leave our coffee, tea and chocolates in the room.
Since we are working with a double cast and many talented singers, some are still working on other shows in between rehearsals. Although a challenge to schedule according to so many different diaries, it is interesting to have more and more performers coming in throughout the process. New voices and energies in the room bring new dynamics: some work more physically, whereas others focus on inner movement, lifting each other’s performance qualities. It also made our lunch breaks even more entertaining, where we share stories ranging from ‘funny things our kids said this morning’ to ‘the hardships of the freelance artist life’.
This week three main characters joined our rehearsals, which expanded the world of the opera and tied some story lines together. Our character Tanya now has her sister Olga, mother Larina, and family friend Evie in the room. Before she played an ambitious young writer that fell in love with the charming Onegin; now she is also a younger sister and second born daughter. It’s like a birthday party where friends from school, colleagues from work and your family come together, and you have to balance all your different behaviors towards them… I’m hoping I’m not the only one who has experienced this uncomfortable situation of balancing all the roles you play in your daily life.
But there are more reasons for why we see Tatyana changing. In hindsight the opera should have been called Tatyana instead of Eugene Onegin, as she goes through the biggest emotional change. Onegin sticks to his playboy character traits until the bitter end. Changing the setting into 1960’s suburban London compliments this powerful female story. Seven years pass between the second and third act, meaning we move from 1960 to 1968, a time lapse where women gained a lot more ground. From the introduction of the contraceptive pill, to the legalisation of abortion in the UK, sexual freedom was on the rise. And so was feminism, with more women attending university and staying employed after marriage. I am sure you will not only see this revolution in the costume design, but also in the behavior of Tatyana.
We are having a little revolution of our own as well. Our creative team exists predominantly of women. I have not often been in a rehearsal room where women were the majority, which doesn’t reflect so well on the performing arts world, but it is one of the great advantages of working with OperaUpClose. I don’t want to make any presumptions or generalisations about how working with a female team enhances focus, makes things run more smoothly and effectively, and how this will positively affect our performance of Eugene Onegin… so I guess you’ll just have to come and see it for yourself.
On this slightly political note, we’re moving on to the second half of our rehearsal day as everyone is returning from lunch and I still have to finish my sandwich.
Annemiek van Elst
Assistant Director, Eugene Onegin