Posts tagged ‘LUU Opera Soc’

May 4, 2018

LUU Opera Society & Me – 6 years, 13 productions, 50 performances

Slightly drifting away from what passes for normality round here, but I thought I would jot down a few random recollections about my time helping out Leeds University Union’s Opera Society.

I have no idea how long it’s been going, but I do remember my introduction to it. I was in rehearsal for something else (playing for Leeds Youth Opera (LYO)), minding my own business (the double bass part). At half time, I was approached by a trumpeter, asking if I could do him a favour. “I’m MD for LUU Opera Soc, we’re doing Don Giovanni in a couple of weeks, and the double bassist I’ve booked has dropped out – would you be able to play for us?”. A week or so later, and not knowing quite what to expect, I arrive at the Sitzprobe (a bit late – I had another appointment earlier that day), and was greeted by an appreciative cheer from one of the singers, who recognised me from an LYO show. That was February 2012. I must have done an OK job, because I’ve been passed on from one MD to the next as someone who might know what he’s doing…

The shows I’ve done, in order, so far…

  • 2012-02 – Mozart – Don Giovanni – set in the 1980s, with some disco thrown in… The star of that one has gone on to study at RNCM and is now studying at the Royal Scottish
  • 2012-05 – G&S – The Mikado (with the previous MD taking the role of Koko). Yum-Yum was last heard of cruising the Pacific as an international opera singer
  • 2013-02 – Massenet – Cendrillion / Cinderalla

I missed the next show (“The Dragon of Wantley”) – I was asked, but the invitation ended up in a spam bin (thanks, Facebook!), and I didn’t see it until after the event. Fortunately (for me) they still invited me back…

  • 2014-02 – Donizetti – L’Elisir D’Amore – with that epic bassoon solo played by, if my memory serves, someone who is now at the Royal Welsh
  • 2014-05 – G&S – Ruddigore. Great fun. But possibly not for the chorus coach, who had to step in as the late Sir Roderic (again, memory may be at fault…) – she’s now studying at RNCM. Other memories include being surprised every night by the stealthy entrance of Rose Maybud, directly behind me, making me jump when her aria started; and my bass being dusted by Old Adam as part of his duties. Oh, and Mad Margaret and her epic prat-falls. “Basingstoke!”
  • 2015-02 – Bizet – Carmen. Which I had previously played with LYO, back when I actually qualified as Youth, rather than as a ringer…
  • 2015-05 – G&S – H.M.S. Pinafore. A very undignified pit here, as the stage had been extended out and round, and we had to clamber over staging to get into place.
  • 2016-02 – Mozart – Magic Flute. Post-apocalyptic wasteland (the set budget was veeery low). There’s a full video of this performance on the youtubes somewhere, if you search carefully. The Queen of The Night is now studying at the Royal Scottish. (Incidentally, both she and Donna Anna from 2012-02’s Don G stood against each other for the presidency of the Royal Scottish’s student union – OperaSoc stand-off!). Other memories – Papagena’s mahoosive hair, and a friendly chorus member starting her long-running habit of pointing guns at me during performances…
  • 2016-05 – G&S – Pirates of Penzance. Major flashbacks here to the last time I was on-stage, rather than in-pit – once upon a time, I sang the part of Frederic, so it was nice to do something different. I couldn’t make one of the performances, but I managed to persuade a friendly bassoonist to give the double bass part a go on the steam-bass (contrabassoon). Always organise a dep if you can’t make a performance! And, on the final night, a takeover – the leader of the orchestra shoved the MD aside, and led us in a rousing arrangement of the Pirates of the Caribbean music instead of the expected Bows music.
  • 2017-02 – Mozart – Don Giovanni. What, again? Have we run out of shows to do? This one, though, was rather different. Directed by the previous year’s Pamina, set as a 1920s-ish house party.
  • 2017-05 – Purcell – Dido & Aeneas. Chamber-style – just a string quintet + harpsichord (played by, erm, the guy who MD’d the Don Giovanni from 2012). This led to a very tight ensemble. Short show, so an early night.
  • 2018-02 – Mozart – Marriage of Figaro, set in the backstage of a theatre. The previous production’s Dido took the role of Cherubino; a previous piratical MD was well-cast as the Count; the director was previously Don Giovanni. And the MD was previously the leader of the orchestra for Dido and Pirates, and should go far given half a chance.

And that brings us to this week…

  • 2018-05 – Offenbach – Orpheus in the Underworld. An ambitious choice for the second semester show. And, in a deviation from the norm, I’m on the cello which is a bit of a shock, and not just for me – even some of the audience are noticing! And Dido-then-Cherubino has crossed the divide and joined the first violins. Very different to the previous Orpheus I did (with Leeds Gilbert & Sullivan Society)

So, an ever-changing group of singers and players – not all are music students – some just do one show, some do many – some of whom ought to go far in the business, others (like me) are just hobbyists, and many are first-timers, just trying something new. This makes for an interesting time, particularly for the casting team, as they never know how many are going to be auditioning. There’s always a shortage of men, though – indeed, this week’s cast of Orpheus is almost entirely female – just three guys taking the roles of Orpheus, Styx, and Pluto.

Assuming I get this delayed publishing thing right, this post should go live just before the interval of my 50th performance with them.

As for the future? For me – I hope I get invited back (preferably on bass!). I enjoy these production weeks enormously, I’ve made some great friends, and look forward to seeing what the next generation gets up to. For them? The show must go on! It’s a lot of hard work, but worth it.

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April 16, 2012

Opera time again!

Well, to be more accurate, operetta, then musical, then opera.

Operatta – Gilbert & Sullivan – The Mikado

Leeds University Union’s Opera Society is putting on G&S’s Mikado next month.
Performance Dates: 2012-05-02 – 2012-05-05
Location: Riley Smith Hall, Leeds University
More details at OperaSoc’s website

Musical – Victoria Wood – Acorn Antiques, the Musical

I know very little about this, having just been approached to see if it’s a go-er for me. It is. Google tells me that it’s being put on by Cleckheaton and Spenborough’s Amateur Operatic & Dramatic Society.
Performance Dates: 2012-05-16 – 2012-05-19
Location: Cleckheaton Town Hall
More information at CSAODS’s website

Opera – Massenet – Manon

Leeds Youth Opera’s summer production is Massenet’s classic opera, Manon. Not done this before – anyone got any tips?
Performance Dates: 2012-07-04 – 2012-07-07
Location: Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds
More information, as it becomes available, at Leeds Youth Opera Group’s website

January 28, 2012

Two weeks, two operas

This is the busiest I’ve been on the bass for a while. I got asked a week or so ago if I would help out with Leeds University’s Opera Society’s production of Don Giovanni that runs next week, which is the week before I’m on a run of Leeds Youth Opera Group’s production of RVW’s Poisoned Kiss. Not much to say here – I’m not sure that I’ve yet played every note of Don G, and those that I have played have mostly been either under the fingers, or not too quick, but I do have a few things to say about Poison, which will get a separate post shortly.

LUU Opera Soc – Mozart – Don Giovanni – 1st-4th February 2012, 7:30pm, Riley Smith Hall, Leeds University. More details on their website.

LYOG – Vaughan Williams – Poisoned Kiss – 8th-11th February 2012, 7:30pm, Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds. More details on their website.