Posts tagged ‘Opera’

September 7, 2010

Tristan & Isolde – Act 1

We had a run-through of Tristan & Isolde on Sunday last…  A nice surprise – for a couple of hours there were four double bassists!  Unfortunately, one of ’em had to go at lunchtime, but it bodes well for the main event weekend when we should have up to five…

It’s a far cry from the bad old days when I was all alone, boo, sniffle…

Right.  On to the notes.  I think I may have been slightly hampered by the rehearsal room – instead of our normal large hall, we were rehearsing in a nightclub, and the lighting was not all that it might have been.  Wagner with a glitter-ball…

I think my friend was a bit optimistic when he described the notes as being straightforward…  generally, yes.  There are, however, a few bits that would benefit from some study.

Starting with Act 1, Scene 1, half way down the first page, we get a few unpleasant bars of heavily-accidentalled quavers:

The good news is that that should more-or-less fall under the fingers, if you’ve got the right starting point, and a big-ish left hand.

Nothing to worry about in Scene 2, which is good.

And on to Scene 3. Just a couple of oddments:

It’s a combination of speed, dynamics and accidentals that put paid to being able to read that on the fly in the dark…  but the next bit from just over the page was more fun:

“Sehr Schnell” is about right.  “Goes like stink” is another way of putting it.

Just before the end of Scene 4, we have the following:

“More of the same”, I hear you think.  And that’s what some of us thought, as we went at it at full tilt, failing to realise that it’s rather slower than it looks…  Oops!

The rest of the first act is straightforward.  Apart from about half of the last page of it.  You have been warned!

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September 2, 2010

Tristan & Isolde – the preview

It’s Northern Wagner Orchestra time again!  This time, we’re working on Tristan & Isolde, a 5.5 hour monster of an opera.

By way of initial preparation, I asked a friendly ex-pro double-bassist I know if he had any advice.  He came up with the following musical points (as well as a couple of physiological issues that I don’t think we’ll go into here…):

  • The notes themselves aren’t difficult
  • It’s the changes of tempo that are likely to trip us up.  (Reminds me of the old saying – if you don’t know what it means, it means “watch!”)
  • Watch carefully for the pizzicato – these need to be together.

Having had a quick look at the part that’s available at IMSLP, all 85 pages of it!, he was mostly right.

However, I’m not quite at his standard, or at his match-fitness (as it were), and I’ve already spotted a few quaver runs that could be interesting.  I’ll make some notes during rehearsal, and if there is anything untoward I’ll put it up here.

(Note: the reason that the PDF of the bass part is 85 pages is that whoever put it up in IMSLP helpfully included part of the 2nd bassoon and the 3rd bassoon part!  It looks like the bass part is really only(!) 45 pages…)

June 18, 2010

Aida – Acts 1 & 2

Just got in from the band call for tomorrow’s Northern Wagner Orchestra’s rendition of Aida.  I’m not going to be able to practise this myself, but I need to keep an eye on the following bits, ‘cos they’re nasty…

Act 1.

click to see all

This bit is awkward, fast, and generally unpleasant.  And, to make matters worse, you turn the page, and the whole passage is repeated with a minor change – the penultimate note is the high E rather than the low one.  Gah.

(We’ve got a big cut missing the semiquaver runs in the Danza Sacra delle Sacerdotesse… indeed, we’re cutting that whole number.  But, looking at them, they don’t look too bad.)

Act 2.
This is a cut-down version in orchestral terms, so I was slightly surprised to find myself playing a solo with one of the big tunes:

click to see all

A double bass tune? Yeah!

Then we cut the ballet, and, before you know it, we’re looking at this frankly gratuitous arpeggio:

click to see all

I’ll write up some bits from Acts 3 & 4, including some double-stopping (hey – I am, after all, the Lone Double Bass!), in the morning.

March 6, 2010

Mikado excerpts

Probably a bit late for my own use, given that the run has started, but the following two little corners would repay inspection.

Firstly, from the “Wand’ring Minstrel” number near the beginning of Act 1, a tricky little semiquaver passage.

The other passage is from the Finale to Act 1.  It’s quite exposed, and it is in unison with the rest of the strings, which may (or may not) make it easier.

That’s it in terms of tricky note passages.  The rest of the problems are caused by the times being pulled around, but, as the notes themselves aren’t so bad, it’s easy enough to keep watching the conductor!

One performance down, eight to go.

January 10, 2010

"Orphée aux enfers" – excerpts

We didn’t get all the way through the score in this afternoon’s rehearsal; however, I’ve found the following bits that require a bit of attention.

Act 1, No6 – Invocation à la mort, bars 17-25.  Pizzicato, goes quicker than I would like…  According to our conductor, this is to imitate a laugh.

Act 2, No12bis – Entrée de Pluton, bars 9ff.  Fiddly little semiquaver runs.

Act 2, No16 – Final, bars 82-82.  Fast quavers, accidentals everywhere.  Maybe I just needed coffee by this time, but it still felt awkward.

Act 3, No17 – Intermezzo, bars 9-12.  Again, just fiddly accidentals.

My other bit of homework is to write out the last eight bars of act 2, and the first sixteen of of the Intermezzo – there’s a big cut in one, and we’re reusing the other elsewhere.

That’s it for now…  next rehearsal is next weekend, and this may throw up a few more bits for further attention.