AN OPERATIC WEEK

Aroldo

It really does feel like I am spending all my time in a theatre. And it’s marvellous.

Yes, I am aware of how much energy is sapped and how I feel so unfit because my limbs ache when I do the usual daily walking et cetera – but these are the risks I chose when I desired to be a performer. My entire schedule is squiffed towards what I can do whilst I am confined to a green room and dressing room.

Well, ‘confined’ is perhaps too strong a word. But it does mean that the stage takes priority when it comes to working out how my week goes this week. I have responsibilities, and there is no way I will not uphold them.

One thing I know – or I like to hope in any case – is that the final photos will be glossy and glorious. Working on such a big stage with proper lighting and management leads to some great I know because I’ve seen it on the monitors.

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If my phone had not given up on me/y’all, I would happily have shared more photos on my Instagram… Instead, here’s a blurry-as-shots-come webcam photo of my as an Essex girl just before Friday’s dress rehearsal.

The opening night is tomorrow and I’m as worried as the obsessive perfectionist. I feel like I am aware of the little pieces that need tweaking and the acting and singing that I could be pushing myself to make even better. We had some costume adjustments for the final act – which, without giving away too much of the artistic direction – is a complete u-turn from the previous three acts, visually and socially. For anybody who knows the history of Verdi’s opera Aroldo and its previous manifestation as Stiffelio, they clue is in the additions Aroldo made on Stiffelio.

But anyway, this means that costumes have had to be changed, and with that comes an uncertainty about whether they will be there in time, whether – and, of course, whether I will have time to acquire the necessaries of my own costumes. Most have been provided, but then there are the little things that one needs to consider. For instance, in the first act, the ladies wear a lot of makeup, and of course I am set constantly wondering if what I have done is enough or even correct.

But we continue on. There is time. Even with the opening night coming up, I still have time before the performance itself to do a final costume check, tune myself up, and go back through a listing of the dance moves. Those crazy dance moves…

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There are still tickets left if you’re around in London the 20th-25th March (ie. Monday, Wednesday, Friday & Saturday this week), 7pm at Stratford East Royal Theatre. You can get tickets here:

http://www.stratfordeast.com/wh

AN OPERATIC DIVERSION

I love keeping busy, and it’s something I’m good at. I have a mind that doesn’t turn off often (and when it does, it takes a while to ‘boot up’ again), and I get restless/bored easily if an event doesn’t stimulate my mental capacities. To that end, amongst all the other things I’ve been doing, I added to that by taking part in my university’s opera: the University College, London performance of Verdi’s AROLDO. This is the story of a young soldier who returns home from battle unexpectedly to find that his wife, the daughter of the chieftain, is hiding something from him, namely her affair with a man of lesser standing.

In Verdi’s amendment of his original opera, the first three acts show Aroldo’s suspicion and discovery of the affair, his heart torn between forgiving and escaping, and then his anger towards , all wrapped up between wife Mina’s unpitiable guilt and her father’s fury. He’s all for the well-met match of Mina and Aroldo, so an affair with a man who essentially runs the castle bar is scandal personified.

In the script, honour is prevalent. When Mina breaks her sacred marriage bonds, she not only damages the honour of being the chieftain’s daughter, heir, and her late mother’s double, but she is also aware of the risk against God she is taking. And yet it is God who stops Aroldo from taking the life of her lover.

If short on plot – which it must be for the lyricism to unfold – it is a well-written opera that delves into the human condition. It has a depth that, being a member of the chorus, is hard to find at times.

“My crime appears before me like a ghost everywhere!”

But, you know, in Italian. Which is a great fun to sing. As a Latin scholar back in my day, I naturally feel a pull towards Italian language, with its open front vowels and precision-articulation (comparatively, English is as sloppy as sloppy gets).

Nevertheless, this diversion harks me back to the acting and singing days I did during school. There was an annual play, alternating between musical and straight play, and other acting opportunities in addition. Sure, at Reading Uni, I took part in the 24-hour charity musical each of my three years, but that was filled with frivolities, and the audience almost expected fluffed directions and missing lyrics. With the Opera… Well, let’s just say that the UCOpera is in its 60th year now.

It’s serious business.

You know, I like that. It helps my overactive mind. Give me something to do; and make it about performing. Like writing, it’s a way to spend my time that my brain doesn’t translate into wasting time. After all, anything with culture and music (and both!) is never a waste of my time.

For this year, the production team have decided on a dystopian setting, of a castle in the middle of a somewhere-place, home to never-ending parties and the debauched like. Which involves as the costume designer put it to us “grungy clubbing”.

Suffice to say, I do not possess grungy clubbing. Most of my clothes are, in fact, too beautiful to fall under that moniker. Well, at least I can borrow The Fiancé’s leather jacket. It’s amusing, strange even, that my first venture into the operatic circles should come at such a length of time after I first started acting and, separately, singing chorus and discovering about the performances of old, through the power that is a Drama education in my younger years. It’s amusing/strange that my first foray should be something dressed so differently from what opera has come to be seen as, all flowing skirts and crowned gentlemen.

That said, I am really looking forward to seeing the set in all its glory next week, and, come Friday, doing the dress rehearsal with even the principles in their outfits.

Wish us good fortune!

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And here’s proof that I can fit said leather jacket. Circa 2014, so sorry for the dazzlingly tilted photo.

And, while we’re on it, I’ll allow myself an advertisement break. If you want to catch the UCOpera, it’s on for four nights from at the Stratford East Theatre, London. 20th, 22nd, 24th, 25th March. Tickets from here: http://www.stratfordeast.com/whats-on/all-shows/aroldo

Photo of the Week: Masquerade

Sorry for the radio silence. It wasn’t my intention of course to not be online – I feel as if I have given little time to blogging despite myself.

Certainly, part of my absence was due to being away for the weekend. The Boyfriend and I went to Sheffield for a masquerade ball, which was a deal of fun. I made my own mask – a challenge in itself, but good fun. As you can see below, I used a card bag featuring gold glitter stars overlaid with part of the score of Holst’s St. Paul’s suite and special 3D ink painted bronze with glitter, and feathers to decorate one side. The fabric teal support band around my head is from the same cut of fabric as a Steampunk dress I designed and a friend made.

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Photo of the Week: Song of the Shield

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(Yes, it’s upsidedown. It’s artistic. :P)

It’s Reading University’s 90th year and we are having some internal celebrations, which is lovely to be part of. Our Chamber Choir has been asked to sing this traditional song found in the archives at the court meeting on the main day of celebration this term. So, we’ve been rehearsing it, and generally chuckling over it.

One More Step Towards Recovery

When I was fifteen, I wrote this song. It wasn’t the best I’d written, but it was far from the worst, both in lyrics, melody and accompaniment. It was meant to be about a relationship falling apart; but listening to it now, I could say that its lyrics mimic the recovery one takes from mental illness. In these drear times of war and violence and pessimism, it can be hard to stay optimistic about the future and confidence is easily dampened. However, we must keep our chins up and take one step at a time up that mountain of recovery.

Help me escape from this strange place. Let’s take it one more step at a time.

Christ the King

We discussed Christ the King in our Word reading on Tuesday. How Christ is the bridge between this material world of our sins and God’s eternity. How he has power over death and to conquer sin.

This feast was created to combat the negativity and growing secularity after the first world war, something which resonates very much in today’s society. However – as I reblogged earlier – Catholics are not on the downfall, and there are still many Christians out there teaching about the Word. I still see, in my life, people being inspired towards God and learning about Him. We are growing by our strength of faith and community spirit.

It is also the feast of Saint Ceciliatoday, who, as patroness of musicians, I have always felt close to. God has always guided me to music, but it took me a long time to realise that he was showing me that I can use my passion and talent for singing in choral praise to Him. Looking back, it is interesting to notice how my singing habits and interests have changed over my life (for it does feel as if I have been drawn to singing my entire life). I have a much narrower focus of singing nowadays, but it is almost exclusively centred around choral music, where I feel I achieve the most. I know this is not a coincidence. God has led me here and given me the chance to sing for Him; and I will.

So, today, as well as praising and thanking God for sending His son to save us, I will also be thanking God for music in my life.

P.A.W.S. Reboot Blog Tour With Debbie Manber Kupfer

Today, I’m welcoming author Debbie Manber Kupfer to the blog for ten questions about her novel P.A.W.S., which is going through a rerelease reboot! Read on past the shiny new cover for the interview!

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  1. What inspired you to write P.A.W.S.?

The idea for P.A.W.S. came to me in a flash. I clearly saw a young girl being given a silver cat amulet by her grandmother when she was ten years old and realized that the amulet was vitally important. Later that day I told the beginnings of my story to my daughter, and she said “Mom, you have to write that!” and so I did.

  1. 🙂 What is your personal favourite part of the story?

My favorite part of the book is when we travel back in time with Quentin and Alistair and discover the genesis of their relationship over the centuries. I’ve also written a story, Alistair, that was published in the anthology, Writer’s Anarchy III – Heroes & Villains, that further explores Alistair’s background. As I writer I love writing these parts as it feels like suddenly it all becomes clear. The characters are telling me their story, saying “look this is why I’m this way – now you understand?”

  1. Yup, I love it when characters have a lot to say for how they live now. For P.A.W.S., you draw on your Jewish heritage. Does your faith influence your writing a lot?

ARGENTUM-CONCEPT2-FrontWell, I grew up with Jewish traditions and more importantly my father escaped from the Holocaust via the Kindertransport when he was just six years old, so yes, his experiences find their way into my writing. The street in Vienna, Grosse Spielgasse, that I use both at the beginning of P.A.W.S. and in my Sins of the Past story, Griddlebone, is the one my father’s family lived on. I visited Vienna with him when I was young and we went back to that street and to the door of his old apartment. (What we found inside I’ve used in a little segment of Argentum (P.A.W.S. book 2) – but I won’t spoil it here!)

  1. Wow. I can see why that is so important. Completely different question – do you write to music?

Not normally. I love music, but I find it distracting while I’m working. I do, however, often have songs running through my head when I write particular scenes. For example, there’s a scene when Josh is wandering through a kind of no man’s land the morning after he’s first turned into a werewolf and I can strongly hear Green Day’s Boulevard of Broken Dreams playing in my head when I visualize that scene.

  1. Do you prefer to write for adults or YA?

P.A.W.S. is YA with crossover appeal. I didn’t really set out to write it that way, it’s just the way the story came. In my short stories it’s a mix – some more for adults, others YA, and some like Cecilia’s Tale, that appears in Flash It!, children’s stories.

  1. How do you find the time to write?

Well, between my puzzles and my fiction, I’m a full-time writer…sort of! I also have a couple of kids that distract me, but that’s good distraction!

  1. What was the most important aspect you concentrated on for the rerelease of P.A.W.S.?

Re-editing P.A.W.S.. Today I’m far happier with the final result.

  1. Tell us a little bit about the P.A.W.S. journey to publication. Eg. Did you always decide on pubbing with a small press?

When I first wrote P.A.W.S. I wrote it predominantly for myself. I had the story inside me that needed to come out. I had no thought of publishing; just finishing a novel was an achievement in itself. I’d been writing stories all my life, but had never finished anything before. The other thing I’d never done, was show my writing to anyone. I considered it private, kind of like a diary. Still after finishing P.A.W.S. I felt I needed to do more, so I took my prologue to a local writer’s group. I was extremely nervous when I read it aloud and astounded by the reception I got. The group encouraged me to find a publisher.

Still I was nervous – I tried writing query letters to agents, and couldn’t find the right words. One of the members of the writing group was Robin Tidwell of Rocking Horse Publishing. I talked to Robin, she read my book, and I signed a contract and in June 2013 I became a published author. Rocking Horse went on to publish the second book in my series too, Argentum.

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I am also in the Fauxpocalypse anthology, which is where I met Debbie!

In the two years since P.A.W.S. was published I’ve met a ton of indie authors online in some wonderful groups – Fiction Writers and The Dragon’s Rocketship being my favorites. I also self-pubbed on Createspace two books, a puzzle book, Paws 4 Logic, and a short anthology, Will There Be Watemelons on Mars? I’ve also been part of a number of anthologies including Fauxpocalypse and Sins of the Past and I’ve learned a lot about publishing. So when my original contract with Rocking Horse expired this June I decided not to renew. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity I was given by Robin and Rocking Horse, but am excited to continue my journey as an indie author.

I have a beautiful new cover created by the supremely talented Rachel Bostwick (find her on Fiverr). a newly edited book, and some bonus features at the back including a little tale featuring everyone’s favorite kangaroo animagus – Joey Marks.

  1. What are your future writing plans or projects?

I’m currently working on book 3 of the P.A.W.S. series that is tentatively going to be called Maze of Shadows. Also there’s an audio book of P.A.W.S. in the works. I’m the editor and a contributor to a sci-fi horror anthology, Sins of the Future, that should be coming out on Halloween 2015, and finally (and this one I’m really excited about) I’m working with an artist to produce a children’s picture book, Adana the Earth Dragon.

Ooh, sounds good. Thanks for popping along, Debbie.

debsprofileYou can follow Debbie on Facebook or her blog for more details.

Debbie Manber Kupfer grew up in the UK in the East London suburb of Barking. She has lived in Israel, New York and North Carolina and somehow ended up in St. Louis, where for the last 15 years she has worked as a freelance puzzle constructor of word puzzles and logic problems. She lives with her husband, two children and a very opinionated feline.