It's been 3 weeks since I've started rehearsals for "Les Dialogues des Carmelites" at the Lisbon Opera House. It's been an incredible experience to sing in this theatre and getting to work with a incredible team, but also to be on this stage so full of Tradition and History.
Originally opened in 1793, the Real Theatro de São Carlos was built as a replacement for the Tagus Opera House which was completely destroyed during the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake. I won't bore you with historical details, but the Lisbon earthquake was one of the worst in European History with today's seismologists estimating its magnitude somewhere between 8.5 and 9.0 in the Richter Scale (for your reference, the 2011 Japan Earthquake was a 9.0 disaster). From a musical point of view, it was a terrible event for the city because not only did it cause a fire that consumed most of the its musical archives (part of it was in the process of being relocated at the time), but it also generated a devastating tsunami that entered the bay area and razed the downtown (the tsunami reached Ireland and the Southern British Coast). Wikipedia has a fairly comprehensive article on that, so I'll leave the link for your reference in case you want to learn more.
The other interesting fact is that the Tagus Opera House was built after a period when religious censorship completely banned operatic performance in Portugal and because of the destruction caused by the earthquake, the Church thought that it was God punishing the King for allowing such immoral entertainment again, so immediately after the Earthquake, the King banned operatic performance from the Country again and it wouldn't be until 1793 that Lisbon would open its new opera house and welcome the art form again.
Following the style of Italian theatres, the São Carlos theatre is decorated in neoclassical and rococo style and it's fair to say that it will give you all the gold you can ask for. Literally. Even in a rehearsal room!
The rehearsal process itself has been an absolute joy. It's been thrilling to work with such an amazing team of creatives who all share the common goal of putting on an amazing show. Carmelites is a tremendous opera with a libretto that raises questions not only of faith but also of how we humanly relate to each other and, as such, it's very easy to turn the rehearsal period into something really dense and heavy. Fortunately, that hasn't been the case and although we're all working together towards putting on a terrific show, the atmosphere is fun and really good to be in.
We've spent two weeks in the rehearsal studio and this past week we've moved to the stage. It's always amazing to step on a stage for the first time, and for me it was a breathtaking experience walking on this one for the first time and getting to see this incredible auditorium, also knowing that I was standing on the same stage where so many of the legends I idolise have sung (like Maria Callas, Piero Cappuccilli or Alfredo Kraus).
Moving from the studio to the stage, however, is not without its challenges: a rehearsal studio is a much more contained space and the directing team is watching our movements from a much shorter distance, so when you move to a space that's much bigger, there's all kinds of adjustments not only to spacing but also to how you project the content of your music from a dramatic point of view. It all has to translate be understandable from the last row.
Also during this week, we had the chance to sing at the orchestra music reading sessions and getting to hear the Portuguese Symphony Orchestra play this gorgeous music so beautifully was an exhilarating experience (of which you can see a bit above).
I hope to be able to share with you some videoclips of the show at some point, but for the time being, I'll leave you with few shots of the rehearsals when I get to come on stage and give 16 nuns some very bad news...