Hello everyone! I hope you've enjoyed my reports on what was an incredible month and experience for me.
I'm now back in London preparing for some of my next projects which will include the role of Count Almaviva at St. Mary in the Castle in April, but my next appearance will be at Cadogan Hall on the 15th of March to give a lecture about Verdi's Macbeth. Opera Prelude is dedicating a whole cycle of lectures to the theme hakespeare in Opera and, obviously, being the italian opera aficionado that I am, I probably wouldn't lecture about A Midsummer Night's Dream...
I have the task of talking about this masterpiece of an opera which is Macbeth and while I won't share with you some of my thoughts about the opera straight away, I thought I'd write a bit about the process of preparing a lecture, which is something many people ask me about.
It's not much different to what I do preparing a role, although with lectures I always have a bit more choice in terms of what I want to do. After choosing a subject, I always try to find the most concise source I can as a starting point: that's usually the Wikipedia and Grove Dictionary of Musicians articles about the subjects at hand. These articles provide a very good general outline and bullet-points which I can then research further and also allow me to streamline what is and isn't relevant for an audience which includes both seasoned opera goers, and people who are only giving their first steps.
After this, I just start writing down everything I know about the subject I chose and I look for other sources, like programme notes from different opera houses, books about the composers life & works and, generally, every source I can think of. It's a bit like writing a script and it helps me organise my knowledge and structure the lecture in a coherent way. It always ends up being a fairly long document, but the objective of writing this "script" is that I then memorise (as I would with a role) the content and how it is sequenced, so that I'm not reading from a paper which always detracts from the overall experience.
However, a very important part of lecturing for Opera Prelude is that there has to be lots of music. In other words, I don't just stand and talk for an hour, so it is crucial to choose good audio and video examples and even more importantly, find out what can I sing live that's related to the subject at hand. The live performance component is a tremendously important aspect of these lectures and it helps tremendously in establishing a rapport with audience.
Of course that all of this has to be perfectly timed or, at least, the timing has to be planned as thoroughly as possible and for people who, like me, have a tendency to get carried away and start elaborating, most of the times all the planning in the world doesn't help with staying on time and I always end up having to make last minute decisions during the lecture regarding skipping less important bits. (I'm very efficient at disguising the panic of running out of time, though...)
All in all, it's something that I really enjoy doing because it allows me to share the incredible details and background stories behind the creating of these works and to make the audience aware of details in the scoring of these works that they wouldn't otherwise hear about. I still remember fondly someone telling me that after I did a lecture on Traviata and explained how all of Violetta's inner struggle in act 2 was depicted in the opera, they then went to see it and cried all the way through the scene with Germont because after many years of dismissing the scene as poorly composed, they finally understood and connected with the character. That's the best feedback one can have for a lecture.
This next one about Macbeth is being really fun to prepare because for the first time, I'll have a co-performer to sing some incredible excerpts from the opera and if you're reading this and want to come, please do! I think it's going to be really fun! It's on the 15th of March at 10:30AM at Cadogan Hall and all the ticketing info can be found here.
I hope to see you there!