“Sitzprobe” – German for “sitting rehearsal.” After these last two days scurrying around the set, sorting out things with piano accompaniment, it’s time to welcome the orchestra. The singers sit (or sometimes stand) on the stage, and the focus is on incorporating the orchestra into the process. It’s not one of my favorite rehearsals, for it’s always fraught with logistical difficulties. The Barns pit is terribly small (9 feet X 27 feet), and it’s inevitably difficult for all of the musicians to carve out the number of square inches they need to do their job well. Most of them are used to it (no surprise, for they’ve played here before), but it doesn’t make it any more comfortable. So I hold my breath and hope that everyone is feeling calm and flexible. Maybe someday we’ll enjoy a nice fat donation that will help us expand the pit area. (Any Donizetti & Bellini fans out there? A bigger pit would open up all kinds of new repertoire for us…)
The Sweeney orchestra isn’t terribly large (11 strings, 5 woodwinds, 6 brass, 2 percussion, 1 harp & 1 keyboard), but it uses more percussion instruments than the typical opera orchestra. But amazingly, by 7:00 everyone had carved out a niche, and rehearsal began.
My heart in my throat tonight for another reason, too. When we began rehearsals a few weeks ago, there was a flurry of talk about microphones. I had never considered amplification (ours is a small, acoustically friendly space), but I owed it to our artistic staff to take their concerns seriously. After a week of discussions, we decided to abandon the idea of “sound enhancement” (as they call it in the opera business). But I was left with a lingering sense of doubt. I didn’t want to be “right”, I just wanted to have done the right thing.
Well, I’m breathing a bit easier, for the sound is magnificent. We have our share of specific balance problems (mostly in the underscoring and in Mrs. Lovett’s songs, which were written for an amplified “belt” voice), but with some careful rehearsal and some dynamic adjustments, it will all work out. Conductor Jim Lowe is brilliant, and I have no doubt that in a few days it’ll be stunning.