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Portrait of Iain Bell

First Music Call

Iain Bell

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So, today was the first music call of my third opera In Parenthesis at Welsh National Opera. As a composer, day-one of any rehearsal period is always a nervous one. Your head swims with concerns of whether the piece will sound as you had imagined (or hoped) it would, whether the musicians know the piece and respond to it warmly and enthusiastically, whether the conductor 'gets' the piece and many other things that invade your skull, but are in fact are teeny-weeny in the grand scheme of things. With an opera, these can be multiplied manifold as you are dealing with so many more variables; the piano reduction of the score and whether it sounds like someone bashing the keyboard with a slipper, the group dynamic of the cast and the general dynamic of the room with all the personalities involved.

I can say categorically and hand on heart that today was the best day-one experience I have ever had. I felt all these fears when stepping into the room but they were soon dissipated. I had been nervous about the legends that are Donald Maxwell and Graham Clarke; these guys have sung with the best and I felt small-fry by comparison, but they couldn't have been more friendly with their huge smiles. And this warmth wasn't just aimed at me. There was a huge outpouring of respect to our lead, Andrew Bidlack who is playing the enormously technical lead role of John Ball. Once he had finished the piece, various members of the cast came over to him and shook his hand, congratulating him for his efforts. It was so affirming to see this.

Musically, the singers were all utterly prepared and eager, hardly missing a beat or singing a duff note, and the pianist played and supported wonderfully. Maestro Carlo Rizzi had clearly prepared a great deal and win the room over with his good humour. It was all going so well that we actually finished two hours early, having run the opera in its entirely, and went to the pub!

Job done!

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