“How do u feel about conducting” was the text I got from Cheryl as I got on the bus this morning. Our MD Jonny Lo had taken ill and Cheryl was coming up from London to be there for the rehearsals. “Slightly scared but enthusiastic” was the answer in my head, although my text read “Yep sure” in the spirit of my inner motto “bon courage”. I love conducting and it was a great opportunity to have some fun with it. I then spent the bus and train journeys feverishly marking up my score and getting into the conducting spirit which carries a quite different set of priorities to repetiteuring. Cheryl turned up about an hour in and took over on the piano.
It ended up being a really nice day and we managed to get through two whole scenes musically, and half a scene with drama added. The material is mainly a duet between Amy Johnson (Natalie Raybould) and her swaggering husband Jim (David Pissarro). The score is replete with sexual innuendo and this coupled with Cheryl’s lack of sleep and David’s characterful sense of humour and impressive physical presence made for a hilarious few hours. It was good fun waving my arms for a change, good experience and a good excuse to use the skill-set I had developed conducting Narcissus and Echo last year from the piano.
Highlights of the day were David’s impressions of an orgasmic grunt (really, don’t ask), Adam’s embarrassed but forthcoming explanations of what all the suggestive phrases meant and David’s “I’ve just pulled a hernia putting my leg on this chair but I’m going to pull a heroic pose and a winning smile” face. Catching Cheryl’s eye while the drama was being choreographed, it became clear that rehearsals are likely to turn “a little bit Frank Spencer”.
David Pissarro is a real character and has a fantastic tenor voice, perfect for the role of “Jim”. He’s an american now living on the Yorkshire Moors somewhere (I forgot the name) and is very ready with his opinions! He has a naturally comic presence. His faked English accent coupled with the tone of his voice puts me in mind of one of my favourite actors Nigel Hawthorne, and had us all in stitches 🙂
The opera will be performed in Leeds on the 28th June 7.30pm, 29th June 2pm and 7.30pm in The Workshop Theatre, University of Leeds. It will also be performed in Bridlington Spa on July 6th 1.30pm and 7.30pm. Wingbeats is a Cultural Olympiad funded project.