Amy’s Last Dive – First Dress Rehearsal

Very tired after a long day which included getting up early to launder my costume, a very posh late breakfast and saying goodbye to a good friend who leaves for America this week. Then to Leeds and an afternoon rehearsal followed by an evening full run-through. Although I’m now very tired (relaxing with the first season of Downton Abbey- a guilty pleasure!) I actually didn’t play for the run-through, instead giving the seat up for Cheryl, who will be dep’ing for me on the Friday performance.

Rehearsals are coming on really well. It’s surprising how quickly they’ve passed. My job now swings between playing piano with the band and repetiteuring while the winds and strings have separate sectionals. Inevitably me and the percussionist (my good friend Enrico Bertelli of Brake Drum Percussion and cat•er•waul) get a little alienated from the rest of the band! Luckily I’ve spent a lot of time with the singers and have become good friends with them.

The band are becoming really tight though and making a fantastic sound. They’re all really good players of varying levels of experience but all really grafting hard. It’s lovely to see how they’ve gelled, even if it is from afar (the piano is even on a different stage to them).

Today I mainly spent repetiteuring for the community choir that appears at the beginning, interlude and end of the opera. It’s odd to think actually that the choir (as well as a group of child actors and dancers) play the very same part that I played in Adam’s previous opera Green Angel, changing the scene, narrating, advancing time and acting as a catalyst to the action on stage. The choir are enthusiastic and doing a great job.

Designer Hannah Sibai

The run-through though was something else. As I was sat in the audience I had my first chance to ‘see’ the opera properly. The set, designed and made by the beautiful Hannah Sibai and her team of helpers looks stunning and atmospheric. Despite some grumbling about space, having the musicians raised up provides an exciting edge to the performance (if some balance issues, which we’re ironing out!). The beach scene looks wonderful and the simple transformations of a ship-wrecked boat provide a great background to the action on stage.

The band, as I’ve said, are really beginning to make a wonderful sound, and are very tight. There is some wonderful sul-pont string writing which I particularly enjoy. The singers are all off book, well memorised and for the most part extremely clear (we’re solving a few balance issues but nothing major).

Natalie Reybould as Amy in the final scene.

In particular there are two scenes which really struck me as being brilliant both musically and as drama. In “Dual Controls” David Pissaro plays a really brilliant characterisation of the arrogant and bumbling Jim Mollison. I really felt sorry for Amy watching this, despite the ‘comic relief’ element to his character (which he performs wonderfully) it’s easy to be agitated by his character (very well written by Adam Strickson) which he brings alive really well. Natalie Reybould also plays a wonderful coquettish and starry-eyed vulnerable young Amy at this point. The crowning moment in Natalie’s performance is towards the end of the piece as Amy reflects on the true love of her life, flying. The music is powerful and Natalie’s performance is engaging and heart-breaking. She has a wonderfully energetic and switched-on stage presence. I really saw at that point the Amy Johnston that Adam and Cheryl are trying to get across. It was really wonderful and I left the rehearsal with a real buzz. Everyone should come and see this opera if only for that moment.

The opera will be performed in Leeds on the 28th June 7.30pm, 29th June 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.

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