In late spring 2014 Oi was engaged to make a performance production with Svenska Kammarorkestern in October. At that time we didn’t have a ready concept, and the work had a quick start. After a quick process of selecting orchestral pieces, Alexandra in collaboration with Eric Solén arranged the orchestral pieces. As the musical arrangements were new, here were no scores available. Solén kindly offered to record sound tracks for individual practice, playing directly from the rearranged orchestral scores, which was greatly appreciated.
Prerequisites for the project
Due to organizational reasons, the performances (both in 2014 and 2016) would be conducted in concert light, which was an interesting challenge for us. The stage light is usually an important component in our work, and we often collaborate with light designers. It gives a very good visual and dramatic foucs, and the light designer can help phrasing the dynamics of the scene. We needed to find way to create a visual and dramatic focus, even though the stage was not designed for opera performance. We decided to focus on the musical work and giving a lot of time and space for each other in the scenes with orchestra. Since opera nor improvisation usually are not known concepts among young people, we needed to integrate an introduction which displayed the main features of the concept, so that the audience would be able to follow the process. since Bergman and the conductor had a constant dialogue during the opera, and the orchestra had the visual focus of the stage, we decided to include this part as a parallel visual process of the opera. While we improvised the operas, it was possible for the audience to instead follow the musical process between the musicians behoind our backs.
As it was vital that the audience heard all of our words in order to follow the action and the narrative, it was decided that we should wear microphones. The sound sound system was also very important for all the musicians (both Gregor and the conductor/orchestra) in order for them to improvise along with our words and actions on every possible moment.
Dramatic set up
I took responsibility over the dramatic set up for the performance, which was assigned to be 40 minutes long. As many aspects of this project were new, I decided that we would develop a tecnique previously used in productions for young audiences (Ögonblick av Opera, 2010). One of the main reasons was that in a concert hall there will be a large audience, and it is not possible to adress so many of them during the course of performance. Especially with young people, it is also important not to presuppose that they would want to contribute when ad-ressed from stage during performance. Each class would bring one item to the performance, and put them in a trunk in the foyer. In this way, the teachers would be responsible for the pedagogical process of making all the children heard while choosing something. Working with physical items on stage would also be helpful since we realize that the concert stage was not possible to change from a symphony setting. This meant that we were positioned in front of the orchestra.
Improvisation on repertoire
In August and September I made my individual preparations, which brought new challenges for me as an improviser. From a musical point of view, the improvisation that was called for in LM is more similar to harmonic jazz improvisation than opera improvisation as we had worked before. Here we had a set of harmonic structures to fill with melodic lines and ensemble parts. The notes I did to myself when having sung are much more severe than the ones i make when I listen to a recording of the same part. That indicates that my singer self critique is very high when I enter the ”classical singer mode”.
How will it work for us to rest in the music when so many are playing with us? Will we be able to make it, jamming? What will happen with our stage interaction? I think I have a hunch of the pieces now, but I don’t sing them very much. Yet.
The orchestral musicians will probably have check on the musical phrasing and style in these pieces, and we’ll probably feel exposed during the rehearsals. And the voice really needs to work, this is a sacred moment!
We need to create dramaturgies that will ”hold”, with themes that are developed and recapitulated, that is, create a friction in the action so that it works with the orchestral tempo, also using movement. (Notes, August, 2014).
I perceived that I judged myself quite hard when I practiced, and recognized my prior experiences as repertoire singer preparing for lessons or concerts. It was though an inner guide (Johansson, 2008) was present, evaluating my every musical choice. In my notes I there are some annotations regarding nervousness when facing the orchestra.
During August and September we had two sets of rehearsal sessions, in Stockholm together with Andreas and Erik and only OI in Malmö. We worked on intergrating the pieces into a narrative and to measure our actions in relation to the musical forms and dynamics.
One vital part of the work was exploring possibilites to accompany each other. In opera improvisation it is common to make spontaneous arrangement, but it happens too often that the words become to many and to complicated for an ensemble to join in on intuitively. To many improvisers have the urge to move ahead, developing even the simplest text theme in a scene, even though it might not be the leading character in the scene who is singing. In LM we had an opportunity to work on our own endurance and patience, by sticking to simple themes in choir set ups, and instead work on variation on a rhytmical or dynamic level (the harmonies very seldom are a problem for the singers to follow). In the August rehearsals one singer remarked that it important for the sopranos and the tenors in the ensemble to sometimes back from the melodic lines in ensembles, leaving that space for the low male voices, who otherwise might be ”stuck” in the base line. When we rehearsed we made a deal to remain within the simple theme, and just repeat it to see what would happen. When we engaged in this exercise eventually other qualitites started to emanate.
For the beginning and ending of the performance we worked on a quite fixed setting. The Ouverture parts were directed by me (2014) and Alexandra (2016) and Gregor led the introduction, introducing each moment and choosing singers.