Case Study 2: Performances with Orchestra

Opera with live orchestra, the ultimate outside event

As experienced opera singers, all of us have sung with orchestras in full operas for various UK companies. However, when the occasion arises, we’ve also had an orchestra of our own – and we love it!

CS_Stourhead_FlowerW2The Fête Champêtres held at the National Trust Landscape Gardens at Stourhead were always an excuse for a fab musical party. We were delighted to be invited to perform in 2004.

During two magical evenings in July, the audience wandered around the elegant lake, discovering theatrical and musical events at every turn.

We had our own main stage afternoon slot with piano, and were accompanied by the wonderful Bath Philharmonic Orchestra on the main stage in the evening. To enable us to move about on stage, we had wireless boom microphones, although we had to be careful not to trip over the cellist’s dress and the various sound cables in the restricted space available.

Be prepared
HSO_Stourhead-BwSeveral weeks before the performance, we consulted with Jason, the orchestra’s conductor, to create a programme that showcased both opera and popular items in the orchestra’s repertoire.

To this we added our own favourite opera items such as the “Flower Duet” from Lakmé and “Soave sia il vento” from Mozart’s Così fan Tutte. The orchestra ordered the appropriate orchestral parts, we rehearsed with our pianist, before coming together with the orchestra to rehearse the night before.

The first evening was absolutely magical; warm and balmy, where the greatest threat on stage was swallowing a mouthful of midges freshly risen from the lake! However, little prepared us for the second night, when twice the audience numbers came, despite a damp day and a chilly wind.

Groups of punters dressed up as everything from Charles II to hippies, and even an entire Erotic Airlines crew, and they all clapped and cheered. Our performance of one extract was even accompanied by a freestyle run across the grass in front of the stage by a team dressed as the Flintstones, complete with cardboard car!

Bats about our performance
One member of the audience was so keen, he came home with us too. The first night we had left our dressing room window open, and when pianist Jeremy came up to change, he discovered a bat in the room. He thought it had flown out, but when Toni unpacked her black sweatshirt that evening back at the b&b, she discovered a tiny pipistrelle bat curled up in it!

We carefully carried out the bat, still clinging to the sweatshirt, and popped both on the lawn. The next morning we had one wet sweatshirt but no bat, which presumably had flown away back home, none the worst for its adventures.

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