Sunday, 15 April 2012

Becoming Amy, or Natalie?

Apologies - these posts are somewhat jumbled in order. I’ve been keeping notes of what I should write about when I get the time/get online, but now some of the things I thought about to tell you are quite a way back in the past.

Anyway, this was something that was asked in the Leeds Opera Conference actually - whether you had to have a specific singer in mind when composing. I don’t actually think you do - I think you just need to have a very specific voice type in mind - but obviously if you do know exactly who you are writing for, and they exactly fit what you have in your head, then that’s even better.

So, up until the workshops, I was very much composing Amy with Amy in mind - imagining how she sounded (from descriptions of her speaking in her biography) etc. But after the workshops, and having heard Natalie put her own personality into the part (which of course is what you want!) I’ve started imagining what Natalie’s interpretation of Amy would be, and this I think has had an effect on the music. As I’ve said before I sing a great deal when composing, and whilst writing a bit of what is effectively recit., I found myself mimicking Natalie playing Amy. This really struck me, I don’t know quite why. I suppose that over the time of writing this opera I’ve developed an ear for the minutiae of vocal expression, and it’s wonderful to be able to actually put this into the music. Actually, that reminds me of another question from the conference yesterday - whether I felt I thought that I, rather than a musical director, should direct the rehearsals of the opera. And basically the fact is that I don’t necessarily think I should - one of the joys of hearing other musicians interpret your music is that they sometimes find other things in it after all. But really I feel one of the skills that one needs when composing is to really direct from the score. So that everything, most obviously the dynamics, tempi etc, informs the performer of your intentions. But I also think this can extend to the notes themselves. If a phrase is carefully crafted, especially when set to words, I think the composer can make their intentions very clear. I don’t know whether I’m right or not - I will have to let you know once the rehearsals start!

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