Rebecca Meltzer, Co-Director of DOE’s upcoming production Darkness and Light, kindly agreed to meet me for a nine am chat about all things opera…
Hi, Rebecca thanks for coming out so early today. Is this the first production you’ve directed?
No, it’s my second; I did the opera at the end of last year, the Faerie Queen, which was in the botanical gardens.
Ah okay, so are you getting used to it now?
Yeah I’m really enjoying it so I’m looking forward to carrying it on throughout the year, definitely.
I understand you’re covering quite a few operas in this production. What are they and what’s the theme binding them all together?
We’re covering scenes from nine different operas, eight of which are sung, and the first one’s the overture. The eight scenes come from a massive variety of opera ranging from really early – Monteverdi and Purcell, to some later ones. It’s all based around a Prayer by Francis of Assisi: ‘where there’s darkness let there be light, where there’s hatred let there be love’ and the production goes through the different emotions. We’ve tried to find scenes that are based around that poem.
Using scenes from nine operas must be quite a large task. How have you found juggling so many different styles and periods in your production?
Well we’ve divided the opera in two: I’m taking all the big chorus scenes and the other director is doing the duets and solos. It is a bit of a wide range, but to be honest I’ve enjoyed it simply because there has been quite a variety of different styles – one day you’ll be doing Purcell and the next you’ll be doing something completely different.
So Rebecca, I’m a relative newcomer so opera – I don’t know much about the technical side of things, but remain open minded. How can you sell opera to me?
Our show is very good for new people who haven’t experienced much opera before because you won’t get bored! There’s a lot of variety, so it gives you a real idea about what’s out there in the operatic world. There’s no dialogue, so it’s one engaging scene after the other and obviously we picked really good scenes – the best ones from the operas – so I think it’ll be great for a first timer!
What have you found most challenging about putting on a production like this?
This term in particular … juggling this with my other productions! I’ve been trying to fit it around a schedule. Also, I think, when people don’t necessarily have a part in a big opera, and they can’t see that final goal, it’s quite hard to get people to commit. They’ve been good, especially in the last week or so, but compared to other rehearsal schedules, for example for the Faerie Queen we had two weeks, this has been quite a long, drawn out process. I think keeping an eye on the end goal is the hardest bit.
Have you had any difficulties directing people the same age as you?
I really enjoy working with people my own age to be honest. I think communicating with everyone, because we have a massive cast, can be difficult. This is the biggest cast we’ve had in a while – about 45, so trying to nail them all down at once can be quite challenging, but it’s all really good fun!
What are the roles of your producers in the production?
We’ve got one producer and he’s pretty experienced. He knows what he’s doing, he’s very on the ball – we’ve been pretty lucky to have him.
On a more general note, some people consider opera to be archaic; do you still think it still has a mainstream appeal?
I think it does. One credit you can give to opera is that is has lasted. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea but, you know, when you look at Monteverdi and Purcell in the sixteen to seventeen hundreds, and the fact it’s lasted so long, it’s impressive. When you consider the kind of music we get these days, it’s in, and then six months later no one listens to it anymore. Opera has lasted and it’s so applicable. What’s interesting about this production is it really follows a massive range of emotions and those emotions presented in our scenes are so representative to everyday life. I think that can be really interesting to explore.
So we’re sat here in the DSU at nine in the morning (sorry about that!) and I imagine you’re rehearsing most nights at the moment as well – this is quite an all encompassing hobby time-wise. Is it easy to juggle opera with other extracurricular activities?
No, we’ve had to juggle it with everyone’s extracurricular! Personally I do it alongside a lot of other things; I’ve just finished one production with DULOG and juggling the production week of that with this was a nightmare. Yesterday we had afternoon rehearsals and some people had rowing, football, lacrosse, the whole works, especially on a Wednesday afternoon. Musicians in particular – they have a lot of extracurricular: choirs, orchestras. It’s very hard to say ‘you’ve got to be at opera’ because they’ll say ‘well I’ve got to be at orchestra’, but we’re managing… just about!
So Rebecca, I walk into Caedmon Hall next week and take my seat in the audience; what should I expect from your production?
It’s not a normal setting for a start. Everyone’s sitting at tables, there’ll be wine and everything will be nicely decorated. I’m not saying it’s a concert because it’s not, we’re trying to advertise it more as a proper production, but it is going to be a slightly different experience. What to expect… a lot of variety I’d say. Be open because it’s fantastic music. You’ll enjoy it!
Thanks for coming out at this hour Rebecca, all the best for your last week of rehearsals and I’ll see you on the opening night!