Ahh! – What a treat to be surrounded by the wonderful sensations of live music as a listener again. On Saturday George and I excitedly attended the inaugural performance held by The London Opera Company at The Warehouse in Waterloo, London. There we heard a chamber concert performance of Wagner’s opera Tristan and Isolde. This particular opera is around 5 hours long, split into three acts. A stamina test for both the ear and the buttocks. With this in mind, I was wondering how the company would put on the performance safely under the current pandemic.
Before the performance:
The company smartly decided to have electronic tickets to remove the need for ticket stubs to be collected upon entry. Along with the online ticket, we were provided with a few instructions to make our participation as safe as possible for ourselves, the combined group of spectators, and the performers. We were given a period of time, at which we could enter the theatre to take our seats. For example, George and I were given 14:45-15:00. By splitting the entry of the audience members into groups, it meant that foot traffic was moderated and allowed for safe social distancing. Audience members were encouraged to wear masks upon entry and during the performance.
The seating area was split into seating arrangements of 1 and 2 people. The clusters of seats were evenly scattered across the floor into eight rows (A-H), with perhaps a total of around 30 audience members. The audience looked like stars in the night sky, all fizzing with pre-show excitement building to a wonderful atmosphere ready for the performance to begin.
During the Performance:
Tristan and Isolde is an orchestral passion, and can usually require a large number of instrumentalists to perform alongside the singers. This particular performance was an arrangement written for Piano, Violin, and Cello. Jonathan Musgrave (Piano), James Widden (Violin), and Alison Holford (Cello). I really enjoyed listening to this musical adaptation as it showcased some very intimate moments, such as the dazzling love duet in Act Two between Tristan (Brian Smith Walters) and Isolde (Cara McHardy). This musical ensemble certainly got my brain ticking, as George regularly performs in a piano trio with the Chloe Trio. Perhaps in the future, we could be inspired to put on an opera accompanied by a small ensemble too!
After the instrumental introduction, the singers soon began to enter the stage. They would appear to sing their musical parts, explore and progress the story from strategically placed music stands. These were spaced to allow for safety but the chemistry fizzed between Isolde and Tristan despite the 2-3 meters distance. There was no physical contact between singers, no props or scenery. The company did provide a translation, which was clearly projected onto a screen alongside the performance. This helped immensely with an understanding of the story and the intricacies of the musical motifs and melodies.
It was great to see my friends from previous productions take to the stage. I’ve worked with Jonathan Cooke at the RCS, Jonathan Musgrave and Brian Smith Walters on Candide, and Louis Hurst on Much Ado About Nothing. It was exciting to hear such dramatic voices come together to create a vibrant collective, which sent shivers down my spine.
I was really excited that this musical event was allowed to happen and it has been a joy to see more musical spectacles emerge in the UK over the last few months. I hope that these safety measures can allow more to happen and that I can return to the stage soon!