From the Royal Opera Chorus in Japan - Day 3
The Bunka Kaika theatre is very nice and not too dissimilar to London’s Royal Festival Hall from the outside. The accoustics are amazing and even the smallest whisper seems to ring out into the auditorium. Dynamics need to be re-thought and also spacing on stage is totally different to the Royal Opera House.
We were met throughout the day with warm welcomes to Japan and lots of smiles. One of our extra-chorus sopranos, Alison Place, has a great interest in martial arts and has been learning some Japanese and, as we share a dressing bay, I know that her efforts were hugely appreciated by all the local dressing staff!
The ladies chorus have a very quick costume change in Manon and this needed to be rehearsed today and all went very smoothly. As the temperature today was 37 degrees the air conditioning in the dressing rooms was very much appreciated. Sadly it was somewhat warmer on stage and one could only feel sorry for the people in wigs and facial hair – and yes that includes some of the ladies in this production – they are dressed as men, I should explain! Facial hair, glue and 37 degrees is not a happy mix!
After the rehearsal some of the girls ate “Japanese style”. This involved sitting on a cushion on the floor at a low table with your legs either to the side or crossed in front. As two of our group are tall girls there was much hilarity in trying to squeeze our legs into a space designed for the petite Japanese and we did feel somewhat ungainly with feet poking in all directions. Not the most elegant of dinners but great Tempura!
Yesterday we all had the day free and so today we swapped stories of our excursions. Some went further down the coast to Kamakoura to visit temples and to swim in the lovely surf, others to wander around various areas in Tokyo but the main topic seemed to be food. What had people eaten and did they know what they were eating? I don’t think anyone has had any bad experiences yet. Everywhere we go we are met with such politeness and helpfulness and patience too! Jane, one of our mezzo-sopranos has an allergy to feathers and had an interesting time which involved lots of miming and sign language, trying to explain the situation to the girl in charge of her room in the hotel. All was resolved and she is now in a feather-free zone. The supermarkets have amazing foodhalls with all sorts of weird and wonderful produce along with lots of recognisable items so all diets can be catered for. I went with three colleagues to a wonderful restaurant in the countryside outside the city. George, one of our tenors had previously visited this restaurant and invited to me to go along and it was an experience that will stick in my memory as it was truly gorgeous. It was like a scene from Madama Butterfly! A small, private dining room with sliding paper doors and bamboo matting on the floor, surrounded by ponds and lush greenery and the loveliest food served by beautiful Kimono-clad ladies. Half the fun was not quite knowing what you were eating. Having scoured the city last night for tonic water to accompany our duty-free gin I can now relate that we have had a successful mission and the day was rounded off with a glass of pure tonic water! Just to keep the mosquitoes away, you understand!
- Yvonne Barclay