OperaShots: Jocelyn Pook
We had another four days of workshops before Easter which were great fun but also so intense it felt like we’d been at it for several weeks rather than days. It was great to finally get to work with all of our 8 singers, who I have been gradually assembling over the months, each coming from different musical backgrounds and having very distinctive and individual qualities as singers and as performers*.
We now have a director, Tony Guilfoyle. Me and Tony go back a long way, having met when both working with the amazing Impact Theatre Cooperative in the 80’s, and more recently Tony has been working and performing with Robert Lepage. He’s brought in some really exciting and playful ideas, and we’ve had a series of discussions with our designer Soutra Gilmour and have been on quite a journey with the different possibilities of our stage world. We also have another new collaborator, the choreographer Ann Yee, who brings an incredible energy to the project. Meanwhile Dragan Aleksic has been busy filming matches and producing some inspiring and provocative video material.
It’s difficult to write about the actual piece. It’s still evolving, as is my ambiguous relationship with football.
One unexpected thing has been developing a relationship with Millwall football club. I now have a really soft spot for them. They have been so supportive of this project, enabling us to film and record several matches, and helping us find supporters to interview, one who’s been a supporter for 51 years and who’s interview about his passion for football and for Millwall I found very moving. There are many more family groups at the matches there than at other bigger clubs we’ve been going to.
We are poised to go into our 3 week rehearsal period. Exciting, though as always I wish I was more prepared …
*I met Tannishtha Chatterjee back in 2007 when we both worked on the film Brick Lane. She played the lead role and also sang on the soundtrack which I composed. Trained in Classical Indian singing, she’s a really accomplished and soulful singer as well as amazing actress so I was thrilled that she was able to be part of this project. I came across George Ikediashi when I went to see the alternative cabaret show La Clique. He was the larger than life, outrageous ‘Gateau Chocolat’, and when he sang his rich bass tones reminded me of those of Paul Robeson. I first met artist/composer/singer Mikhail Karikis at a conference last year in honour of the singer Meredith Monk, after Melanie and I performed a piece I’d written for the occasion. He has an incredibly idiosyncratic vocal style and the things he can do with his vocal chords are out of this world! Olivia Chaney is also someone I met recently, and as well as singing is a composer/pianist/guitarist and harmonium player. She’s recently been performing as a solo singer/songwriter and also with bands such as Zero 7. Mike Henry is a singer and composer who I worked with many years ago on a 3 Minute Opera for TV, and is so in demand we haven’t managed to work together since then, so it’s been great to reconnect after so much time. I first happened upon the wonderful soprano Lore Lixenberg in our local café, a place that now holds such importance in my life that I feel almost cheated if I have to miss my daily coffee ritual there. She has the most classically operatic voice of the team, though is so versatile I’ve heard her do many styles including Bulgarian ululating, and am thrilled she has time between a plethora of international concerts and recitals to be part of this piece. I have worked with singer/pianist extraordinaire/MD Jonathan Williams previously on several occasions, and am thankful that he is on board, particularly now I know he’s an accomplished tap dancer to boot! Melanie Pappenheim and myself have been working closely together for many years and although she is quite busy ie has a solo opera to perform on the same evening, she’s managing to find time for my piece, so all is well.
Quite a dream team.