While I was rehearsing for L'elisir, the company brought in their choreographer from time to time to sit in on rehearsal. For the first time in my experience, the choreographer was watching every scene that we rehearsed, making comments on our body language and on how we moved onstage. I found this both extremely helpful and a bit intimidating.
Granted, I'm always aware of my body when I'm onstage. It's crucial not only for good stage presence, but also for creating character and bringing across emotion and mood to the audience. But when the choreographer was sitting in on rehearsal, I became hyper-aware of how I was using every single part of my body at every moment. I learned a lot from her comments and probably avoided even more comments simply because I was conscious of what I was doing all the time.
The best lesson I took away from this was to keep this hyper-awareness all the time. It taught me this new level of paying attention to my body, no matter how important I am to the scene at a given moment.
I just love how body movement can define a character. This concept has intrigued me from the very start of my love affair with opera. I love to see a singer play different roles and develop a completely different set of mannerisms for each one. It is this attention to detail that makes opera so rich and exciting.
Here is one of my favorite examples of the extremes that a singer can take to create a specific body language for a character. Here is a video of Joyce Didonato as Rosina from Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia and here is another video of her playing Isolier in Rossini's Le Comte Ory. Each character's movement vocabulary is determined by their personality, gender, social station, etc and that is very clear in Ms. Didonato's portrayals.
Personally, I love playing with different types of movement every time I'm given a new character to learn. I find this particular part of the process to be simultaneously challenging and fun. It's been a huge change to go from my character in L'elisir to Hansel. Although, to be honest, Hansel is one of my favorite characters to play because of his physicality. He has so much energy and youth in him; you can always find something new to do with the role. Besides, I find the pants roles to be a special challenge since a male body language differs so much from a female one.
Speaking of pants roles, there is a new resource out there now for pants roles. This website goes through all the basics and answers the questions that most mezzos encounter when they're preparing pants roles. It covers everything from movement to binding and it presents good videos and DVDs to study. I would recommend it to anyone who is preparing a pants role or will most likely have to in the future.
Just as an announcement: all the information for my Hansel and Gretel is up on the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts website. I'll be performing Dec. 10 at 2pm in Bethel, NY. It's going to be so much fun! Not only are we doing the show, but we're having a Q&A in costume with the kids after the show. I am really pumped for this production. It's a great cast and the production is simply adorable. It's going to be fun to have so many kids in the audience! I fully support exposing children to opera as early as possible and I think this is a great way to do it.