Saturday, 3 June 2017

Diva strops

It was so humid yesterday. I'm told there was a giant thunder storm whilst we were in rehearsals. Hannah got caught in it. Emerging from the building was like stepping into a shower cubical. Absolutely no breeze. It was bizarre.

The opera company continue to rehearse in the space next to us. I have to say, I find the performers a funny old bunch to say the least. One of the performers wafted into the green room yesterday morning and, instead of talking to the person behind the desk about the possibility of turning the air conditioning on, she decided instead to stand in the middle of the room asking everyone who caught her eye if they were feeling hot as well. It was a dramatic display of somewhat desperate passive aggression. You'd think she was being boiled alive. Eventually she sat down and started chowing down on some kind of herbal tea. A few minutes later a stage manager popped into the room and asked if she'd mind stepping into the rehearsal space. She looked appalled: "You want me ten minutes early? I'm not called for ten minutes..." "Well, we thought we'd crack on." "Well if I'm coming in now, I'll have to leave the rehearsal ten minutes early. No, I mean it. I need my rest." Poor love.

Over the course of the morning, I heard a veritable litany of complaints from the opera singers. None of them seemed to want to actually rehearse. I'm sure they're simply happy to park and bark centre stage, thinking only about their vocal projection without any of the pesky extra hassle of actually acting. It was almost as though they were wearing their diva behaviour as a badge of honour: As though stroppiness was part and parcel of being taken seriously as an artist. The shirtier you are, the better singer they'll think you are.

Later still I overheard one of the male singers chewing the ear off one of the stage managers; "the director can't do that. He really can't. For my sanity." He wasn't joking.

Of course I remember all this nonsense from my time in opera in the late '90s. I remember working on a production of Madam Butterfly and rehearsing in deepest, darkest East London on a Saturday. We had two tin pot Asian divas alternating the title role, and they used to compete for the spotlight. On one occasion, we were auditioning children to play the role of Sorrow, Madam Butterfly's son. The children were aged about five and the audition entailed Butterfly singing to them full out so that we could tell if the loud noises were going to freak them out. One poor lad arrived on set only to be told that the Butterfly wasn't prepared to sing to him. "He's too ugly to be my child" she shouted. Then she stormed away.

The stage manager asked if she'd like a sandwich for lunch. "I want sushi" she demanded. Let's bear in mind that this was 1998, and Sushi wasn't exactly the sort of thing you'd expect to buy in a sandwich shop in the East End on a Saturday. "I'm not sure I'll be able to find any sushi around here" said the stage manager, "then I go home" said the tin pot diva. He sighed, and went up to the other Madam Butterfly to ask if she was hungry. She said she wasn't. So he trekked off to Liverpool Street station, and, an hour later, reappeared with sushi for the soprano. She barely thanked him. At that moment, the other Butterfly appeared. "I am hungry now." The stage manager smiled politely, "okay, what can I get you?" "Sushi..." So off he trudged to Liverpool Street... Again.

Opera singers can be really quite horrible people!

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