Muse Lee, our favorite high school blogger, has returned for a series on her participation in the Community Opera production of Benjamin Britten's Noah's Flood. Performances are April 19 and 20 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
It’s official: Noah’s Flood has taken over my life.
Just look at my Monday, for example. For starters, on Sunday night, my dreams were all about the opera. Then, in school, I wasted my free time watching Noah’s Ark cartoons on YouTube. A little later, I headed to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels for a three-hour rehearsal. Finally, when I got home at 10pm, the first thing I did was rush to the computer and start this blog post. So many exciting things happened that simply going to bed wasn’t even an option: Monday was equal parts rehearsal and adventure.
As Day 1 of tech week, Monday was a bit hectic. I had to squeeze all my homework into the two hours between school and rehearsal. However, it was “happy trouble.” I just couldn’t wait to be in the Cathedral, and the time finally came. As I walked to the entrance, I took it all in. The building jutted sharply up to the sky, cut out in slanting planes and stark angles. I was filled with awe and reverence. I signed in and entered the vaulted, mystical chapel at last.
I soon found my wave-mate sitting in the choir pews, and I joined her. We spotted Noah (Yohan Yi) and for the first time, Mrs. Noah (Ronnita Nicole Miller) sitting in the pews. I found out that my wave-mate also loves her, and of course, we started “fan-girling” together. I’m Facebook friends with Ms. Miller, and I met her once backstage. However, I wasn’t sure whether she remembered me or not. My wave-mate and I decided that no matter what, we’d approach her and see what would happen.
We didn’t have time for that yet, though—Director Eli promptly got us on our feet to walk around the Cathedral and get a feel for the space. Then, after that, he had us go to our opening positions. There was some confusion about our places, since this was our first time in the Cathedral. Soon, though, we sorted it out. As I walked down the aisle to get to my position, I nervously passed by Ms. Miller and Mr. Yi. Ms. Miller noticed me and broke into a huge smile, waving. She actually remembered me! Ecstatic, I waved back, and Mr. Yi also smiled and said hello. They began to feel less like celebrities and more like real people.
We proceeded to rehearse the opening scene. In the huge Cathedral, it was almost eerie to hear our own voices. However, singing the phrase “Lord Jesus, think on me” in a holy building added an element of raw sincerity and even fear to our words. Eli encouraged us to key into these emotions and to make our singing and our actions bigger and fuller. After we went over the opening scene several times, we ensemble members sat back down in the choir pews. Then, Jamieson Price, playing The Voice of God, spoke his first lines. I thought the huge Cathedral would make his voice sound scarier, but instead, it served as a natural vessel for the sheer gravity of his voice. Everything was really starting to fit into place.
From this time, we occupied ourselves with watching the principals. Seeing and hearing Ms. Miller so close up sent me back into fan-girl mode. I’d always seen her in LA Opera productions, and now, here she was, singing right in front of me. Better yet, we’d be singing with her. It was unbelievable.
Break time came. During the first half, my wave-mate, her sister, and I explored the vast outside area. Then, my wave-mate and I resolved to approach Ms. Miller as we had planned. We found her sitting in the pews with Mr. Yi, and I introduced my wave-mate to her. We had expected it to be a quick introduction, but to our surprise, Ms. Miller kept on talking with us, and Mr. Yi joined in. By the time rehearsal resumed, we had talked about chicken, brownies, and Björk. Since Ms. Miller will be covering Erda and singing the First Norn at the Met, she also treated us to her spin on Rheingold. I vote Ronnita Nicole Miller as the next Anna Russell.
We had to end the conversation when rehearsal started up again. In the final half of Noah’s Flood rehearsal, we went from the storm to the finale. We had trouble translating some of our movements to the Cathedral, since we’d been rehearsing in the East LA Performing Arts Academy auditorium all this time. However, when it finally began coming together, it really started looking and sounding spectacular. In a way that’s difficult to describe, the Cathedral setting has brought out shades and colors in the opera that would have been lost in a theater. Benjamin Britten intended Noah’s Flood to be performed in a church, and I think all of us are beginning to realize why.
The first day of tech week is down, and there are five more days to go. It won’t be easy, though—I have a feeling that if this adventure continues as it did on Monday, I won’t be getting to bed anytime soon.