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 really impossible to call Saturday’s Noah’s Flood practice a “rehearsal.” With all the hilarity, wonderful music, excitement, surprises, and star-struck moments, it had all the makings of a smashing party.
I arrived at the rehearsal venue, East LA Performing Arts Academy (ELAPAA), two hours earlier than usual—our rehearsal this time was five hours long. Before I even entered the auditorium, I heard the purr of strings and chatter of woodwinds. I stepped through the door and stared. For the first time, an orchestra was there. Rehearsal hadn’t even started, and I was already insanely happy and excited.
After several minutes, LA Opera staff member Anthony Jones began the opening announcements. He started by introducing the orchestra: the Hamilton High School orchestra and the Celebration Ringers, a 5th through 8th grade handbell ensemble. I never even knew that such a thing existed. He introduced the stage managers and the principal kids and teens playing Noah’s sons and their wives, as well as the gossips. Finally, he introduced Noah (bass-baritone Yohan Yi), the Voice of God (actor Jamieson Price), and the pianist. I hope I didn’t scream that loudly when he said the name Nino Sanikidze.
We kicked off rehearsal by plunging immediately into wave practice, this time with the principals. We went over the drowning of the gossips and reviewed our positions. After we had gone over the drowning a few times, the rest of the ensemble joined us to rehearse the full storm scene with the orchestra. I got my first glimpse of Mr. Yi, standing in the ark. When he started singing, I was completely star-struck—I couldn’t believe I was onstage with an artist like him. I just kept staring at him while I waited for the fact to register. It never really did.
At last, we got to see all the scenes between the opening and the ark entrance. The first in this sequence is the one in which God speaks to Noah for the first time. We were all excited to hear what God sounded like, but finding out was a little terrifying. Standing above all of us on the auditorium stage, Mr. Price spoke his opening lines into a microphone. There’s no one word that can adequately describe his voice except for summoning — put simply, it’s the perfect Voice of God.
The scenes after God’s address were of Noah’s children and their wives building the ark, of Mrs. Noah and the gossips laughing at them, and finally, of their children dragging Mrs. Noah onboard right before the storm. It was great to finally see how our ensemble scenes fit into the big picture, and also, many of the principals were my Opera Camp friends, so I had a blast chatting with them and watching them rehearse. Plus, seeing Director Eli filling in for Ronnita Nicole Miller as Mrs. Noah was a real moment to remember.
After a break, we continued rehearsal. When my wave-mate and I walked back into the auditorium, Mr. Price was still onstage, towering above everybody. My wave-mate and I were a bit intimidated and avoiding eye contact, but he noticed the two of us and gave us a kind smile. That was one of the highlights of rehearsal. We proceeded to go around telling everyone that God had smiled at us.
Next we moved on from the ark entrance and began the storm. With the orchestra playing full-throttle, the whole auditorium seemed to expand. There was a new sense of hugeness and space to be filled, and this began to translate into our motions and singing.
When the storm was over, the teen and adult ensemble members got a chance to rest, since our only remaining scene to perform was the finale. It wasn’t a very relaxing break, though—every time Mr. Price uttered “Noah…” into the microphone, we all jumped. We eventually came to anticipate it, but the first time, everyone had a mini-heart attack and the guy next to me even screamed. We could only imagine how poor Noah must have felt hearing that voice from the sky. With almost all the elements present, the performance became grander, bigger, fuller. I can hardly imagine where it’ll be by showtime.
It won’t be long before we find out. On Monday, April 15, tech week begins, and we’ll be in our performance venue, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. This was our final rehearsal in ELAPAA, and as we left the building, we bid the wonderful space goodbye.
Saturday’s rehearsal was quite a party: we’ve reunited with friends, sung glorious music, and received a smile from God. Something tells me, though, that the best is still ahead: the party has only just started.