12 June 2014 at 12.26pm | 2 Comments
Last night saw the final performance of Robert Carsen’s production of Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites.
The production, which opened to enthusiastic reviews in May, assembled the largest cast ever seen on the Covent Garden stage: 14 principals, 60 Royal Opera Chorus, 26 actors and 67 volunteers from the community ensemble.
The community ensemble brought together people from all walks of life, some having experienced homelessness, long-term unemployment or the criminal justice system, and others studying drama and theatre.
The process of assembling the ensemble began in January, with rehearsals starting in February. Rehearsals were tailored to build teamwork and communication, helping volunteers to increase their self-esteem and self-confidence, before finessing the performance to reach the standards of excellence required.
We purposely kept the role of the community ensemble quiet ahead of opening night, so that audiences and critics could come to the performance without any preconceptions. Since then, some really interesting profiles of the project have been published, and we wanted to share them, in case you missed them.
'The audience has no idea about my history, they accept me as a performer, the same as the professionals next to me,' said Tyrone Paul in an interview with The Independent. 'It's exhilarating, as soon as curtain goes up, I just become a part of it.' Read audience reactions to the opening night.
The opera is set during the turmoil of the French Revolution, and Robert’s production uses the 67 volunteers on-stage to create a sense of dramatic upheaval and threat, keeping set and props to a minimum.
'The French Revolution was about the real world impinging on another world that had become too isolated,' said conductor Simon Rattle in an interview with The Guardian. 'There are obvious resonances... What better way of putting the French Revolution on stage than to bring in people who bring a whole new energy – sometimes not necessarily the most convenient energy – to the stage?'
Read 'Simon Rattle leads a Revolution at the Royal Opera House' to find out more about the rehearsal process and the experiences of those involved.
Alongside rehearsals, volunteers were also invited to take part in a Careers Support Programme that offers help getting work experience and work placements in the performing arts.
Involvement in the community ensemble has already proved life-changing for some of its participants: Michael B, an ex-prisoner who was encouraged to join the ensemble after contacting Synergy Theatre Project, will start to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in September.
The community ensemble was recruited in partnership with Streetwise Opera, Synergy Theatre Project, the Department for Work and Pensions, and the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London.
The Dialogues des Carmelites community ensemble is generously supported by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation with additional philanthropic support by the Schroder Charity, Wilhelm Helmut Trust and Anne and Rob Heather