As we are drawing close to the application deadline for ENO Opera Works 2013/14 course, Melanie Long, mezzo-soprano on this year’s course, talks about her experience so far…
“If anyone had ever said to me that on my journey I would find myself residing in England and re-orienting my training to mezzo-soprano repertoire, I’d have been rendered completely dazed and confused. Yet, in the past 18 months, I have moved from New York City to England and changed Fach from soprano to mezzo-soprano. It was my hope that ENO Opera Works would be an opportunity to get to know myself in my new repertoire while adjusting to living on another continent, and also to quietly observe the industry in this unfamiliar part of the world. So far, so good, as the course has done all of that and a great deal more.
ENO Opera Works casts twenty singers, all of us unique in our talents and walks of life. We are a diverse group who are exceedingly abundant in our capacity to offer one another experiences and interactions to learn and draw inspiration from. Amongst us all there is a very unique support system in place that transcends compliments or constructive criticism. In fact there is no criticism, only exploration.
The course is unbiased and non-discriminatory. There are no date-of-birth limitations. There is no preference or tendency toward particular voices or even a number cap on each voice type. We function as a company. We are colleagues, work-shopping for the love of the game and the good of our art. There is no agenda on the part of ENO regarding what is in it for them or what they can get out of us throughout our committed season. On the contrary, ENO Opera Works is very simply about what ENO can do for you. It’s more genuinely all about you than I have ever seen in this business. The course provides an open door into ENO and all its resources.
We are supported by mentors who are excited not only about our talent, our voices and our abilities, but also our minds and our individual creative purpose. Our relationship with the directors is collaborative and the result is an environment which is simultaneously nurturing and professional.
‘Practice makes perfect’ as they say, and for me the best way to learn is to go out and do; to get on the stage and just do it. Perform. That’s where it all happens and where we all want to be. Everything I have to give has come predominantly out of my professional, main stage experience where I have been able to put my check-list of skills to work and into action on the stage and in rehearsal. ENO Opera Works is the only developmental opportunity I am aware of in or outside of academia that provides the immeasurable experience, reward and progression of being on stage throughout. While there are performance opportunities and of course the grand finale end-of-year-performance, ENO Opera Works offers the profoundly beneficial circumstance to use and practice our skills in a safe and non-judgemental environment.
To date we’ve intensively explored the methods of Stanislavsky, Lecoq and Laban to name a few. We have worked with master practitioners and theatre revolutionaries whose perspective is vast and impartial to medium. It is a revelation to apply their techniques to opera, pushing boundaries and restraints. There is a constant reiteration that possibilities are limitless and always evolving. In an industry which is growing more unpredictable by the day, with more singers than there have ever been (all of whom fit for the task), competition is fierce and it behooves us to be versatile. As performers, if we don’t have an inherent frame of reference for something, we need to be able to understand our instrument well enough to study and bring that thing to life. That requires not only imagination but tools, and the knowledge of how to use them which comes from introduction and exposure, awareness and study, application and practice. ENO Opera Works abides by this formula giving us weapons, if you will, that we’re not afraid to use because we know how.
Most important to me has been the way that ENO Opera Works has seen me through my Fach change. I’ve had access to everything from mentorship and advice from the professionals at ENO, to main stage dress rehearsals, to guided self-exploration and the feedback of brilliant peers. I am feeling more comfortable in my own shoes than ever before. I have a strong and clear knowledge of my repertoire, and how it pertains to who I am and what I have to give right now. I’ve been able to find what fits like a glove, vocally and in my soul but also what challenges me and still further, how to approach and take on a challenge thoughtfully, effectively, artfully.
For the past decade I’ve spent all of my time either in a practice room or in class; tap, classical ballet, theatre dance, musical theatre acting, straight acting, monologue coaching, role preparation, stage combat, vocal coaching and lessons and the list goes on. What I wasn’t taking the time to explore is how these things come together within me, my artistry, my voice and my expression, how they serve my craft or how they serve each other. ENO Opera Works has been an opportunity for my knowledge and skills to settle and re-organize so that I can take them off of the material check-list and embody them as part of my Self. By the end of the course in a few short months I look forward to being more professional than I have ever been; ready, and set to go.”
The deadline for ENO Opera Works 2013/14 course is Monday 11 February 2013. You can find out more information and details of how to apply on the ENO website here.