Handel's Rodelinda & The Grand CanyonSaturday, January 28, 2012
|Lauren at the Grand Canyon iPhone|
This morning my friend Graham Walker and I rose early (he much earlier as he lives in New Westminster) and we met bright and early (8:20) at the Park Theatre on Cambie Street. We were there to watch (our first ever), live from the Metropolitan Opera House in New York a High Defintion broadcast of Handel’s baroque opera Rodelinda.
The experience was a revelation to me in many ways. Years back I had taken my precocious young granddaughter Rebecca (she was 6) to several small scale baroque operas performed by the Modern Baroque Company (alas they are long gone) at the East Vancouver Cultural Centre. Rebecca would smile when on the beginning of an aria I would raise one finger. When, as it often happens in baroque operas, it came around a second time I would raise two fingers and the third time, three. I never knew exactly why but it gave me a chance to listen to the wonderful melody and voice three times.
In Rodelinda this happens, too. The arias are called da capo which in Italian it means from the head. The host was the much diminished in size, but with her still spectacular personality and intelligence, soprano Debora Voigt. She asked every one of the stars, soprano Renée Fleming (Rodelinda), mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe (Eduige), countertenor Andreas Schol (Bertarido), countertenor Lestyn Davies (Unulfo), tenor Joseph Kaiser (Grimoaldo) and (but did not interview) bass-baritone Shenyang, the same question, “What is it like to sing an aria three times. All emphasized having to find a personal justification for the second time and then a further “in the head” reflection on what to add or reinterpret or confirm in the third.
For viewers, particularly when the cameras got very close it gave us a rare glimpse in all the acting that these singers (called singing actors by production director Stephen Wadsworth) had to do and do it well they did. The three time arias gave the other actors on stage plenty of opportunity to move and do things. This Rodelinda was much more a film. I would call it a film/opera and I believe all for the better. Who could possibly afford to fly to New York, pay at least $200 for a seat and then watch all the action through binoculars?
But that three time singing made me reflect on other situations of repetition.
In the late 70s and early 80s I was a stills photographer in the cavernous studios 40 and 41 in the bowels of the CBC building on Hamilton Street. The average variety show had four cameras (video tape in those days). Two were large monsters on rolling pedestals. One was up on a crane that could move up and down and swing around. The fourth was a small camera carried on the shoulders. When tape rolled all cameras were on the scene while the director would indicate which cameraman was to do what. The cameramen were all wired for sound.
Sometime in the 80s I was dispatched to Egmont to take stills of a drama series called Ritter’s Cove in which one of the stars was a yellow De Havilland Beaver.
On my first day of shooting I was shocked at the difference between the method used to tape a variety show and the procedure for drama in which only one camera was used. I enquired and was told that the camera (an expensive Arriflex) shot film not video tape. It was further explained the director would block (the term used in TV and in movies) the scene. The lighting was set and everything else was in standby. Then the actor or actors would look at the one camera and do their scene which always involved more than one take. After that’, the shot would taken from a different angle (the same camera) and the actor would repeat everything from that angle. Sometimes there was a third angle. It was then the task of the film editor to splice the different angles into a smooth narrative.
I called up my friend Michael Varga who after having retired as a cameraman at the CBC a couple of years ago is busier than ever. He explained to me that now in film (with digital movie cameras) the one camera deal is no longer a rule. Digital is cheap so most scenes are taken with multiple camera angles.
The other instance of repletion is one that hit home for me this past July when my wife, our two granddaughters and I visited the Grand Canyon’s North Rim.
We arrived late afternoon after a rainfall. The light was beautiful but muted. I had to make a decision on how I was going to photograph what I saw and how I was going to incorporate my granddaughters and wife.
I spied a young man with one very expensive digital camera around his neck. I then looked at what I had around me.
1. A 2¼ by 7 inch swivel lens panoramic in which I could choose to shoot either b+w film or colour transparency.
2. A Pentax MX dedicated to a superb 20mm wide angle and loaded with 100 ISO Ektachrome.
3. A Nikon FM-2 with 100 ISO Kodak Plus-X
4. A Nikon FM-2 with 800 ISO No Name President’s Choice colour negative film.
5. A Mamiya RB-67 Pro SD with two backs. One with Ilford FP-4 b+w and the other with 100 IS0 Ektachrome.
6. An iPhone 3G.
I used all the cameras while the young man took his pictures in RAW format. This means that he could then tweak his pictures to be b+w, colour and he could do all kinds of things to make his photographs different.
I will raise here one question in which those who know me will know my answer.
|Lauren & Rebecca at the Grand Canyon|
In all three instances of repetition, the actor, the singer, the photographer had to go within himself to get more than what is possible if done once. When I used 6 cameras, because of the nature of their different lenses and film stock, each picture was not only different but, specifically, each picture was new not a variation of another.
The young photographer RAW image, even after several tweakings and versions was still a variation of itself, the one. I wonder what an actor would think of all this?