by Eiko Taba, horn player, Tokyo Philharmonic
Aside from our performances on stage in the concert hall, 2/3 of the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra's schedule each year consists of opera and ballet programs. These performances take place in Hatsudai, Tokyo at the New National Theatre (Opera Palace), which is Japan's first permanent opera theater. Below is a description of how opera rehearsals, which are different from our regular concert rehearsals, are structured.
A new opera production will take about 10 days worth of rehearsals. While we usually only rehearse 2-3 days for a regular orchestra concert (often times we'll only rehearse 1 day), with opera there are many other components that need to be practiced. There is a lot of time spent working on balance and timing with the singers, adjusting the lighting, making sure set changes happen smoothly, and checking the timing and balance of the "Banda" (off-stage musicians).
Our opera repertoire is vast, from Mozart to contemporary music, and therefore we sometimes have to change not only the horn section seating alignment, but also where we sit in the pit (if it's a regular concert on stage we never change where we sit, unless we're asked to move by the conductor). Within the horn section no one usually requests to change the seating alignment, except for when the timpani is very close. If it is someone will likely say "hey the vibrations from the timpani are going into my bell, please move over a little bit!" *Fortunately for us, no one has ever said "I hate the horn bell being so close, move over!"
When looking into the pit from the audience, it seems very narrow and as if we are really crammed in. But from the players side it doesn't feel that way. Actually inside the pit we can hear the singer's voices very well. It mixes right in with the orchestra and gives us a great feeling while we are performing.
This season's opening act is "Walküre" from Wagner's ring cycle. We have an amazing lineup of singers this time (they are amazing every time!!!). Of course there are 8 horns (4 of which also play Wagner tuba), so there are many great parts to listen to in the piece. Especially in "Ride of the Valkyries", at the beginning of Act 3, the horn section, the stage performance, and of course the singers!! It's so powerful that I get goose bumps every time. It's going to be a great season opener, so for those of you who have time please come to our concert!
With permission from: New National Theatre
Translation: Jonathan Hammil