by Margaret Chrystall
AS the person putting together Scottish Opera’s Cinderella Unwrapped free show on Wednesday (Nov 5), Lissa Lorenzo has just the right experience.
On Scottish Opera’s website, a profile of the assistant director for the La Cenerentola/Cinderella production reveals her first memory of the company came when she was in Primary Six.
Lissa's class performed in a primary schools’ tour Scottish Opera workshop of a children’s opera about aliens landing on earth and seeking refuge.
But Lissa didn’t actually see her first live opera until she was 25, like many of the people who haven’t got around to thinking about seeing opera till they come to one of the Unwrapped shows.
Lissa said: "I think the first Unwrapped show happened around 2006/7 and was based on an introduction to Carmen.
"It was an education initiative at the time to try and get new audiences and ease in first-timers for opera.
"The Unwrapped shows let people see an hour’s-worth of opera with insights into what they are seeing onstage.
"It introduces people to the experience without them having to commit to three hours’-worth of opera.
"It can make people nervous about going if they think they’re not going to understand what’s going on.
"But at the Unwrapped shows, it doesn’t take people long to realise there’s nothing frightening or foreign about it.
"There are surtitles – subtitles in English shown above the stage telling you what’s going on – so you don’t have to be able to speak French or Italian or German to know what’s happening.
"The Unwrapped performances act as a nice stepping stone whether you’re new to opera or an old hand, to help enhance your enjoyment of our productions."
But where do you start when you want to highlight great moments in the opera’s music, the design, costume and story – as well as talking about the director’s vision of their particular production of the opera?
Lissa said: "Because this is a revival of a production that has been done before, there’s footage we could look at before the rehearsals started. So I watched the original performance from Strasburg and had some ideas.
"But then when you see the show being put together in the rehearsal space, you start thinking about other sections that are going to introduce Rossini’s music best.
"And after a while you realise you’ve got about two hours’ of music and you can’t put in everything!
"We’re also looking for things that will offer an interesting look at what other members of the team do.
"In Cinderella we’ve got a set with six revolving wooden huts or ‘trucks’, so we thought it would be good to talk a little bit about that.
"It’s also good to let the cover – or understudy – cast get the chance to be seen. For me it was important to select music that gives them an opportunity to perform because they put in so much work preparing for the opera.
"But if nobody goes off sick – which is what we all hope – then all that work which is great for the cover roles to do – they don’t get the chance to show off the work they’ve put in. For me the Unwrapped performances are a really good chance for those understudies to shine."
In Aberdeen and Inverness, two of the Scottish Opera emerging artists will be playing lead roles for the extracts included in the Unwrapped presentation.
Laura Margaret Shaw – last seen in Scottish Opera’s touring Macbeth as one of the chain-smoking witches will perform as
La Cenerentola/Cinderella and Rosalind Coad is playing one of the ugly sisters, Clarinda.
Lissa said: "For each excerpt, I’ve chosen to focus on a particular aspect, so at the beginning we talk about the story and elements of opera people might not be familiar with. Then we talk about the production itself and the director’s vision for the piece. Towards the end, because La Cenerentola has an incredibly famous set aria for mezzo soprano, a coloratura which is a real showpiece for mezzo singers and we get about three minutes of that before the love duet. It’s just to give a flavour rather than whet your appetite!"
There's also a quick look at some changes to a fairytale most people know pretty well.
Lissa said: "The story itself in the opera is based on the French version of the fairytale which is quite different from the one we all know. So we compare the more domestic drama version Rossini uses with the fairytale version. Rossini takes all the magic that was in the fairytale out – so, for example, there’s no magic carriage – it’s all about the magic of the theatre, rather than the Disney sparkle people are used to."
Already, the first Unwrapped has received the public’s seal of approval.
Lissa said: "I was happy with the feedback from the first Unwrapped for this production in Glasgow and the breadth of insight from backstage, the music and the world of opera."
For the La Cenerentola production itself, as assistant director Lissa has to keep a note of everything that happens and when in the show.
"I’m the director’s second in command, so if they were ill, I’d take rehearsals," Lissa explained.
"It’s quite detailed, so there are things in the notes like ‘This is where Cinderella picked up the bucket’– basically, I make a map of the whole show.
"So if we have to pick up at a certain bit – and Rossini’s music repeats a lot – I could go ‘It’s from bar 62 where you pick up the bucket’ etc
"I would also rehearse the cover cast, so I have to know the show well enough to do that. And this is a three-hour show so it’s quite a tall order. I would also be liaising with other departments, so if anyone is feeling poorly I can let the company management know. So you’re a bit of a company auntie!"
Lissa is also one of Scottish Opera’s emerging artists this year too.
She said: "It’s the first time the company has had a director as an emerging artist."
And for the future, Lissa has ideas of what she would like to do tobuild on her experience with the company and in the education department.
"I’ll maybe get work with the Conservatoire. I’d also like to work in other areas of theatre. My own background is in community theatre and I’d like to find a way to bring both that and opera together."
Cinderella Unwrapped is on Wednesday (Nov 5) free but ticketed, so book your place with box office on 01463 234234 on online at www.eden-court.co.uk. Scottish Opera’s full performances of Rossini’s Cinderella/La Cenorentola are on next Thursday (Nov 6) and next Saturday (Nov 8), both at 7.15pm. For those who are visually impaired, there is the Touch Tour on Saturday at 6pm and the performance next Saturday will also be audio-described. The opera running time is roughly two hours 50 minutes.