The difference is not one of preparation (we’d rehearsed and prerecorded Mirrorflores’ dynamic baroque soundtrack and had discussions about character, interpretation, and some staging), but rather of control. In the very structured world of opera, adherence to style, accuracy, and ultimate command of the voice are paramount, and control serves as the framework through which the very best performers are able to find moments of freedom and spontaneity. Here though, with the singing already taken care of, performing for a camera allowed for freedom from the start. For many fellows, certainly for me, this more immediate freedom was a welcome breath of fresh air.
My scene partner and I were tasked with being mirror-image twins of one another. We were to find a brief escape from a purgatory-like existence (in the form of a 20’s garden party theatrical spectacular: the same show repeated ad nauseum as a means of torture and domination) and in our first moment alone discover one another for the first time, all to the tune of “Pur ti miro” from Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea. What would it be like to see your own reflection for the first time? How would it feel to play with your own shadow? To escape? To find a way to touch, and eventually embrace, in a (perhaps post-pandemic) world so devoid of human connection?
Like the opera singers we were trained to be, my diligent scene partner and I came to staging with many pre-planned ideas. Some of this work was necessary to get to the level of synchronicity we wanted to achieve in our twinned movements, but we soon found that the real magic lay in the in-between moments: the flickers of unplanned yet still synchronized impulses, the hypnotic repetition and sensation of possibility in multiple takes, the flush of excitement in feeling the camera’s gaze close to our faces. We concluded that even as the world of live theatre is gratefully returning, there’s something about this world of film we can’t abandon, having experienced it once.