A face in the crowd

I previously mentioned in my ‘L’amore dei tre Re’ review about members of the chorus for whom stage action seems to become real. I mentioned Jessica Eccleston‘s maid, and the unknown Fidelio chorus member at Garsington last year. They both seemed without inhibition, to be living the stories they were part of.

This is perhaps easier for a chorus member. With less limelight, less pressure, and a role almost as witness to action (usually tragedy) one imagines – for those disposed to it, – “make believe” more easily transforms in simple ‘believe’ and believe I do.

Yesterday I was re-watching the profound and beautiful Neuenfels Lohengrin, now in its last year at Bayreuth. Before Klaus Florian Vogt’s truly hymn-like ‘in fernem Land’ the Brabantine chorus are assembled to watch his public trial. I spied a member of the ladies’ chorus who is another candidate for the ranks of the above.

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It was as the lady’s emotional state drew my gaze. Perhaps something empathic: a beacon of need?

To me her expression reveals something beyond acting. You may disagree. For some it may be entirely acting. It may be overdone or unnecessary to other minds, or eyes or hearts. Renaissance painters knew of the power of facial expression, scenes of the descent from the cross usually crowded with them. But to ask for the same from all the chorus here would be histrionic, distracting. Thinking about it now though, on reflection her expression almost anticipates the force of Lohengrin’s revelation, but I don’t care.

Here is the chorus in Garsington’s Fidelio from 2014.

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The Garsington Fidelio – 2014 (c) Donald Cooper/Photostage

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The Chorus wander out into the sunlit gardens of Garsington (c) Mark Hoban

I was not at the time fixated on the guy at the front but the ‘prisoner’ at extreme right. I believe it was he who had the look of sublime gratitude on his face during ‘O welche Lust!’. As the chorus gathered to sing of their brief freedom his expression of perfect rapture was undimmed.

I will always be moved by these small moments, anchors of subtle emotion around which the larger drama eddies. I can only hope for more.

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