Thursday, 19 June 2014

Curtain Calls

This article first appeared at

Last night I was one of many who had the opportunity to see Terry Gilliam Berlioz's Benvenuto Cellini at the cinema. There are all sorts of wonderful things to talk about but I thought I might just dwell on one of those things that often get left to the last minute in opera performances, if they get dealt with at all: the final bow. The Curtain Call is the opportunity for the audience to show its appreciation for the hard work the performers have put into the preceding show. It's also a chance for the audience to show it's relative appreciation of the merits of those performers. Either way, an appropriate acknowledgment of the reception given by an audience is advisable.

At last night's performance two of the supporting cast Nicky Spence and David Soar (Francesco and Bernadino) ran on and re-created a tummy-bump stage move from the first Act. This went down very well with the audience, self-referencing the sense of fun surrounding the event. Do you stay in character then, or appear at the curtain or take to the stage without greasepaint, actual or metaphorical? Well Spence and Soar probably see something of their own character in the likely lads of Gilliam-Berlioz's vision. Conversely Sir Willard White, appearing as a glitter-taloned Pope, clearly decided to continue to milk his casting against-type by remaining in character at the curtain of this same opera.

For many though there is the opportunity to step out of their role for a moment. For the character baddie (Iago in Otello, or Nick Shadow in The Rake's Progress, for example) this can be a tricky area to negotiate, given the British public's increasing tendency to boo the baddie (i.e. not the performer but the character). Naturally I wouldn't want to prescribe how you take a bow, given that you may be responding to what happens on any given night, let alone a specific production. Just remember that actually taking the bow (or a ballerina-style curtesy, perhaps complete with self-effacing/decorous hand-on-decolletage) is a good idea, as is not taking too much time. It's nice to smile too! Curtain calls often involve walking back to join other members of a cast in a line, so don't be afraid to look behind you when you do this. You don't want to spoil the rapture of well-executed performance with the ignominy of falling over someone else's feet at the last.

What are your top tips for making the most of your reception at the curtain?

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