Monday, 3 August 2009

Dorset Opera - amateurs behaving professionally

Amateur Dramatics are normally suffered only because a friend, relative or offspring is performing. The shakiness of the production is tempered by the delight of seeing our friend/relative/small person perform in ways we never thought they could.

What a contrast to the professional standard seen from Dorset Opera this weekend. With a mix of professionals and amateurs they give themselves the seemingly impossible task of rehearsing in only two weeks. As many of those amateurs are youngsters, some still at school, it appears to be a recipe for disaster. It is not. It is a recipe for the best to come out in young and old, professional and amateur. Even the audience were, for the most part, well behaved.

I’ve nothing against Am Dram – its great fun to do and sometimes hilarious to watch. But seeing well produced opera is pure joy. Why else go unless you want to come out feeling that human beings are capable of creating something wonderful, beautiful and magical?

Dorset Opera’s mission is to educate young people about opera by giving them the opportunity to experience professional opera for themselves. They come from all over the country, and abroad, for an intensive and educational two weeks of rehearsals. During those two weeks these unsure ducklings are turned into confident swans. Then they strut their stuff in front of a paying and discriminating audience. And they do it very, very well.

So what makes the difference? What do the professionals bring to the show that the amateurs cannot work out for themselves? Here are six differentiators between professionals and amateurs:
  1. Mistakes – the pros have made lots of them - and they have learnt from them.
  2. Problems – the pros have seen most problems and have solved a good many.
  3. Knowing what works, what doesn’t, and what isn’t worth risking. Professionals have the edge over amateurs who are either too cautious or too inclined to try the ill advised.
  4. Management – professionals expect to manage and be managed. Management makes all the difference and the single biggest factor in achieving anything of value.
  5. Hard work – professionals know how much effort is required to make something work. They are more likely than amateurs to keep on going until they get it right.
  6. Standards – professionals were selected because of their talent and can recognise talent in others. They not only keep standards high but push for better all the time.

Not too many of us are called upon to give a rendition of Cav and Pag with just two weeks’ rehearsal, but perhaps that’s a shame. I’m guessing that most who take part come out of the process a good deal richer for the experience.

And it's worth reflecting, as professionals in our individual fields, how much of the above list we can or want to identify with.

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