At 3pm, on Wednesday 17th June the first episode of The Soprano, performed by Francesca Lanza, will air on our YouTube channel.
This 10-minute slice of joy, the first of eight that will air every Wednesday and Saturday at 3pm until 11th July, will share the healing power of opera.
Let’s go behind the scenes to meet the team who have made The Soprano possible…
“We knew from day one, minute one, that Francesca is a natural,” says Jane Mote, founder and director of video production company beechtobeach. “She is constantly learning how best to work the sound, camera focus and lighting. But it is tough on her and some days are exhausting.”
The sheer speed of this project’s creation has forced all involved to adapt and acquire new skills. The first mini-mountain to scale involved getting the right recording kit to Francesca, in Italy, during lockdown. Luckily, despite many people in the UK and Italy sourcing similar equipment, Francesca was able to buy what she needed online.
Francesca, who will perform from her flat in Turin, Italy, then learnt via Zoom sessions with Jane and her beechtobeach colleague Connor Whitfield, how to light and film her own work. Jane and Connor adapted their existing smartphone video training techniques to train their first opera singer, working step by step and showing live on their phones how the technology works.
"The hardest issue is sound," explains Jane. "Francesca's high notes are far too powerful for the two types of microphones we use. So, we have to use a third microphone for the arias and mix the audio when we edit."
It’s not just Francesca’s glorious voice that has caused challenges when recording. During one filming session, she was joined by an unexpected, and unwelcome, orchestra – builders working on the roof of her flat.
The Soprano, is an original piece of musical theatre production featuring well-known, and well-loved, arias. “This work celebrates how music can keep us happy, healthy and connected with others and was created especially to reach and support those groups who have been and remain isolated as a result of COVID-19," explains Health:Pitch co-founder Camilla Vickers. “The script, written by the award-winning Dr Helen Eastman, focuses on issues of isolation and lack of connection with friends and family using humour and song to address some of the challenges,”
Humour has also been an essential ingredient for the team involved in bringing The Soprano to life. Despite the very real challenges of creating, rehearsing, performing and recording a virtual musical theatre production, Jane and Connor are spurred on by the knowledge that this project is already bringing cheer during lockdown.
"It is far more intensive than we imagined," says Jane. "But it is one of the most fulfilling jobs I have ever done. And, the added bonus? I am exercising my vocal chords, singing along with Francesca on the warm-up exercises. That makes me feel happier and healthier too."
Maybe Jane's arias will feature in the future out-takes video. "From the first day we started training, we have been capturing some of the funnier moments," Jane explains. "Francesca's humour is a constant that lights up every shooting day. We hope to make some behind-the-scenes content when we have a spare moment. But, first, we have to train up two more singers from the Health:Pitch team and work out how to make duets work…remotely.”