Dress Rehearsal!

Don Quixote

Most orchestras open their doors for public rehearsal. Here, the National Theatre Orchestra

What Happens at a Dress Rehearsal? And Why Should You Go?

Ever wonder what happens during a symphony orchestra rehearsal?

The Prague Symphony Orchestra (FOK), Czech Philharmonic, and other leading Prague orchestras give you the opportunity to find out. Regularly, before an orchestra’s first performance of a big symphonic concert, the audience is invited in to watch the General, or Dress, Rehearsal (both terms are used).

The General Rehearsal is the last chance for the orchestra to put their performance together. Usually it’s simply a run-through of the entire programme, with a few pointers added by the conductor after. What is never supposed to happen is that the playing stops – it’s definitely not the done thing in a performance, so it shouldn’t happen in the last run-through!

What’s nice about making a Dress Rehearsal public is that it chips away at the barrier between performer and audience. Gone are the times when there was much less music around, when audiences had a much better idea of what they were listening to, and were willing to show their opinions. They interacted with the players, shouted their approval or dismay, and didn’t feel at such a distance with the musicians. Nowadays, we feel an obligation to sit still and listen intently, even if we aren’t enjoying the performance.

This obligation is caused by the information barrier between the performer and audience. Other than the programme notes (which not everyone reads), we are not given much else to help us to understand the complexity of the music. Making a rehearsal public, where we are given the opportunity to listen to the conductor shout over the orchestra’s playing, “Oboes, I want to hear you!” or “Violas, you’re the accompaniment to the cello melody, not soloists!” gives us a little more.Berg Orchestra score, Opus Osm

What’s even better is to combine the General Rehearsal with the evening performance. You’ll arrive at the performance a little better informed. And it’s likely that you’ll be able to appreciate the musicians’ playing more, as you’ll see how they were “saving themselves” during the rehearsal to give everything during the performance.

Getting ‘Socially Advantaged’

There are also social advantages of a Dress Rehearsal. Just the fact that they are in the morning means that many more children are able to go, often as part of a school. Therefore they can react to the music that they hear together (though not always to the pleasure of the other listeners!).

Parents with school-age children don’t have to find child care for an evening event, and people who don’t feel comfortable being out at night can still enjoy the thrill of a live performance.

The cheaper ticket price (usually 100 kč) for a Dress Rehearsal means live concerts are more accessible; some people cannot afford the evening’s ticket price and others don’t want to risk paying full price for a programme they don’t know. So both types are able to hear the music. And of course the best thing is, you don’t get a scowl for turning up in jeans!

Try visiting a General Rehearsal the next time you have a morning free. It’s definitely worth the price of admission. — oo

– Sam Goldsheider

Photo Credits: Miroslav Setnička

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