Friday, 13 April 2012

Chapter 2: My first painting, my first Opera.

Wendy was lovely. Sweet, gentle and encouraging, she let us copy magazine pictures and photographs in the first weeks. I decided to copy Velasquez'"Rockeby Venus." I loved the sensuousness of the body, the drapery, the mirror. I spent 8 weeks on it, painting every night after supper and after the children were in bed.I put the radio on and listened to classical music and just zoned into my own world. I loved the feel of the paint on the paper (I used a good quality 300g cartridge paper which took the oil well. I used the palette which Wendy recommended:
Alizarin crimson, prussian blue, the cadmiums, aquamarine blue,white. NO BLACK. For some reason, Wendy did not like us to use black straight from the tube. We had to mix our own from prussian blue and alizarin crimson. It made a great translucent black. I had fun. I did not think about how good it was. It was easy to copy the print from the book (The great Masters series.)

Here it is:
My first painting: A Copy of the "Rockeby Venus". by Velasquez. Oil/canvas
I loved reading about the Old Masters. I felt I could learn from them. Certain painters attracted me: Velasquez, Degas, Monet, Kandinsky, Klimt, van Gogh, Renoir, Rodin.

I had also just joined the Opera chorus with Artscape- Capab at the time.

After arriving in Cape Town 2 years previously I had joined the Philharmonia Choir. The choir mistress had given me some private singing lessons and decided I would be good enought for her CAPAB Opera Chorus.
I was thrilled to be chosen- I would even earn a little money for my singing!
There were times I had to pinch myself. My dreams about becoming a paid artist were coming true. I was finally earning money for one of the things I loved to do best in the world.

Rehearsals were once  a week for 8 weeks in the run up to the final 3 weeks of rehearsals on the actual stage at Artscape, the former Nico Malan. We rehearsed deep in the bowels of the theatre, in the famous L4, a grim airconditioned space with a grand piano, down a maze of passages near the opera library. I didn't care. I was heady with delight. I was a semi-professional singer surrounded on all sides by magnificent heavenly voices, wrapped in a body of sound so powerful at times that I felt I might explode with joy.

Singing second soprano I felt reconnected with a long -lost part of myself..some sort of Divine Source. Plugged into the depths of myself, the real meaning of who I was.  I was energised, vibrant, alive, affirmed. I was making new friends- some really different people. Alive, loud, we laughed a lot. There were a lot of Afrikaans people from Durbanville and Stellenbosch, even a refugee from Yugoslavia who reminded us of how priveleged we were as South Africans. She was fresh out of the Serbia/Croatia conflict and kept telling us how wonderfully free and safe South Africa was compared to her home country.
It was difficult to believe her. After rehearsals ended, sometime late at night, I travelled back to Rondebosch with my heart in my throat. Hijackings at robots were common then and I often drove through the red lights at Red Cross Children's Hospital at 2 am. No ways was I stopping for any hijackers. When the R2000 fine arrived in the mail I stuck it up on my fridge and waited for the summons. It never arrived. The new camera fining system that had been installed at the lights was luckily having teething problems and a lot of the fines at that time remained unpaid because of inept record keeping. Those were the dawning days of ANC rule,  and signs of municipal and governmental incompetence were already apparent.

To my surprise I found my Afrikaans colleagues at Artscape very entertaining. Coming from an English background that was largely anti-Afrikaners and the Apartheid that they represented I was initially anxious that we would have nothing in common. However they were lively, cultured, full of laughter, open. It was exciting. I felt privileged and grateful to be part of this vibrant talented group who were very knowledgeable and knew far more than I did about Opera music. I felt I could learn a lot and I felt the narrowness and prejudice of my upbringing melting away and healing in the power of that glorious music.

Next chapter.
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