The recording sessions for Mulroney: The Opera were organized pandemonium.
The Esprit Orchestra and conductor Alex Pauk were in one booth, with the soft harp and heavy percussion each being given its own booth for sound mixing purposes. The singers were in another, and in the so-called peanut gallery were composer Alexina Louie, librettist Dan Redican and film director Larry Weinstein. And then there were the technicians in the control room. They were all connected together by headsets.
Since this was an opera, the music was not a background film score. Rather, music in Mulroney: The Opera was dominant, or, as they say in the trade, extended foreground. As Louie rightly points out: “It is the dialogue!” As a result, attention had to be paid to every nuance, with Weinstein directing the singers. Everyone was under the pressure of a tight schedule. Says Pauk: “There is just not the same rehearsal time for record mode as there is for a concert or a staged opera.”
One of the hardest things for the orchestra, according to Pauk, was recording in chunks, and then making sure that the various pieces would segue together in the editing room. “Alexina’s score was continually changing in styles, rhythm and pacing,” he says, “so that every corner of the musicians’ talent had to be utilized. They had to be sharp on the uptake because it was difficult to get a sense of flow. Yet, tempi had to be strictly observed for every take, because the playing had to fit a timed film sequence.”
Because Weinstein would not allow subtitles, every word sung had to be crystal clear. With all the forces finally ranged together, musical and libretto problems inevitably cropped up, so Redican was forced to do rapid fire rewrites on the spot – more words needed here, fewer words there, different words altogether – changes which the singers had to immediately absorb. They also had to be aware of tempi through maestro Pauk, and stay in time. Says Pauk: “Things were coming at them fast and furiously, and they had to keep jumping through hoops.”