It is quite a task of coordination and creativity to design the brochures and posters in order to advertise our performances. I recently spent the day resourcefully pulling together all elements to generate the right mood and tone for three of our operas for September.

As part of my job as Marketing Officer for Opera North, I recently found myself lugging huge spears and various garden tools around for a photoshoot for our Autumn 09 brochure and posters. The spears are far too long to fit in a normal car, so I drove the Opera North van – a slightly scary experience not helped by the medieval weaponry flying around in the back!

Our photoshoot took place in a studio just outside central Leeds with a local photographer Richard Moran. Our design agency Elmwood had previously come up with ideas for the designs – Our focus was our new season productions, The Adventures of Mr Brouček, Janáček, Werther, Massenet, and Cosi fan tutte, Mozart – each requiring their own photos.

The day started with shooting Werther. The director of the opera, Tom Cairns, had provided lots of photos to inspire us and we were aiming for a dark and brooding image that captured the tragic story. Our male model, Thibaut (pronounced Tibo), stood very patiently as we sorted out the correct lighting, rubbed dust onto his coat and turned his hair into something of a birdsnest! His hair is naturally quite fair, so it had to be darkened using Photoshop after the shoot. We then took photos of our lovely ‘Charlotte’, who is modelled by Opera North employee Jo Nockels.

Next came The Adventures of Mr Brouček. To be as economical as possible, Adele from Elmwood had sewn us a Czech flag and been to the supermarket to buy sausages, flowers and a bottle of beer – all elements representing Mr Broucek and the 1969 setting. Unfortunately, the supermarket didn’t have the stereotypical curved sausage, so Adele had to buy straight ones which then had to be bent digitally after the shoot – Photoshop to the rescue again! Our design features medieval weapons reflected in a space helmet, so this is where the spears and garden tools come in. The final image is certainly fun and slightly bonkers, just like this fantastic opera!

Finally, we took the photos for Cosi fan tutte one of the most recognisable and loved Mozart operas. Our model, Shireen, spent quite a long time with a hair and makeup artist in order to create an 18th century face with a modern feel about it. Because the final photo was close up the most important things to get right were her expression and the lighting. We shot the image with both studio lights and then next to a window. Natural light is much more softening than artificial light, and in the end natural light won out. After the shoot our graphic designers spent a few days sourcing other photos from photo libraries, and putting the complex final designs together. Our brochure will be out in early July for all to see. Now, just got to get back in the van and return those spears to the Opera North props department. Wish me luck…!

Sarah Cornish

Marketing Officer, Opera North