Follow Opera North’s production of Così fan tutte from rehearsals and first fittings to singer’s insights and first night nerves.


Week six, Sophie Higson, Deputy Stage Manager, tells us about the practical aspects of rehearsals, prompt corner, and the ‘Book’.

As Deputy Stage Manager (DSM) on Così fan tutte, I am part of a team of stage managers who organise and supervise the practical aspects of production rehearsals.  We act as the liaison between the creative team and the technical departments (such as costume, lighting, props and production management), passing on notes and queries to the relevant departments, so that we can try to solve as many issues as we can before we get to stage rehearsals.  We are lucky with Così because it is a revival, so we are able to have the whole set built in the rehearsal room.  This is great for the singers, as they are able to rehearse on the set for the entire rehearsal period, so there won’t be any nasty surprises for them when we get on stage this week.

My main job as DSM is to produce the ‘Book’ for the show.  This is a copy of the score in which I write down every detail of the performers movements on stage.  Some pages are so busy that even with my tiny writing it is hard to fit everything in and even harder to read it the next day!  The ‘Book’ also has all the technical cues written in it for lighting, sound, flown scenery and scene changes, and in the case of Così, the door cues.  Nearly all the entrances and exits in this production are made through sliding doors, all of which have to open and close at very precise musical moments and at very precise speeds, which I will be cueing during performances, so I need to make sure I know exactly when they should be happening.

This week we start stage rehearsals after a few weeks of rehearsing in the rehearsal room.  Stage rehearsals are always an exciting time, when you can see the production really start to take shape.  Once we get on stage I am tucked away in ‘prompt corner,’ from where I call the show.  I communicate with my own and other technical departments via radio headsets (cans), and I use cue lights to cue people who are not on headsets.  I also have a microphone which is used to make backstage calls, so that I can call the cast to the stage in time for their entrances, as well as technical staff for stage cues, and wardrobe staff for quick costume changes.

Rehearsals for Così have been fun, and I will miss the friendly atmosphere of the rehearsal room, but I am looking forward to watching the show develop on stage.