Walk around the corridors of Opera North on the 22nd May and you would be forgiven for thinking you have been transported to Siberia. In Winter. It may be summer outside, but here you will find a world of ice, swathes of lush red and white velvet, hats, woolly scarves and gloves, boots, and of course, some extremely hot singers, ready for the first night of Rusalka.
It is my first proper role with Opera North, having previously covered roles in other productions, and I have enjoyed every minute. I am playing the role of the Kitchen Boy to Marc Le Brocq’s Huntsman. We provide the lighter entertainment, in contrast to the rest of the opera, which is at times very dark. Working on a comic role has been great fun, particularly as I’ve been able to learn so much from working with Marc.
On a show day I will arrive at the theatre about an hour before curtain up. Others are here long before, but as I don’t appear until the end of Act 1, I have a long time to get ready. First, I will do a vocal and physical warm up, and then my lovely dresser Ros helps me get into costume. There are no corners cut at Opera North where costumes are concerned. The costume makers here are incredible and the result is that I have no doubt that I could actually survive a Russian winter, not just look as though I could.
To begin the transformation into a boy I have to wear a specially made elasticated bodice. It’s very tight, but with enough give in it so I can breathe, and it goes from just below my shoulders to my waist. Once that’s on I can get the rest of the costume on – trousers, braces, socks, boots, patties, waistcoat, coat, neck-tie, scarf (for winter), hat, fingerless gloves and huge great mittens. See, I told you……no corners cut.
So, costume on. Next the wonderful Katie comes to do my hair and make-up. It’s very simple but effective. I have to look scruffy and unwashed – bushy eyebrows, and lots of mud-like smears on my face. Finally, the wig goes on – my wig is the icing on the cake as it really does make me look like a boy. Friends and colleagues have walked straight past me before now!
As it gets closer to curtain up there is always an air of nerves and excitement. We all hope it will be a great show, the culmination of weeks of hard work by many people, and that most importantly, the audience will enjoy it too. Then, a hush descends. The singers take their places….the lights go down. The orchestra finish tuning. Clapping begins, and the Maestro takes to his podium, raises his baton…..the curtain goes up, the overture begins…… and here we go!