I was asked a few days ago if Fidelio was my first production with Opera North. Having said it wasn’t and that I’d done a couple of shows with the Company over the past few years, when I actually sat down and thought about it, I realised that this opera will be my ninth! It got me thinking what it is about a Company that keeps you wanting to go back to work there time after time?

The cynic would imply that it is the need to pay the mortgage and the bills, but this isn’t the case when it comes to Opera North. Having worked with many opera companies in this country and abroad, the thing that carries me up the M1 each time is the promise of a warm welcome and that feeling you get when you greet members of your ‘family’ after long periods apart.

It was with a feeling of nervous excitement that I arrived for the first music call of Fidelio a fortnight ago. Having never sung any Beethoven before, I was slightly apprehensive about the first rehearsal, and also very aware of the calibre of musicians awaiting me in the rehearsal room! Thankfully, it went smoothly and everyone seemed to get on well (very important, as we’ll be spending the next seven weeks together!). As well as having a great cast, we have a strong creative team, which includes director Tim Albery and conductor Sir Richard Armstrong, who both worked on the original production by Scottish Opera. It isn’t all that common for the original director to revive his or her production, so having Tim around feels like a bit of a luxury. He has such a clear idea of what he wants from the piece, but yet is very accommodating to our need as performers to find our own way along the journey of our characters.

Having had three days to concentrate on the music with Sir Richard, we were straight into production rehearsals. The opera is set in a prison and follows Leonore’s journey as she disguises herself as a prison guard named “Fidelio” to rescue her husband Florestan from death in a political prison. I play the role of Marzelline, the prison jailer’s daughter, who falls in love with Leonore (or “Fidelio” as she believes ‘him’ to be). This, as you can imagine, has given us many moments of laughter, as it is rather difficult at this point to imagine the beautiful and feminine Emma Bell as a man. I guess this is what is called artistic licence! Though, knowing the skills of the Opera North wig and make-up department, it will all become very clear once we are on stage and in costume… well, here’s hoping anyway!

Fflur will be blogging once a fortnight in the build up to Fidelio which opens 14 April 2011 – more info.