So it’s the week of opening night for Fidelio already! It’s hard to believe how quickly the last few weeks have passed, it seems like only yesterday we were all huddled over our stands in the first music rehearsal. But yet again, so much work has been done during these past six weeks. We were very lucky that the set was available during our rehearsal period, this makes life so much easier as we get to familiarise ourselves with our surroundings very early on. The rehearsal period has been quite intense, this is such wonderful music, but there’s so much detail to be put in to the actual production. There’s so much to concentrate on during rehearsals, such as, getting the music right, following the conductor, concentrating on not falling off the edge of a six foot high bedroom platform(!) but all this hard work is worth it in the end. By the time we get into the theatre, the small details make a very big difference to the performances, and it all finally comes together.  

We’re now in the run up to opening night. The two week period preceding the premiere is always hard work. It all begins with the sitzprobe – a final music rehearsal before we move the production from studio to stage. This is the first time we as singers get to hear the orchestra, and this is when all the musical details are fixed. It is probably my favourite part of the entire rehearsal period. As wonderful as any repetiteur may be (and we have a great rep in the lovely John Querns) no piano can ever imitate the splendour of the full orchestra. The orchestra sounds truly amazing under Sir Richard’s baton and it proves to be a very exciting time ahead. It’s then onto four stage and piano rehearsals, a piano dress rehearsal, four stage and orchestras and then the general dress rehearsal.                 

This is the time the entire production team comes into its own. Imagine a big ocean liner the only way it can sail is if all the crew pull together above and below decks. It is so easy to forget, or indeed not to realise at all, how much work goes on behind the scenes to produce an opera at this level. No production could be done without the hard work and dedication of a number of different people. From the set builders, props managers, costume makers, wigs and make-up department, to even the wonderful dressers that bring very much needed cups of tea to the singers during the intervals! (I in fact am very impressed this year, to have been assigned my own Welsh speaking dresser – more a coincidence than anything else, I’m sure, but a very nice one at that)

So with all the rehearsals now done, a very electrically charged dress rehearsal in the bag, it’s now time to get ready for opening night. Having an audience present makes such a huge difference to a performance, and I’m quite sure I can say that we are all looking forward very much to seeing what excitement first night will bring. I’m sure there’ll be nerves, I was always told that a little bit of nerves makes all the difference between a dull performance and a real and exciting one, but as long as we all remember what we’ve been doing these last couple of months and follow Sir Richard’s baton, the ship should finally sail…

Opera North’s production of Fidelio opens tonight, Thursday 14 April.

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.