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.

The Opening Night!

The last in the series of Opera North’s Così fan tutte blog and Richard Mantle, General Director, reflects on the highs and lows of the last seven weeks, the buzz of the first night and why you should not miss Così fan tutte!

Cosi_banner1

It’s all of seven weeks since our cast and creative team arrived in Leeds to begin rehearsals, and last Friday night was the first performance and the culmination of an intense period of preparation and planning.

The final rehearsal week is when everything finally comes together; the set for the production has been built on stage, the singers are now in costume, the lighting is taking shape and the orchestra joins the stage rehearsals, thus all the elements of this complex jigsaw begin to fall into place. But not by accident! This is the moment we have been anticipating for two years and is what creates the real buzz and excitement – Opening Night!

As the General Director, I have been around rehearsals and performances of literally hundreds of operas, but I never fail to marvel at the way in which a great variety of talent is crafted together to realise, in this case, one of the great operatic masterpieces of all time. It is a supreme lesson in collaboration, teamwork and expression and a true testament to the fantastic skills, talents and discipline which exist in Opera North.

What is all the more rewarding is to see how well our young cast have been crafted and enthused into a brilliant ensemble; after this painstaking period of rehearsal, often a rollercoaster ride of high emotion and meticulous attention to detail, we arrived at the great moment of performing for the public.

Before the show it was electric backstage! This production of Così may be a revival and yet it’s all the more important to ensure perfection from everyone involved – singers, musicians, stage management, costume and wigs team and the technical crew. It’s at this point that we, the management, can have no effect on what is about to happen – simply to wish everyone “Toi Toi Toi” and enjoy the performance along with the audience.

Equally, the front-of-house was buzzing and I was entertaining a large number of guests including many of our generous donors who support our work; the critics were in, though I am sometimes disappointed when some of our journalistic colleagues don’t review revivals, particularly when we have fielded a wonderful and talented cast such as this.

What a great night it was! Tim Albery’s production is incisive, emotional, beautiful, yet witty and gritty and if ever there was a case for performing opera in the language of the audience, this is it – pretty much every single word can be understood so no problem even for an opera virgin!

Our cast performed at their peak and all gave performances of such character and clarity, singing some of the most sublime yet challenging music Mozart ever wrote. The beautiful, sensitive, yet vigorous playing from the orchestra gave us an evening to remember. It’s at a first night that I invariably feel very proud of this company and the total dedication of everyone involved. Later that evening we all celebrated with a well deserved glass of wine!

The wonderful thing about opera is that no two productions of a piece are the same, the possibilities of musical and theatrical interpretation are immense, and there is always something fresh to discover. So coming to a live performance enables everyone to join in that emotional rollercoaster ride, and also enjoy some pretty fabulous music and theatre. If you’ve not yet booked to come to Così fan tutte, miss it at your peril! For more information and to book click here.