Oliver Knight

Should you find yourself with your nose to the grindstone, your shoulder to the wheel, putting your best foot forward with your head duly bowed. Then you are either playing the harshest game of twister known to man, or a slave in Giulio Cesare.

In my case, this time at least, it’s the latter.

Not being one usually known for his world class voice, I never dreamed I would ever actually be in an opera. I have been fascinated and enthralled by it ever since I was taken as a child to see The Magic Flute, and I am an actor, but this is something new, and rather special to me.

The supernumerary role can be many things. Often it’s all standing about guarding doors, or milling about in the background, filling the space where the principals are not. Though there is some of that, this is much more fun.
For one thing the five of us do have to manually rotate the truck (a rotating stage) in true slave fashion. However, Tim [Albery, the director] also has the faith in us to really involve us in much of the action, which is just great.

The real bonus though, is just being there when the principals sing. Opera from three feet away is an experience I shall keep with me always. As indeed is being, albeit briefly, part of the Opera North family. An incredibly welcoming and generous company that have taken us into their world.

Cannot wait for tomorrow, to see what they throw at us next. I am loving every minute, will keep you posted.

Oliver Knight

Giulio Cesare opens at Leeds Grand Theatre on Saturday 14 January, before touring to Nottingham, Newcastle, Salford and Dublin. For more information about this production, click here.

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.