Inside the Opera Rehearsal Room

    We sent Jay, our brand new RTYDS Resident Assistant Director, along to the rehearsals for The Barber of Seville. As someone brand new to opera, it’s safe to say he didn’t know what to expect! Here’s Jay’s account of his fascinating day with the cast and crew…                                                      

    Jay Crutchley, RTYDS Resident Assistant Director

    Originally, when I thought of opera, I thought of middle-aged people who walk impossibly upright and speak with an aura of elegance that I (with my strong Brummie accent) would probably feel a little uncomfortable around!

    Well, that all changed this week as I was a privy insider to the rehearsals of The Barber of Seville. I was warmly welcomed into the space by all the creatives and cast members. Rehearsals were due to start at 11am and, the London Tube system having let me down, I got there for 10.55am expecting to walk into a room full of actors warming up and getting ready to start their day. Upon my arrival though, I discovered that in fact there weren’t any actors there. This really took me by surprise, but within a couple of minutes they started to arrive (with seconds to go until 11am!) and with swift precision, all casually assembled round the piano with the musical director and pianist and just began to sing through the scenes!

    I was a little taken aback and equally impressed by this – at how ready they were to just roll into the room, barely break their stride and begin rehearsals. I then noticed that whilst the MD was with the cast rehearsing the vocal elements of the scenes, the director was behind in the space, majestically moving around and taking on a multitude of roles as he blocked out his vision for the flow of movement for each scene. This was actually a thing of beauty to watch as I could see how invested the director was in shaping his vision for the piece. The cast got to a level with the script that everyone was happy with and then proceeded to block out the scene with the director filling in his previously laid out vision.

    This is where my respect and admiration of the cast really washed over me due to their ability to move around the space seamlessly whilst also belting out operatic verses, making it look effortless. A particular highlight was a series of choreographed individual moves dished out by the director that included “Schrodinger’s Cat” or the “Front Crawl” and, my personal favourite, “The Lady Macbeth”, which the cast were particularly keen for me to get involved with. You’ll have to come to the show to see what they look like!

    If someone had told me 10 years ago that listening to drum and bass would help me understand opera, I probably would have laughed them out of the rave!

    Whilst watching this process, I made a slightly left-field reflection that growing up listening to drum and bass, I was familiar with extremely high tempo MC’s spitting (rapping) incredibly fast. Over the years I think my ear has become accustomed to this and can focus in on the words to keep up with the flow. In a few moments of the Barber script there are some extremely fast operatic singing moments which were not too dissimilar in tempo to drum and bass MC’s and I realised that because of my finely tuned drum and bass ear, I was able to follow it perfectly. If someone had told me 10 years ago that listening to drum and bass would help me understand opera I probably would have laughed them out of the rave!

    I also felt that the room had an atmosphere of warmth and joy, which I’m sure was established by the creative team and the cast. There was an exciting energy which blew away my preconceptions of what it would be like. Everyone in the room was very open with me and excited that this was my first experience of opera. The company seem committed to breaking the misconceptions that I’m sure many people, like myself, share about opera. So if you have never seen opera before, The Barber of Seville would be a great first experience!


    The Barber of Seville runs at Tobacco Factory Theatres from Wed 18 September – Sat 05 October. Visit the main show page for more info about the production and to book.

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