Nostalgia. That might seem like an odd beginning to a blog about working at Opera North for the first time, but that was my immediate feeling on beginning Otello rehearsals. From 2004-2007, I studied at Leeds College of Music and having not been back to Leeds very often since then, I suppose nostalgia was to be expected but not only with the city of Leeds itself. In fact the first two operas I ever saw were both at Opera North, Don Giovanni and Peter Grimes. I remember both perhaps better than some of the professional productions I have been involved with since! So in beginning the contract, I did feel a sense of completing a small journey in full circle. I'm sure a much wiser, and definitely far more intelligent person would tell you life is full of these!
My experiences of both Opera North, and Otello have been fantastic thus far. Opera North as both a company, and body of people, are a fantastic organisation to work with and for. All of my colleagues are welcoming, dedicated to the job and above all, a pleasure to work with, and Otello happens to be one of my favourite operas. I suppose as a youngish baritone in proximity to a role like Jago, this is to be expected! The rehearsal process was particularly satisfying for myself as there seemed to be great structure, and forethought to everything we had to do. A show like Otello for the chorus can be a little uninvolved, but I loved the way in which Tim Albery went about directing this great work, with such obvious energy and commitment. A personal highlight for me is sharing a somewhat comical moment, all be it at my expense, with Cassio in which he mocks my rather terrible dancing. Ironically, this would not be too far from the truth off the stage, as much as on it!
We have recently completed our run of performances at the Grand in Leeds and have now moved onto the touring venues. Last week we were in a somewhat cold Newcastle, and this week we move onto Belfast. I personally have never been to Northern Ireland and am looking forward to it immensely. I also hope to see the other shows on tour during my stay in Belfast. I have heard great things about the productions and look forward to switching from performer to audience member.
Otello opened at Leeds Grand Theatre on 16th January 2013. There is a performance tonight and Saturday at the Grand Opera House in Belfast, it then tours to The Lowry at Salford Quays and the Theatre Royal in Nottingham.
Photo credit: Clive Barda