Opera North Blog

John Querns - A Repetitive Pianist


“I don’t want to be in the limelight. I like the job that I do, which is behind the scenes as part of the preparation of an opera – the repetiteur – ‘repeating’ rehearsals on the piano from a single moment to a full length performance.

I started playing piano from the age of 9 when my mum’s aunt, a piano teacher, gave our family a piano and I liked it enough to continue. I read music at Glasgow and then began to play for people who were taking singing lessons. I never even knew this kind of job existed as it was assumed that I would become a piano teacher, but that was the last thing I wanted to do.

And I have been lucky.  Because this is really an incredibly varied and rewarding job and I love what I do. My role as a repetiteur is ‘to be’ the orchestra in rehearsals. I accompany what is happening on stage for up to six weeks of the rehearsal process, ensuring the singers are singing the right notes at the right time and helping them to understand what happens in the orchestra, which might help them both musically and dramatically. I also have the opportunity to work with singers on a one to one basis, which I enjoy very much as often we can learn from each other.

I like a challenge and to be busy and I can certainly say I get this on a daily basis at Opera North.  For the last seven weeks the focus has been on Carousel, where entire days have been spent on repeating scenes such as ‘June is bustin’ out all over’, a huge number both musically and in terms of cast, chorus and dancers on stage. And now the production has opened, it is good to be thinking ahead and I am really looking forward to Janáček’s The Makropulos Case, which is a challenging piece, but which I am sure will be fantastic.”

John Querns


Carousel tours to The Lowry this week and will then tour to the Barbican from 15th August – 15th September.

The Makropulos Case will open at Edinburgh International Festival on 11th August and then form part of Opera North’s Autumn season.

What you say


David Buntin said ago

I am listening/watching to the new Met Ring Cycle from last yesr. I remembered John and I listening/watching to the "French" Ring Cycle from Bayreauth when we both worked for Opera North in Leeds. John introduced me to Glasgow a 2nd time one Christmas and I have never forgotten John and all his enthusiam for Opera after all these years. Surprise from David Buntin. I have never forgotten you.


Bruce Maher said ago

I was at Glasgow University with John - even back then he was a brilliant pianist. I don't think the opera vocal score exists that he couldn't sight-read perfectly! Opera North are very lucky to have him. I look forward very much to hearing and seeing "The Makropulos Case" at the Edinburgh Festival - if John's the repetiteur, I know it'll be a fantastic show!

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