International Women’s Day 2021 is the perfect opportunity to celebrate the many talented women we are lucky to work with at Opera North.

We asked four women who work in very different roles across the business to tell us more about what they do and what they particularly love about working in opera. With their help, we have also put together a playlist featuring the musicians and tracks that have inspired them most – the perfect soundtrack to this special day.

Listen to the Spotify playlist »

Jennifer Sterling

I work as a Choral Education Delivery Artist for Opera North. Quite a mouthful I know, but it means I lead choirs and workshops of all shapes and sizes across the North of England (when we can) and also online, including From Couch to Chorus: Sing into Spring. I love being a part of these choirs and seeing how they bring people together and create a wonderful sense of community and support between singers.

After working for many years as a freelance musician, I joined Opera North two years ago and it is the teamwork and support of colleagues across the company that has made that move so special. So many people come together to make the amazing Opera North Education projects happen. It really does show that you are able to achieve so much more as part of a strong team than you ever can on your own.

Jennifer Sterling leading a Little Big Sing Mad Hatter's Tea Party at Leeds Central Library © Justin Slee

Christella Litras

I am a Singer, Songwriter, Composer, Multi-instrumentalist and Mentor. I was very fortunate to have inspirational musical mentors in my life; not only did this ground me but it paved a way for me to mentor young people and guide them through their artistic pathways.

In 2018, I was selected by Opera North to be part of the Resonance residency working on a soundtrack for the sequel to the award-winning animated sci-fi film Battledream Chronicle with Martiniquais writer-director Alain Bidard. More recently, I have been involved in a project with the Opera North Youth Company, composing a song about home – and I’m looking forward to starting work soon on a community project on the same theme.

There’s something very rewarding about working at a place you have admired for years. I am always grateful that Opera North believed in me and gave me the artistic freedom to create new work and meet some amazing artists along the way.

Christella Litras and Battledream II writer/director Alain Bidard during their Resonance residency, Opera North, March 2018 © Tom Arber

Céline Saout

I wanted to play the harp from the age of 4 and, a few years later, when I heard Italian opera arias for the first time, I knew I wanted to play with an opera orchestra.

I have been Principal Harpist with Opera North for 6 years and it really is a dream come true. Nothing beats the raw emotions expressed by singers and a full orchestra. We get to play such a varied repertoire, from early opera to newly commissioned pieces, symphonic concerts and ’80s club classics! No other job compares to this one.

Theatres are magical places filled with creative minds everywhere. I feel so lucky to work with such inspiring and supportive colleagues.

Principal Harpist Celine Saout with her harp © Tom Arber

Aletta Collins

Opera North audiences will know me best as a Director and Choreographer, but I started out in life as a dancer. My debut as a professional dancer was at the Leeds Grand Theatre. A few years later, my first job as a choreographer was with Opera North on a production of King Priam which premiered at the Leeds Grand. Incredibly the next milestone of my career was to be offered the opportunity to direct an opera – for Opera North premiering at the Leeds Grand!

To say this company and theatre are important to me would be missing the point – they have been, and continue to be, vital. I don’t think any other company would have taken such a risk and supported me in the way Opera North has done, and my artistic home is with them and the Leeds Grand.

International Women’s Day is a really great opportunity to say thank you to them: for believing in me, for supporting me and, with each commission, for pushing me to develop as an artist. I would never be where I am today without them.

Aletta Collins directing rehearsals for Opera North's production of Cinderella in 2017 © Tom Arber

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