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Backstage at the Opera Simon Rees Thursday 16 November 2017

Opera is an elaborate, even extravagant, art form. It requires the work of composers, librettists, conductors, directors, designers, wardrobe, wig and prop technicians, as well as orchestra, chorus, soloists, stage crew, and an audience in front of which to perform. Simon Rees has been given access to his former company, Welsh National Opera, to take photographs of every step of the production.

Session 1

The first hour will look at the conception of the opera from libretto to musical score, then the work of the director and designers in realising this on the stage. Set and costume designs are fragile works on paper, but some have lasted for centuries, and we will look at these as well as more recent works. Sets models and their presentation are an important part of the production process.

Session 2

Costume designs are fitted to individual singers and made up into wearable costumes that respond to the unusual needs of performers – space to move and breathe being particularly important. Props are made from original designs or from photographs of museum objects, or purchased in junk shops and markets. Sets are built, both as painted flats and as 3-D objects, in the making workshop of the opera company. These are assembled in the rehearsal room, and the process of rehearsing can begin.

Session 3

The first piano-vocal rehearsals take place in rehearsal rooms, and then move to the theatre. We will look at the theatre’s mechanisms for changing scenery, and at the back-stage environment of dressing-rooms. After a week of stage-and-piano rehearsals, the orchestra enters the pit for stage-and-orchestra rehearsals, followed by the dress rehearsal and the first night. This is when audience and critics arrive at the venue, and the production is finally unveiled.

By the end of these three sessions, you will have had a comprehensive opportunity to experience the art of opera, as seen by one of Britain’s most experienced operatic dramaturgs.

Booking for this event opened on Thursday,  5 October.  The booking form is available from the Documents part of the website (Our Society, then Documents) now and you can either book by post or in person at the next lecture.  Booking by post will be suspended from 28 October while I am away.