by Joseph Doody, tenor 2016/17

21 December 2016


Our first residency, at Opera North, was eye-opening, exciting, and lots of fun. After rehearsals at the National Opera Studio, we spent six days in Leeds ending in a presentation of Words & Mozart. Scenes from Mozart’s operas, in both English and Italian, were interspersed with extracts from plays by Shakespeare, Racine, Farquhar and others, with spoken introductions to guide the audience through the show. 

It was informative and inspiring to get a taste of working with a company of Opera North’s calibre. Arriving on Monday, we were welcomed to the Leeds Grand Theatre by the friendly management team and given a tour around the building – but soon it was time to rehearse. We had already done a lot of preparation in London, and it was great to finally be in the venue and get acquainted with the Howard Assembly Room’s layout and acoustics.

It felt the perfect time to be in Leeds, as Opera North was still buzzing from the recent successes of Billy Budd and The Ring Cycle. It is a vibrant city, with a fantastic range of restaurants and shops, and those of us from the area were very proud that the other Young Artists loved it!

Of course, the biggest thrill was performing with the wonderful orchestra of Opera North. All the Young Artists were in awe of the standard of playing in the ensemble, and touched by the warm welcome they gave us. Most of us had performed with large orchestras before, but we were nonetheless amazed by this well-oiled machine, comprising such high-level players. Their no-nonsense professionalism helped all of us to raise our game, whether singing or at the harpsichord for recitatives.

Our lovely director, Giles Havergal, was excited to welcome us to the company with which he has such a great history, and we grabbed energy from him in handfuls. Rehearsals went well, which gave us confidence, and the small changes Giles made kept our well-rehearsed routines fresh and engaging. Conductor Robert Howarth was a supportive guide through Mozart’s complicated structures, and had really interesting ideas regarding ancient dance forms to inform his tempi. The music is beautiful, lyrical and challenging, and Robert did everything he could to make it sound as original and exciting as possible.

The climax of our week came on Saturday 10 December, when we performed both a matinee and an evening performance of Words & Mozart. Thanks to Giles’ support, our confidence in delivering spoken text had grown considerably, and I think we were able to inject a new energy into the spoken texts. The audiences reacted warmly to the show, and we left Leeds the next day with a sense of achievement, as well as knowing each other a lot better. We’re all looking forward to Glasgow! 

More photos:

All images © Malcolm Johnson 2016