This year, our Young Artist repetiteurs are each spending a week with one of our partner companies, shadowing the Music Staff team as they work on productions. Here's what Jacob Swindells had to say about his time with Scottish Opera.

"This week, I had the opportunity to spend a week behind the scenes at Scottish Opera. It was an incredible opportunity to find out how a major opera company operates and to learn about the role of a repetiteur within it. 

The week was 'Rossini-tastic' with the company preparing for the opening night of The Barber of Seville next week.  It was great to meet several NOS alumni in the cast, including recent alumni. My Monday began with a cup of tea with various staff members at one of their rehearsal venues before observing a music rehearsal with the covers cast, Assistant Conductor Susannah Wapshott, and Emerging Artist Répétiteur José Javier Ucendo Malo. I was able to pick up some great tips on balancing complex ensemble textures and adapting the piano score effectively to prioritise the stable pulse integral to Rossini.

In the afternoon, I attended the first full production rehearsal with the orchestra at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow. The excitement of bringing all elements of the show together was palpable from the moment the electric overture began. This was an excellent opportunity to practice listening critically and taking notes on issues of ensemble and balance. I could see how balance varies greatly between the pit and the theater, and the vital role the music staff plays as a roaming pair of ears for the conductor. I joined the music staff in the conductor's office to discuss and exchange notes to pass on to the singers and orchestra. These rehearsals continued throughout the week.

On Tuesday, I took part in a conducting class with Scottish Opera Music Director Stuart Stratford, working on the Act II finale of Le Nozze di Figaro. It was an enlightening session where I learned how to give a genuinely clear upbeat, exercises to free the wrist, and how to effectively accompany a singer when the recitative is accompanied by the orchestra. I also had a chance to play for other participants in the class and experience firsthand what works and what doesn't for the instrumentalists. 

I then had a fantastic coaching session with Head of Music Fiona MacSherry on music from Carmen and Ariadne Auf Naxos. We explored tips for producing rhythmic stability, mimicking the articulation of orchestral instruments, and how to 'conduct' myself at the piano to create the illusion of different instruments making an entrance. In the Strauss piece, the focus was really on moving away from getting lost in pianistic details towards the broad harmonic brush strokes of an orchestra that a singer actually hears on stage. 

Throughout the week, I continued to observe production rehearsals with the covers cast, who are also performing their own shortened accessible version of the show throughout Scotland. These were great opportunities to continue practicing critical listening and reflecting on what I would say as a coach. On Thursday, I had the opportunity to observe a coaching session between Fiona MacSherry and a cast member, focusing on the issue of stamina in relentlessly virtuosic Rossini and how flexibility in the breath and careful placement of vowels can assist vocal economy. These were great insights to build into my own coaching.

I'm leaving Scottish Opera enthused and inspired with a clearer idea of the workings of a major company. I can't wait to return in June 2024 for the full NOS residency!"