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 Johanna Kvam had to say about her time with Scottish Opera.

"I recently had a wonderful few days in residency with Scottish Opera in Glasgow, learning from their terrific music staff about the core skills needed to be a repetiteur and observing the homestretch of their rehearsals for Verdi’s La Traviata.

My time began with a Monday morning tour of the Scottish Opera rehearsal building with Music and Chorus Administrator Iona Jack and Head of Music Fiona MacSherry. After a caffeine boost in their adorable in-house coffee shop, which should become an industry standard, I got to see all the various departments who work tirelessly to create each individual production - set building warehouses with painters, carpenters, and lighting technicians, the cavernous costume storage room and busy costume shop, various rehearsal halls and practice rooms, and the huge, incredibly well-organised collection of educational materials for SO’s community outreach shows - an impressive setup.

I had two very productive coachings with Fiona, in which we worked on excerpts from Der Rosenkavalier and Don Giovanni. She especially helped me navigate the challenges of trying to create an orchestral sound world on a percussive instrument that doesn’t naturally produce sweeping lines or shimmery textures - we reworked the vocal scores together to bring out the most important lines and create the illusion of string/woodwind phrasing. A vocal score reduction tries to fit in as much of what the orchestra’s doing as possible, but it doesn’t tell you which parts are most important for a singer to hear, or which parts you CAN hear as a singer on the stage. Fiona helped me see which lines to prioritise, when to add, when to drop, when to not be a “proud pianist” and try to play everything at the expense of the actual orchestral texture.

The remainder of my time was spent getting a sneak peek at their rehearsals for their production of La Traviata in the beautiful Royal Theatre, which was in the final stages, meaning I luckily got to basically see the fully realised show - with costumes, staging, orchestra, all systems go. It was fascinating to sit with a view into the orchestra pit to listen and observe how different sections respond differently to the beat of their conductor, Music Director Stuart Stratford - some with a delay, some more immediate, with radically different articulations between the woodwinds, brass, and strings that are important to have in a rep’s ears as we play reductions and respond to conductors from the piano. I also observed a cover rehearsal played by their Emerging Artist
 repetiteur, José Javier Ucendo, and saw a rep in action - playing the score, giving cues for singers’ entrances, correcting diction, and having an ear on all aspects of the music. It was also fun to see that Violetta and Alfredo were covered by two very talented NOS alumni, soprano Inna Husieva and tenor Shengzi Ren.

I so enjoyed the chance to be a fly on the wall, watching the music and production staff tweak and polish every aspect of the show to create an amazing artistic product and seeing the thousands of threads that have to come together to create one opera. Really looking forward to returning with the full NOS group in a few weeks!"