To celebrate World Piano Day, we spoke to our 2022/23 Young Artist about their role as repetiteurs.

Our Young Artist repetiteurs are part of our Global Talent Programme and play an important role in the delivery of our work across the year.

What is the role of a repetiteur?

A repetiteur’s job has a few layers. We are part of the music staff in opera productions. The title for the job comes from the French word répéter which means to rehearse. This is because, simply put, a big part of our job is to play the orchestral reduction of operas during 90% of the rehearsal period of a production, before the orchestra and the singers come together. However, as well as playing for music and stage rehearsals, we coach the singers on the repertoire and occasionally we may conduct as well when the conductor isn’t present in rehearsal. When the orchestra and singers finally get together at the end of the rehearsal period we continue to provide our ears and our knowledge to support the singers and conductor. 

To be able to play orchestral reductions we need to think as an orchestra to try and sound as close as possible to the orchestra. We also have a working knowledge of the phonetic rules of the operatic languages and the stylistic differences between opera genres which allows us to provide support for the singers during their learning process. 

When we’re not in the middle of a production, we also coach singers in repertoire they may be working on. Additionally, a lot of us also enjoy collaborating with singers in art song or opera recitals and many also become conductors.

Adrian Salinero

What is your favourite part about being a repetiteur?

There are many things I love about being a repetiteur. Of course, I absolutely adore opera. Being involved in an opera production means being part of a huge team of people, each using their own art form to combine it all together and create a massive piece of art. It is quite thrilling. Personally, my favourite part is always the first day of production. It’s always nerve racking and feels like the first day of school, but the feeling of being back in “production mode” never gets old and it’s so exciting to finally hear what everyone sounds like together.

Adrian Salinero

What challenges are there as a repetiteur?

I love being a repetiteur, but there are fun challenges that come with it! There is often very little time to learn music because of the amount of repertoire we go through. It can be challenging turning up to rehearsals feeling like we wanted to prepare more, but we get used to sight reading confidently and learning music quickly and efficiently whilst at the studio so that we are prepared for this challenge. In addition, vocal scores often misrepresent what is actually happening in the orchestra, and we will always need to listen to a recording or look at a full score and then edit the vocal score. This means that the music we play will then replicate the music which the singers will hear when they have rehearsals with the orchestra. It can be difficult finding time to do this, but I find it a fun task finding how to best represent the orchestra!

Max Bilbe

Describe the day in the life of a repetiteur at the National Opera Studio.

Most days are pretty full on! On a day to day basis, we play for the singers’ vocal and language coachings, but also in concerts, masterclasses, or recording sessions.

Throughout the year, we have several residencies for which we prepare opera scenes. In the weeks leading up to the performances, we will have several days of music calls, followed by stagecraft and staging rehearsals at NOS, and then a final week of rehearsals and runs taking place in one at the partnered opera house. This Spring we’re off to Opera North to present our contemporary scenes, Cautionary Tales.

Emma Cayeux

What advice would you give to an aspiring repetiteur?

A love of collaboration and resilience are key to enjoying this role. Some of the best advice I have been given is that few things are personal - by this I mean interactions with singers and conductors can be strained by people's frustrations or performance anxiety. As long as you are proactive and a positive colleague, then you can trust in yourself and ability. 

Alex Norton