18 July 2014 at 11.30am | Comment on this article
Everything that goes on in this building is connected to music. Whether we are sewing costumes, designing posters or sweeping the stage, everything that we do is channelled towards presenting great performances of opera and ballet; and both of these art forms would be nothing without notes on a sheet of paper (or screen).
The Music Library is a vital part of the Royal Opera House, working across all music for our productions. Library staff prepare and maintain all the scores required by conductors, singers, stage managers, staff directors, Learning and Participation, Jette Parker Young Artists, Development and technical departments and The Royal Ballet (both at home and on tour). They also order or create new instrumental parts for the orchestral musicians, mark up all musical directions and provide a wealth of knowledge on everything musical.
Robin Gordon-Powell has worked in the Music Library for almost thirteen years, freelancing for most of that time, but providing maternity cover for the past year. As the hands marking up a score in one of our Season Appeal images, we interviewed him about the Season ahead.
Robin, what are you most looking forward to in the 2014/15 Season?
Definitely Król Roger. It’s never been done here before and it’s a lovely, mystical work. Karol Szymanowski is an amazing composer and it’s a brand new production so will be really interesting to see. It’s being sung in Polish and my colleague Julie Davies is currently marking up the English translation into the full score for Tony Pappano who is conducting.
I’m also looking forward to I due Foscari, which was last seen here in 1995. It’s another new co-production (with Los Angeles Opera, Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía, Valencia, and Theater an der Wien) with Plácido Domingo singing the role of Francesco Foscari. Early Verdi: you could scarcely get further away from the sensitive exoticism of Szymanowski! I’m currently marking up the parts and Tony Pappano’s score so that things like dynamics, accents and phrasing all correspond – it’s vital that they have the same markings, so that time is not taken up needed in rehearsals to sort out the basic points of the music.
What’s been a memorable production for you in 2013/14?
I loved all of the Strauss operas, but Die Frau ohne Schatten was especially memorable, as I’d never seen it before. I spent ages working on the horn parts – four of the eight horn players alternate between French Horns and Tenor Tubas – and I had to make up new, legible, transposed parts for them. I was very involved with the music, which was glorious, and sat in on several of the purely orchestral rehearsals. As a conductor myself (in my ‘spare’ time), it was tremendous to watch, and work closely with Semyon Bychkov, who is a very intelligent and articulate conductor, and to see how he rehearsed.
The Music Library is managed by Tony Rickard, pictured below.
What’s next for you at the Royal Opera House?
My maternity cover position is soon coming to an end, so I’ll be working fewer days a week on a project to create a new database of everything we have in the Library and our archives, which are scattered around the building, as well as off-site. Our current paper catalogue only reflects a proportion of our stock and has grown up on a somewhat ad-hoc basis; it’s not really working as well as it should. I’m looking forward to starting work on that, on newly developed software which I shall have to learn — although I shall probably be working on my own in a different office, and will miss the company (and occasional singing) of my colleagues in the Library. In my life outside of the Royal Opera House I edit and publish music of – mainly – Sir Arthur Sullivan, alongside conducting when I can.
It costs, on average, £33 for bowings to be added to a violin part. Please give a donation today to help support the vital work of Robin and his colleagues in the Music Library.