10 May 2012 at 9.51am | 3 Comments
Rupert, a 15-year-old Irish Draught horse, makes his stage debut in Robert Carsen’s new production of Falstaff on 15 May.
The bay gelding, who has never previously appeared on stage, will feature in two scenes as Sir John Falstaff’s hunting horse, ridden by Italian baritone Ambrogio Maestri who sings the title role.
Ambrogio, who had a riding lesson on Rupert prior to starting rehearsals, said:
"When I met Rupert and it was love at first sight! He’s so elegant and sweet. It has been fun because Rupert is very calm and patient. When I sing he isn’t scared, on the contrary he seems to appreciate Verdi!"
Rupert joined stage rehearsals with The Royal Opera two weeks before opening night, and took it all in his stride like a true professional. On his first day of rehearsals, he stood patiently side stage munching a hay-net while waiting calmly for his call, surrounded by bright stage lighting and members of stage crew with Polos on hand.
In preparation for his Royal Opera debut, he was taken to churches where an organist played opera to him. He has also had special rubber shoes fitted to stop him slipping on stage. He will be accompanied by three handlers in full costume during his stage appearances.
Though Falstaff will be Rupert’s first ever opera, he has previously appeared on screen in Andrea Arnold’s adaptation of Wuthering Heights and and Channel 4’s War Horse: The True Story. He has also taken part in jousting competitions across Britain and is the lead horse for English Heritage, where he works with both pyrotechnics and gunfire.
Rupert is not the only equine star to be appearing on the main stage in Covent Garden this season – audience favourite Peregrine the Shetland pony is also performing in The Royal Ballet’s La Fille mal gardée.