What skills does an orchestral player need to play operatic repertoire? Can you play in the orchestra pit without understanding the on-stage action? Young musicians from the Hallé Youth Orchestra have been finding out alongside artists from the Royal Opera House during a number of coaching days and workshops in both London and Manchester. As part of the Stage Players project, the talented teenagers focused on The Tsar’s Bride and Peter Grimes; two very different operas that would help them understand the demands and skills needed to be a pit musician.
The youth orchestra visited the Royal Opera House for two days full of highlights, including a chance to watch Mark Elder conduct a sitzprobe (a seated rehearsal where the singers sing with the orchestra) in the main auditorium with a full orchestra and singers. Directly after rehearsing, Mark was happy to answer any questions they had about the music or the role of the orchestra. The young musicians spent the next day in a Royal Opera stage-size studio immersed in a full rehearsal schedule. They rehearsed alongside mezzo-soprano Anne-Marie Owens and baritone Elchin Aziziv and had coaching sessions from players of the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House. The young players rose to the challenge of Rimsky-Korsakov’s music as they played alongside world-class singers.
Listen: to a recording of young musicians from across Greater Manchester improvising around the music of Peter Grimes from the Stage Players project.
Many of the young players continued to work back in Manchester, in an intensive weekend focusing on Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes. The Manchester workshops were opened up to include a wider group of young musicians from across Greater Manchester where they discovered the characters and dramatic themes of the opera, as well as exploring how Britten uses the chorus throughout. As most of the young people were completely new to Peter Grimes, these workshops gave them a real flavour and understanding of the opera. They began to have opinions on the characters and Britten’s orchestrations, and when they sat down to play excerpts from the opera, they were able to adapt their playing and support the singers in a way they hadn’t before.
We’re really excited to see the group again in June when they visit the Royal Opera House again to watch Peter Grimes.
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