World famous conductor takes Opera Society rehearsal

Ahead of their production of Mozart’s ‘Magic Flute’, the Opera Society was lucky enough to have a rehearsal with world-renowned conductor, Sir Roger Norrington


The University of Bristol Opera Society (BOpS) was hugely fortunate to have Sir Roger Norrington, one of the UK’s finest conductors, oversee a rehearsal for their upcoming production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute.

Having conducted both the first and last night of The Proms over the last ten years, recorded The Magic Flute in the early 90s with EMI and worked with some of the greatest singers and players around the world, Norrington’s presence in the Victoria Rooms was special. This was not only a fantastic opportunity for the production team, but hugely inspiring for the singers and musicians too.

Sir Roger looks on

Sir Roger looks on

Throughout the four-hour rehearsal, Norrington’s insight into a variety of areas was hugely beneficial.

His drive for musical authenticity in his desire to create sound as the composer intended was apparent when he proposed omitting vibrato in certain sections.

The Opera Society were honoured to host the world famous conductor

The Opera Society were honoured to host the world famous conductor

When you see a string player wobbling their left hand on their instrument, creating a fluctuation in pitch, that is vibrato. Norrington is famous for his demand for ‘pure tone’, without the use of vibrato. As Norrington says, the use of vibrato wasn’t common in European orchestras until the 30s. This means that composers prior to this, Mozart included, would never have intended their music be played with this technique, yet players often employ its use as standard. It is always beneficial to try out new ways of playing certain passages and the players responded well to this proposal.

As a conductor, Norrington also gave our conductor some helpful pointers. Michael Coleby, a third year music undergraduate, is conducting the production. The idea of conducting forty musicians over two hours in an opera rife with tempo changes and recitative passages (words sung in a way that resembles speech) would frighten most, and this, combined with the fact that Michael has never had a proper conducting lesson, is quite remarkable.

However, having played in the National Youth Orchestra and observed some of the great conductors of our time, Norrington was hugely complementary at both Michael’s ability as a conductor and the standard the whole production had reached already.

Watch a clip from the workshop here:

Our production will be unique in its use of shadow puppets and its striking application of colour. There will also be an added visual element for the audience as the orchestra will be on the same level. They are usually tucked away in an orchestral pit, but for our production the audience will see exactly what is happening both on the stage and in the orchestra.

It is a production that has been produced, directed and conducted entirely by undergraduate students and it is shaping up to be a fantastic show. Whether you are an opera regular or have never been before, come and support what I am sure will be a truly magical evening.

Dates for the performance:

26th // doors open 18:30 // curtain up 19:00

27th // doors open 18:30 // curtain up // 19:00

28th Gala Evening* // doors open 18:00 // curtain up // 19:00 

29th Matinee // doors open 13:30 // curtain up // 14:00 

*The Gala Evening emulates an authentic night at the opera. Dress in your finest attire (black tie if you like) and enjoy complimentary bubbly and canapés. Half of tonight’s proceeds to our charity of choice, Penny Brohn.

Tickets: http://ubutheatre.com/themagicflute