In conversation with David Doidge
David Doidge is WNO’s Genesis Trainee Répétiteur, part of a team of four music staff who provide musical support and back-up during the rehearsal and production process.
How did you become a répétiteur?
I knew from early on that I wanted to work with singers in some way; I’ve always been fascinated by the voice and what it can do, and I’ve always had a passion for languages, particularly Italian, German and French. While I was studying Music and Accompaniment at college, Russell Moreton, Head of Music at WNO, occasionally asked me to act as accompanist for the Chorus, and in concerts and recitals. After college I had the great opportunity to join WNO’s music staff in a position generously funded by the Genesis Foundation. This has given me the chance to work with internationally acclaimed artists and to observe and learn from distinguished conductors.
What does your role involve?
Each of us is assigned to a particular opera and our job is to learn it inside out. We coach visiting artists who are singing the principal roles as well as in-house singers. We have to make sure that what we play on the piano during rehearsals reflects what the singer will hear on stage when the orchestra is playing. Many vocal scores have a fairly basic piano reduction, so the first thing I do is to look at the full orchestral score, and listen to a recording, if there is one. I then add any orchestral colours and melodies which are missing from the accompaniment, and take away anything that you don’t actually hear on stage.
Répétiteurs also have to conduct any off-stage music, and play keyboard instruments in the pit. And we play for Chorus rehearsals, and act as accompanists at recitals and concerts.
Some répétiteurs, such as my colleague James Southall, also act as assistant conductors. During the dress rehearsal, you can see them sitting behind the conductor, taking notes about anything that needs attention on stage or in the orchestra pit, as well as making sure there’s a good balance between the stage and the orchestra.
You’ve just finished working on Peter Pan – what’s next?
This Autumn, I’m mainly working on I puritani which is a nice treat because it’s not performed very often. It’s part of the bel canto repertoire, a period when composers wrote vocal acrobatics for singers. Some embellishments, such as trills and runs, are already written into the score, but the singer takes them and embellishes them further to show off their particular vocal skills. As much as the composer writes what they want, there’s room for the singer to personalise it. But it’s got to be tasteful and in keeping with the style, and appear to be effortlessly sung.
I’ve also been working with Rebecca Evans who is singing Angelica in Orlando. She already had a firm grasp of the role, the language and the style, so we worked together to develop her interpretation before she started the production process.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
I like seeing the production taking shape throughout the rehearsal process, from the first week through to the stage rehearsals, although if you’re playing the keyboard in the pit, it’s not very easy to see what’s happening on stage! Working on Peter Pan this summer was a joy. It was challenging to learn as it’s a new piece and there were no recordings to help me prepare. Hearing what the director had in mind, then seeing it happen on stage was fascinating.
And it’s the special moments that touch you – when the Chorus is singing really well and the hairs on your arms stand up. Or playing for the whole run of an opera and getting to the end and feeling a real sense of achievement. Hearing someone sing a really beautiful aria and being really touched by it. These are the reasons why I do my job – they’re the fuel that keeps me going.
Where do you see your career going?
At the moment, I’m really enjoying what I do, but at some point I would like to try my hand at conducting. I’d like to stay at WNO as long as I can. I’m very happy here and have made many friends. We’ll just have to see what the future holds.