A day in the life of... WNO Music Staff

11 November 2019

One of the many wonderful things about an opera company like WNO is the vast array of jobs and the many different people it takes to make the magic happen.

We caught up with David Doidge, one of WNO’s Music Staff, as he was on his way to Plymouth (the first venue on tour this Season). We talked about what he does every day, his role and how that differs in rehearsals and taking WNO out on the road. 

‘On a normal working day in the production process when we are based in our home at Wales Millennium Centre, I get up at around 8.30am and after showering and breakfasting head into to work. I try to get there for 10am for a 10.30am start as the rehearsal period can be quite intense and it’s good to prepare for the day ahead by going over what we will be doing. During rehearsals I play the piano, as the singers don’t get to sing with the Orchestra until around a week or so before the first performance. I have to try to replicate the sound of the orchestra on piano, so when the singers meet the orchestra in the sitzprobe (cast ad orchestra meeting for the first time) the sound world is familiar as when the singers get on stage they don’t want to get any shocks in the music. Occasionally I even have to sing in a role if someone is ill or can’t make it to rehearsals. I have to learn every person’s part; this can take months, sometimes years! My other responsibilities include coaching the singers and occasionally preparing the chorus to ensure they are confident with language, interpretation and musical style.

When we are on tour it’s a completely different story, it’s much more sociable with everyone meeting in the pub afterwards for a drink; the cast and crew become your on-the-road family as do the people along the way. Opposite the stage door of the Bristol Hippodrome, there’s an amazing fish and chip shop where you’ll find many WNO members - and if you’re lucky, you may get a free donut!'

'My favourite place is probably Llandudno as it’s next to the sea and it’s so lovely up there, with picturesque views and quaint little cafes. I always stay at the same B&B as they are very welcoming and remember me every year. On the road it can be stressful though as every location is different so setting up can be tricky; some theatres don’t even have a pit for the Orchestra. In The Magic Flute, for example, I had to conduct the offstage chorus, then run to the pit for my part on the piano so having to navigate a new route every location was one of the first things I did.

Whilst working for Welsh National Opera, I’m very lucky on occasion to be released from duty so that I can be a part of other musical projects outside of the company. One of my most recent highlights was working on tosca for the Abu Dhabi Festival with Sir Bryn Terfel, Kristine Opolais and Vittorio Grigolo. I am also fortunate enough to hold a teaching post at the RWCMD and enjoy seeing new and up-and-coming talent develop.

The best part of the job is when you‘ve been working really hard on a piece, and you get to witness the progress over the rehearsal period both musically and dramatically. There’s something quite special about bringing lots of people together (who may never have met before) to create a beautiful piece of art. The experience is thrilling, and very fulfilling!