The time I first ran out onto the main stage of the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden I was spellbound by the magical beauty of the auditorium. We were rehearsing The Nutcracker battle scene and although I was only a mouse, I was bubbling over with excitement thinking of all the famous dancers who had performed on that same stage before me. However, my attention was soon focused on making sure I was following the choreography, re-sheathing my sword while semi-blinded by my mouse mask and making sure no one trod on my tail.
Corrections were given by Monica Mason who held a microphone and observed from the auditorium, her voice seemed to echo through the Theatre before reaching you. Sneaking through the corridor behind the orchestra pit to get into position for the battle scene as the music rises to a crescendo was another unforgettably thrilling Nutcracker moment.
In that first year I remember being awestruck when finding myself queing up next to Jonathan Cope in the Staff & Artist’s Canteen and also when travelling with Leanne Benjamin in the lift. We had been told never to speak to these VIPs unless they spoke to us first, but just a smile from them was enough.
I recall thinking too that the auditorium seemed small compared to the cavernous backstage area. As students, we usually enter the Opera House by way of the beautifully twisted Bridge of Aspirations from our Upper School. Once within the ‘House’ we travel down four floors to the stage level. There are constant announcements over the PA system and it is exciting to hear “Carlos Acosta please call 395” or “Marianela Nunez to the stage please”. Below stage level there are another four floors of endless corridors with what seem like hundreds of closed doors – what could be behind them all?
In addition to the amazing backdrops and scenery created at the Royal Opera House workshop in Essex, the Covent Garden site employs a wealth of talent to support a production schedule presenting on average six performances every week. Ballet, opera and orchestra rehearsal studios, lighting and scenery, prop and pointe shoe departments, costume and wig-makers, medical and physiotherapy suites, cleaners and maintenance staff. Artistic and financial planning offices, publicity and educational departments, the ‘front of house’ ticket office, shop, restaurants and bars. The Royal Opera House is a bustling walled town nestled within a corner of Covent Garden. It reflects the very best of our dreams and aspirations, both past and present, and I feel incredibly special every time I perform there.
Produced by the ROH, the following film clip offers a fascinating behind the scenes view of this world-famous ‘House’.