Maestro at the Opera

I don’t watch regular TV too often. I am never really organized for TV shows, to be in front of the TV when necessary. But that’s what things like TiVo is for; you set up the recording, then come back when you want to watch them. One of those things for me is the extended version of Later with Jools Holland, which I always record and end up watching a few weeks later (the few weeks later is a personal problem/habit). Last week while I was setting up my TV to record the Friday version, I came across an earlier programme, Maestro at the Opera, and decided to record it without really knowing what it is – it sounded interesting, that was it. And interesting it was!

Trevor Nelson, Marcus Du Sautoy, Josie Lawrence, Craig Revel Horwood in Maestro At The Opera. Photograph: Gary Moyes/BBC

Maestro at the Opera is a pretty accurate name: It’s a competition, where “four well-known (for the British) personalities compete to take on the prestigious task of conducting a full act of a legendary opera at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden”.

How awesome is that? It is interesting; because these personalities are mathematicians and comedians, and they are interested in conducting a full opera. And it is a reality show – by category something easier to watch than, say, a documentary on how an opera is produced. But you learn the same things.

You learn how many rehearsals take place, as the contestants need to work with the singers, the orchestra, the choir, the stage director. All separately. Not to mention they work on their own to memorize the music and how to conduct the music so that when they meet the others they know what they are doing (or at least look like they do). And then  to bring them together. It is NOT easy, it is a lot of work, and when you watch the final product, it looks so easy, so natural, as if these people were brought to stage because they were born to play these parts.

When I started doing theater at Brown, I realized in small scale, how much there was to production, and all the little things that happened, happened because someone was there to do it. My appreciation for all things live performance has grown so much since then. To see Maestro at the Opera, to see that the Royal Opera House is making this possible, is so unique. It is fun – because it is a competition, with personalities who are interesting to watch, with a light, one hour show format. But it is so educational, for someone who hasn’t worked backstage of a production to know how much work is done (that the audience doesn’t see or feel).

Watching one episode already made me want to go to the Royal Opera House and watch a production, and made me miss my days stage managing. I just wish more opera houses would do shows like this, or that the BBC can show this in other countries. Opera might not be ever a popular genre, but one can dream that it would at least be considered interesting, right?


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