A young woman from Nelson has been given a rare opportunity to join the Canadian Opera Company orchestra for its winter season.
Violinist Rebecca MacLeod, who is currently working towards her masters of music at University of Toronto, was one of just three students selected to mentor under a professional player from the orchestra. Since early January, she’s been attending three-hour rehearsals four or five times per week to prepare for upcoming productions of Così fan tutte and A Masked Ball.
“It’s been really busy, but rewarding,” MacLeod told the Star, noting that she’s taken this on in addition to all her course work. The opportunity is considered extra curricular; she isn’t receiving school credit for it.
MacLeod said that rehearsing with the opera has a much faster pace than she’s used to — and she’s enjoying the challenge.
“We have orchestra in school, but there’s a lot more rehearsals to prepare for concerts and we’re coached through everything,” she said. “With [the opera orchestra], you just have to show up and know what’s going on.”
She added that, unlike in a concert performance, playing for the opera means always being aware of what the actors are doing on stage. The orchestra needs to be ready to adjust the music if somebody misses a cue or skips over part of a song.
“Operas are really long and it really becomes a mental game, trying to stay alert for the full three hours,” MacLeod said.
Still, for anyone like MacLeod who hopes to land a job with a professional orchestra, it’s an invaluable learning experience and one that hasn’t been available for students in the past.
The student mentorship is brand new for the Canadian Opera Company.
“The students selected for the launch of the program represent some promising talent,” the opera company’s music director Johannas Debus said in a press release. “I’m very interested to see how they will blend in with our players and the perspective they’ll gain on the world of the orchestra pit.”
The Canadian Opera Company is the largest producer of opera in Canada. The company enjoys an international reputation for artistic excellence and creative innovation.