The Repetiteur Experience
By Amy Borg, 15
During the summer months and up till mid-autumn, I had the amazing opportunity of working as a repetiteur with the cast of the first opera of the City of Humanity trilogy, ‘Swar’. This article will be about my overall experience, what I’ve gained from it, and why I would most definitely do it again.
Back in early June, I myself didn’t know what the work of a repetiteur was, or what it required. Now I know that it is fairly similar to that of an accompanist, but not enough for it to be classified that way. One has to learn how to play the entire music score of the work, and know it well enough to be able to spot the occasions in which the singers could improve. One is also expected to give feedback to them regarding rhythm and pitch where needed. In my case however, I didn’t need to do this, as the artistic director and composer of the project, Reuben Pace, or his assistant, Maria Borg, were present for most of the rehearsals, and gave this feedback themselves.
Although I spent many hours practicing and it got frustrating at times, I wouldn’t hesitate to do it anew. When studying the music itself, because it is modern and not what I’m used to playing, I had to adjust and learn how to handle difficult rhythms and unusual progressions. Hence, nowadays when I study pieces with such rhythms personally, I am not faced with great challenges in playing them, and this is because I’ve gotten used to them.
Despite this, I am most grateful for all the different people I’ve got to meet and work with along the way. Initially, I was assigned with the acclaimed mezzo-soprano Clare Ghigo, who played the role of Nunziata. At the time of the rehearsals she was also taking part in ‘Aħna Refuġjati’, another Maltese production, and therefore I will always admire her for her determination and hard-working attitude.
Later on, I got to work with the choir, a group of dedicated people with whom there was never a dull moment. Then with Gozitan bassist Noel Galea who played the role of the enigmatic Xiħ, which contrasts a lot with his humble and down to earth real life character. The rehearsals took place at the Drama Centre in Blata l-Bajda up until August, and from then on at the Malta Visual and Performing Arts School and the hall adjacent to it.
The most exciting period however, started in mid-September, with the commence of the full-cast rehearsals. Not only did I get the chance to work with all the singers, I also met the Director, opera Conductor, Set Designer and everyone else participating in the production. Seeing the rehearsals in full-swing filled me above all with a sense of pride and satisfaction, that what we all had worked so hard for was taking final form. For my final rehearsal, I even got to play in the pit of Republic Hall in MCC, the venue where the opera was ultimately premiered.
Nonetheless, what I enjoyed most of all from these final rehearsals especially has to be the sense of unity between everyone involved. Being a pianist as a solo venture can get a bit lonely sometimes, which is preferred by some people, but for me personally working with such a diverse and large group of people I felt at ease and content. They made me feel at home too, despite my age, and the fact that the great majority of them are older and more experienced than I am. In November, watching the actual performance, I felt exceptionally happy, and to this day I treasure all the memories and the cast and production team signatures on my personal copy of the score.
As a librettist alongside Ġorġ Peresso in the up-coming second opera: ‘Il-Blata Mġarrba’, I’m currently looking forward to being a repetiteur this summer and hearing some of my own words being sung by the exceptionally talented singers.
In the next blog, Yana Camilleri the alto in the City of Humanity vocal ensemble talks about her experience in the premier of the first opera.