Students help stage opera

Alex Boakes, Amy Vickers, Ajay Gould and Josh Dignall

Students from Rye Studio School have been much more involved in the Arts Festival this year, Peter Brice (Festival Committee member responsible for classical music) told the audience at the performance of Verdi’s opera La Traviata. The opera was performed at the Milligan Theatre by the Euphonia Chamber Orchestra and singers lead by conductor and stage director Alisdair Kitchen.

Conductor Alisdair Kitchen at rehearsal
Conductor Alisdair Kitchen at rehearsal

Brice thanked the students for their involvement in the opera in many ways – including set design and production, costumes, and backstage work – and explained that Alisdair would be supervising the set changes between acts. In his fourth year at the festival Alisdair (responsaible for the successful Cosi Fan Tutte a couple of years ago) had displayed his usual “calmness, expertise and enthusiasm” said Brice, and he had been personally very impressed by the children’s response to the opera’s dress rehearsal.

When the opera was first performed at La Fenice in Venice in 1853 some parts were jeered by the audience, allegedly because the casting of a 38-year-old soprano as a young woman dying of consumption was stretching the imagination too much. But this was not the case with this production as it featured a young Icelandic soprano Rannveig Karadottir in the main role as Violetta. She and the rest of the cast and orchestra were young and obviously talented, and are names to be watched out for in the future. At the end the audience were vociferous in very appreciation of the performance and gave a standing ovation.

Students painted the mobile screens used on set
Students painted the mobile screens used on set

Festival Committee member responsible for Stage and Project Management Niki Stuart explained before the performance about the involvement of the Rye Studio School in the production. Alisdair Kitchen worked with teachers and students to prepare the sets and costumes as part of their coursework and there was a set design workshop where scale models were created. Mobile screens from the school were used as the backdrop for the set, and these were painted by the students who created the art work on display in Act 1.

The mobile screens were painted on both sides so they could be turned round between acts to change scenes and one of the best costumes produced by the students was the vibrant red dress worn by Violetta in the second act. And back stage from the school were stage crew Alex Boakes (assistant stage manager), Ajay Gould (stage manager), Josh Bignall (stage hand) and Amy Vickers (production manager).

The cast who are pictured below included Rannveig Karadottir (centre back in black dress), Peter Aisher, Christopher Jacklin, Tara Austin, Gemma Summerfield, William Wallace, Milo Harries, Mark Nathan and Jerome Knox.

Members of La Traviata's cast
Members of La Traviata’s cast

Photos by Ray Prewer and KT Bruce