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Rehearsals (January-June 2015)

Gluck title shotRehearsal Photographs (January - June 2015)

Performer feedback


Rehearsal Photographs (January - June 2015)

Photographs courtesy of Julia Prest, Stavroula Pipyrou and Sarah Townshend

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Performers’ feedback on using the English libretto

Director (Jane Pettegree)

The translation communicated the story in a clear and unfussy fashion, feeling both immediate and timeless. It was sensitive to the simplicity of the texture of the original piece, so that the narrative communicated as clearly as possible to both cast and audience. In particular, the simplicity of the language allowed us to keep the physical language of the piece open for exploration; cast and director were thus able to explore the physical dynamics of character relationships in ways that felt natural and organic to the piece and the overall project.

Conductor and Music Director (Michael Downes)

The fact that the authors of the translation had been so closely involved in the plans and ideas for the production meant that the finished product was closely attuned to our needs. This allowed me to focus as conductor on nuances of interpretation, offering performers confidence that the text was precisely aligned to the music and dramatic intent, rather than having a merely general association (as can be the case with performances in a language unfamiliar to the singers or in translations less specifically designed for the production concerned). This in turn produced performances which were understood and interpreted in detailed and not just broad terms by their audiences.

Harpsichord Continuo (Tom Wilkinson)

It was a real pleasure to play harpsichord continuo in Iphigénie. Continuo parts are not fully notated - only the bass line and chords are indicated - and this allows the player real freedom to respond to the drama on stage. A sparse texture can be magical at one moment, while others call for extravagant gestures. Having the opera sung in English allowed for far more fluency and spontaneity than normal on my part, and I hope that this contributed to the overall effect.

Soloists (including professionals, students and non-academic amateurs)

  • One great thing about hearing music in a language you can understand is that you can switch off and listen and watch - no reading subtitles. This enhances everything about the performance as we can simply be transported as all good opera should do.
  • This translation has wonderfully vivid colourful words - 'hubris' for example, simple to understand ideas and a lovely humanity to Iphigenia. With a gentle touch to the obvious but subtle love between Orestes and Pylades.
  • Iphigénie is a huge role - and I did have a few concerns about the translation in practice, particularly with some of the more demanding arias. However, having now worked through the opening of the opera and 'Iphigénie's poor heart', I feel completely confident that the translation is both 'singable' - and captures the original French phrasing very well.
  • The English translation is a must for me to understand what the story is as I wouldn't understand its original language. It also helps to explain the plot.
  • It was easy to learn the score with English words and nobody was worrying about mispronunciation or forgetting the words of a foreign language.
  • I felt that the translated libretto provided ample opportunity for word painting that made it easy to indicate the emotion behind each line. Clear examples of this can be found clearly in all of the recitative sections. The use of words such as 'heroic' on clear downbeats (such as in the recitative before the aria 'companions since the days of childhood') made it easier to emphasise elements of my character that were important to bring out.

Chorus (including students and non-academic amateurs)

  • Having the libretto in English has made it far easier to grasp the story of the opera and understand the characters better. It has also meant that I'm better able to understand my own character's motivations and put that into my acting and singing.
  • It's very important for me to be able to understand the words I'm singing, especially in an opera where expression of emotions is so essential. I personally can't speak French so I found the English translation very helpful. The libretto is very clear in its meaning, and by having simple, modern English phrases I had no problems understanding what was going on.
  • For the male chorus I think the plain directness of the language helps convey their brutish part in the opera story and characterization.
  • As someone who was entirely new to the opera it was exceptionally useful having the libretto in English as I could understand the plot not just in general terms but moment by moment. I think it helps with the characters' intentions, especially at the key dramatic moments.
  • The translation of the men's choruses made it clear that there was a deliberate uneasy juxtaposition between the jaunty melody and the words which helps in portraying [the director’s] ideas of the marching band instilling fear through supposedly cheerful music.
  • Singing in your native language always allows for an element of expression that sometimes might lack when speaking a language you're not fluent in.
  • The English libretto gave us a chance to think a little bit more about the way in which we were performing rather than just worrying about the language itself.
  • Without the English libretto I would have struggled to grasp the plot based purely on what we were doing during rehearsals. This opera is somewhat complex in its nature and moments such as Iphigenie's prayers to the Gods or Diana's presence would have been almost completely lost on me.
  • As far as I'm concerned, having an English libretto has been key to my understanding of my role, as I wouldn't have understood what the plot of the opera was and therefore what point there was to having a ladies' chorus.
  • Acting in English allows me to give a more subtle performance through inserting the appropriate inflection in my voice.
  • The English libretto allowed for a much deeper understanding of the themes of the opera and the motives of the characters. However much work is put into replicating the original performance conditions (e.g. period instruments and pitch) it’s impossible to really understand what Gluck and Guillard were trying to achieve unless you understand the nuances of the words and figures of speech. The English libretto captures Orestes’ inner turmoil in a way that the Wikipedia entry or programme synopsis cannot hope to do.