Spotlight on Don Giovanni Répétiteur Lindsay Woodward
Humble and personable is the best way to describe Lindsay Woodward, the répétiteur for Don Giovanni. She plays the piano at rehearsals for Mozart’s opera. Her music provides the underlying sound of the opera and helps keep everyone on tempo. Let’s learn more about what it means to be a répétiteur and the work Ms. Woodward has put into her musical career.
What is a répétiteur?
A répétiteur is an accompanist, tutor, or coach to opera singers. They play the piano at rehearsals to capture the feeling of the whole orchestra being present through a single instrument. Woodward explains, “You’re doing a good job as a répétiteur when no one says anything to you. You want to be seamless. You want to blend in the background and be supportive of everyone.”
To prepare for this essential role in the rehearsal process, Lindsay translates the entire libretto or lyrics to the opera. She makes sure to know what everyone is saying and understands the nuance of the characters. Lindsay is also a vocal coach. She has a strong understanding of breathing techniques, inflection and pronunciation, and rhythm. While she technically doesn’t get to use this skill with the singers in Don Giovanni, her awareness of what they must do to hone their craft is important.
What’s special about Don Giovanni?
“There is never a boring moment in Mozart’s music,” Woodward raves. “This music is more dramatic than Mozart’s other contemporaries and his composition choices are smart, like pulling back the orchestra when an aria starts so the singer’s voice takes the audience’s full attention.”
As someone who knows the music of Don Giovanni very well, Lindsay suggests the best part about this opera is how fun and unexpected it can be. She talks about an iconic scene where Don Giovanni and Leporello are in a cemetery and a statue comes to life.
Lindsay adds, “Giovanni’s a weird guy and invites the statue to dinner. It’s so strange. It’s so fun and very goofy. We all have this idea of opera being a very serious thing, but classical music is campier than you think. You invite a statue to dinner, and he says yes; it’s absurd and that’s what’s great about it.”
Being a répétiteur versus playing the harpsichord
Lindsay will also play harpsichord in the pit during performances of Don Giovanni. It is a tricky balance to play these different instruments because the piano underscores the whole performance while the harpsichord highlights certain moments of music or a character’s actions.
There is more room to improvise and be creative with the harpsichord. For example, the music could signal for a chord to be played, but it is up to the musician to determine how loud or how many times within that spell the chord is played. Woodward clarifies, “The goal is to help whatever is happening on stage. There is a bit of improv or a dialogue with the singers and conductor to figure out how to best support the drama on stage with your music.”
How do you become a répétiteur?
For Lindsay, it was about following her interests and passions. She learned to play the piano at a young age. Then, a teacher encouraged her to be the pianist for her middle school’s choir, which she continued through high school. In college, her friends encouraged her to apply for an opera program in Italy; she was not necessarily interested in opera at the time, but who doesn’t want to study abroad? There, she completely fell in love with opera!
She saw Lucia de Lammermoor and loved hearing the music and singing. Opera seemed to be a great outlet for Woodward’s long-term love of poetry. She loved studying poetry in school and opera felt like a way for the words to be carried out in a melodic way to be shared with others. The intersection of literature and classical music came together beautifully in this art form, aligning perfectly with Lindsay’s passions.
We hope you enjoyed getting to learn more about the essential work a répétiteur does for opera performances and learning more about the talented Lindsay Woodward.
Are you interested in hearing Mozart’s music live for yourself? Join us for Don Giovanni this November 4, 7, 10, and 12 at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House>>