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What life is like as a Royal Opera House apprentice

Apprentices get vital hands-on experience in a number of our backstage departments including Lighting, Wigs and Make-up, and Scenic Art.

By Lizzi Easterbrook (Former Content Producer (Learning and Participation))

9 March 2017 at 10.24am | 1 Comment

At the Royal Opera House, we offer a range of opportunities for immersion in teams across the Royal Opera House, supporting departments including Wigs and Make-up, Scenic Metal Work and Scenic Art. The idea behind our apprentice scheme echoes some of our core organizational values: the importance of skills and the value of the arts.

When you attend any production, you'll see our apprentices' work on stage. Romy Loughman, our first year Scenic Art Apprentice recently worked on Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and found it 'incredibly satisfying' seeing her work in front of more than two thousand people each evening.

'There is a special collaboration across departments so it feels amazing to know that you have been part of it’, she says. Romy thrives on the variety of the job, working on a cloth for The Nutcracker one day, then perfecting the details of a huge opera set the next.

Similarly, Mel Wells, who is an apprentice in the Lighting department, has enjoyed turning her hand to a number of different areas. 'The only thing that remains the same each day is arriving, and breaks for lunch and dinner’, she says.

As part of the Lighting team, Mel is responsible for checking everything is working before each performance, from the smallest lamp to the scrollers changing the colours on stage. She's even had the chance to control the theatre's main spotlights for a performance, during a recent Nutcracker Schools' Matinee.

Mel has also had the thrill of being on stage during a performance (albeit unseen by the audience) when she took a lighting stick on stage during a recent production.

For her, the apprentice programme has been a major life change – not just professionally but also personally, she moved from Blackpool to London three days before she started with the Royal Opera House. She is incredibly grateful to the Bolton Octagon who gave her freelance work after she left college feeling out of her depth. Thanks to her experiences at the Royal Opera House and in Bolton, she has gained confidence as well as experience.

At the Royal Opera House, our apprentices each have a mentor, as well as being supported by the whole department and our apprenticeships team. Romy comments about how much she appreciates the first-hand experience and support from people at the top of their profession: ‘The whole department have supported me and their advice is like gold-dust’.

Similarly, Richard Butler, the Ladies' Costume Workshop apprentice, comments that ‘it’s been amazing to have been coached through the process. I’m learning so much but with a lot of support too – not like at school or college where you have to support yourself. It’s always great seeing your work on stage but quite nerve-wracking too’.

A background in theatre's isn't essential for a budding apprentice. More important is an aptitude, enthusiasm and personality.

The scheme has offered our apprentices the chance to hone their skills on-the-job and gain a qualification while being paid. Their passion and energy shine through – as does the quality of their work. As Romy states, ‘it’s what you put into it to get the most out of it’.

Applications for apprenticeships at the Royal Opera House are now open.

Apprenticeships at the Royal Opera House are generously supported by the Derek Butler Trust, Jasper Conran OBE, the Gordon Foundation and Thurrock Borough Council.

By Lizzi Easterbrook (Former Content Producer (Learning and Participation))

9 March 2017 at 10.24am

This article has been categorised Off stage and tagged apprentice, apprentices, apprenticeship, jobs, learning, Learning & Participation, National Apprenticeship Week, The Royal Opera, training

This article has 1 comment

  1. Theresa Magee responded on 10 March 2017 at 2:31pm Reply

    Good luck to the apprentices and everyone involved with Die Meistersinger for tomorrow's opening.Looking forward to seeing it on 28th March.

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