Meet the cast and creative teams behind Opera Holland Park’s 2022 Season. Over the coming weeks, we’ll introduce our singers, directors, conductors and crews at the heart of the productions this summer.
Today is Inspiring Future Theatre Day, and to celebrate it, we are talking to Assistant Director, Louise Bakker, about how she got into directing, why she loves doing what she does, and why she thinks young people should pursue a career in opera. Having assisted on The Cunning Little Vixen in 2021, Louise returns as Assistant Director of the double bill of Margot la Rouge and Le Villi.
Can you introduce us to your role at OHP?
I’m Assistant Director on the double bill of Margot la Rouge and Le Villi and am basically there to help Martin Lloyd-Evans, the director, as much as I can to make sure the production takes shape smoothly.
Can you tell us about what an Assistant Director does?
An AD will do anything from sorting rehearsal schedules to liaising with Stage Management and the team to make sure the director’s vision is being realised as they want it to be. In my score, I note all the blocking to have a definitive record of who moves where, and who does what within a production. This has been particularly useful in recent years where any cast absence due to Covid means that we have a record of what that person did on stage so someone else can jump in to cover them. That person is sometimes me!
How did you get into directing opera?
I had performed across theatre, musicals, choral singing and opera since I was ten, but as an adult, I tried to have a ‘proper job’ for ages because I was discouraged from the unpredictability of a career in the performing arts. My brother had a big accident seven years ago and it changed all my priorities so I decided to bite the bullet and give it a go.
What do you love most about your job?
I love working with really talented people, and I love making something for audiences to be moved by. Each show is supposed to be a gift for them.
What are the challenges and excitements of working on a double bill?
The best thing about working on a double bill is making connections between two disparate pieces, either via the design, ideologically, or any other way. It’s lovely to help the audience make these connections too. What’s challenging is that sometimes a double bill can be like putting on two whole productions at the same time!
What is it like working with two different casts on what is essentially one production?
It must be quite odd for the cast because in this double bill there are a lot of small roles, which is unusual in opera, so they have to sit poised for a long time and then ‘bam!’ They’re on! I think everyone really enjoys having a big gang to work with – there’s a lovely energy to that, particularly after the last few years of relative isolation.
How have you enjoyed working on operas that are rarely performed?
I am always so thrilled to learn new repertoire. You can see productions of Bohème everywhere, so it’s lovely to see other shows being put on to mix it up a bit, and also to learn more about the body of repertoire. Both these shows were composed as entries for composition competitions – Le Villi is Puccini’s first opera, and it’s just abundantly obvious that the guy was a genius from the word go. It’s a cracking piece.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given, musical or otherwise?
Be collaborative. The best idea in the room is still clearly the best idea in the room, even if it’s not yours.
Why should young people pursue a career in theatre or opera?
Do it if you love it. I still pinch myself when I’m rehearsing because, in my opinion, I have such a cool job. It’s arduous work, I’ve had to make a lot of sacrifices, the last few Covid years have been really tough and there’s no guarantee of success or a consistent career. But I love it and want to do it so I’m gonna!