Preparing For A New Role

December 1, 2019 — 61 Comments

Today marks the first day of December and soon I will begin rehearsals for the Christmas Elf with Northern Opera Group in Leeds. With this in mind I thought I would share with you how I prepare and learn a new role.

After receiving the music I try to read the libretto (sung text) to get an idea of the overall story. This helps me to understand my character’s arc, their basic relationships with others, how people discuss and describe them and their key moments in the production.

If I am working on a piece that is in a different language to my own. I will take time to translate the libretto. This can be quite a time-consuming task. I aim to source/create a word-for-word translation. I often consult Nico Castel’s libretti Series, which can be found in music libraries such as at the Royal College of Music. This series contains a word-for-word translation, a phonetic translation and a poetic translation.

This is an example of a Nico Castel transition for Zerlina’s aria from Don Giovanni by Mozart

This series often helps speed up the process but I try to cross-reference with a dictionary to make sure I really understand what is being said and how it progresses the action of the story.

For each role, I often have a different time scale as I have to juggle all the projects that I have on the go along with other personal tasks so I try to work out a schedule for my learning. I try to break up the role, so as opposed to one big task I have several smaller goals. I use post-it notes to show different Acts, Scenes, and dialogue. If I am working on an opera by Mozart or Handel I will use different colours to differentiate between Recitatives, Arias, Duets , small ensembles, and Finales. These sections then make the overall task more approachable and easier to schedule.

An example from the score for The Christmas Elf

I will then highlight my text and the music. Whilst I am doing this I create a list of the pieces that I am in, I acknowledge if there are any moments of tricky coloratura and harmonies as I personally make them a priority when scheduling in time for memorising. I always like to learn the first entry at the start and then move on towards the more difficult areas as I like to have a small victory to keep my motivation simmering.

After some careful planning, I will work out when to schedule singing lessons and coachings, so that I can work on the role with my teachers who know my long term goals or coaches who have expertise in a particular language or period of music.

I will then sit down with my score at the piano and note-bash, and learn the melody methodically. Sometimes I create learning tracks that I can use whilst travelling on the tube, or in between singing practise.

Then with my schedule set, I make sure that I keep to it and with my fingers crossed and hope that nothing unforeseen turns up. Once I have the music underway I then have to start work on learning the words. But I will save how I do that for another time 🙂

61 responses to Preparing For A New Role


    Quite technical and requires love and dedication which you have in abundance.

      Charlotte Hoather December 1, 2019 at 9:23 pm

      Thank you Cindy, there are some really tricky sections and it is a work of love that’s so true.
      All my best wishes
      Charlotte 🧝‍♀️


    Good luck and have a great Christmas

      Charlotte Hoather December 1, 2019 at 9:25 pm

      Thank you Barney, it’s quite nice doing a Christmas opera for families and then I’ll be going to my parents for a bit of a rest for Christmas celebrations. Hope you have some nice treats planned.
      All my best wishes
      Charlotte 🧝‍♀️


        Should be good. Not entirely sure yet… weather conditions here unpredictable and the eldest of us is 96 and has had a tougher than usual last few months. They don’t make many like her anymore though. Good Scottish blood. We will all be ok and pay respects to those not with us but still with a place at our table.
        Seasons greetings

        Charlotte Hoather December 1, 2019 at 10:18 pm

        They’re hardy folk the Scots I made lots of friends up there but when I first moved I thought I’d never get used to the biting wind In Glasgow winters.


        Yeah, The navigator from Keith’s plane ended up setting up the war museum in London. Our people are Glaswegian originally though my mother’s side is Aberdeen. I just like citing Scotland cos I always get a knee-jerk 🦉🐱
        Blessed be and enjoy your role and performance.
        Aslan is on the move 🦁


    Wow, super, nice of you to show that artists do lot of work before showing there art ! All the best for you my friend et prends soin de Toi !!! Toi Toi Toi !!! 🙂


    It’s a lot of work just planning and scheduling before you can get down to learning the parts and rehearsing. Thank you for sharing your preparation and process with us.

      Charlotte Hoather December 1, 2019 at 9:29 pm

      Some of my friends think I’ve gone into hibernation 😀 it does take me some time to get on top of a new role. I’m excited for rehearsals to begin soon.
      All my best wishes


    Wishing you success.

      Charlotte Hoather December 1, 2019 at 9:56 pm

      Thank you very much Jovina I’m going to need a bit of luck because I missed a lot of audition season.
      All my best wishes


    Love hearing about your process! When I saw all the colored little sticky notes, it made me smile, because it looks like a book when I am in the editing process! Looking forwarding to hearing about the progress of the new project! Cheers.

      Charlotte Hoather December 7, 2019 at 9:27 pm

      Whoever invented sticky notes was a genius, it was a game changer for exam revision notes, I had them all over my wardrobes 😀. I’m driving North to Leeds tomorrow to start rehearsals Monday. Hope you’re well Annette and looking forward to Christmas.
      All my best wishes


    A very interesting insight into professional preparation, and vastly different from my own writing processes.

      Charlotte Hoather December 1, 2019 at 10:20 pm

      I’ve only ever had patience to write small stories. My brother Tom is the big writer. I always wonder if you plan out the start, middle and end right at the outset, or change the story as it develops?
      All my best wishes


        Ask five writers and you’ll get six answers! I prefer to start with some initial ideas, see how they develop, let the characters’ reactions show you where they’re going and then rewrite as much as you need in the Second Draft, but then I’m lucky to have a good subconscious sense of structure which keeps me from creating insoluable clashes…

        Charlotte Hoather December 1, 2019 at 10:41 pm

        Structure has always been my biggest problem, what seems like a perfect structure to me is hopping around to most people.


    What a wonderful system, dear Charolotte! Good luck with Italian! 🙂

      Charlotte Hoather December 1, 2019 at 10:21 pm

      I’ve been concentrating on German recently so my Italian is a bit rusty. I’ve plans for a lot more work on the Italian in January.
      All my best wishes


    Charlotte, I think it is great that you have taken the time to do this. I always like to show my readers what goes on leading up to a performance, the details that they never see. And I always tell people that the hardest job I know is “opera singer.” It takes so much preparation that I am truly astonished sometimes that singers I know have time for family, friends, even fun now and then! 🙂 This gives insight into the early stages of preparation, but then of course you have to learn it all solid, go through rehearsals so you can do it while moving around and interacting with other performers, put on a costume, get onstage under the hot lights, and perform with the other singers, all while keeping an eye and ear on the conductor and accompaniment. I have endless respect for people like you who devote the time and energy to manage all of that. It takes a real dedication to the art. Brava!

      Charlotte Hoather December 1, 2019 at 10:47 pm

      Thanks so much Peter. Family and friends often force me to have a break then I feel guilty and try to catch up in the evening 😀. I hate going into a rehearsal not quite off copy because as you say there is so much else to block off at that stage. Sometimes though changes are made to words or the score and my best laid plans ..hehe..
      I hope you’re keeping well and looking forward to Christmas, all my best wishes


    As someone who has had the pleasure of working with you on a production, I must add that, owing to this detailed preparation of your roles, you are not only a fine performer but a wonderful person to work with. You fully understands your character and the development of the story which is so helpful – leaving more time for extra detail in the production than would otherwise be possible! Ali xx

      Charlotte Hoather December 1, 2019 at 10:53 pm

      Thank you Ali, it was a real pleasure working with you and Justin and everyone in the production I learnt so much and had a fabulous time xx it was a joy 💕
      All my best wishes


    A lot of preparation work but you know it needs to be done. Best wishes for the performance. Happy Christmas as well.


    Dear Charlotte,
    The posted notes is a great way to boost memory, just remember I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. I know that you will be a huge success because of your diligent practice my Beloved.


    Good morning have a nice day


    I know how hard you work at getting your roles performance ready and have enormous respect for you. You are such a perfectionist and always give 100%, well done. 🥰😘

      Charlotte Hoather December 7, 2019 at 9:37 pm

      Thank you Gill, I miss your help with testing my memory 🥰.
      All my best wishes to you and Terry


    Hello Charlotte, hope you had a wonderful first advent yesterday. This looks tricky, but we’re sure you are going master this wonderful traditional German piece in the best of ways. Good luck, have fun, we’d love to hear you perform one day!
    Sunny greetings from the North Norfolk coast,
    The Fab Four

      Charlotte Hoather December 7, 2019 at 9:41 pm

      I’m so happy to have been introduced to this German opera. I’m actually singing it in English but I have the original German score and I love singing and working on my German too.
      Seasons greetings back to you all, I got some new bookcases recently thanks for the inspiration my scores all have a nice new home now.
      Best wishes


    Your dedication and hard work is one of the main reasons you will soar in your career, Charlotte.

      Charlotte Hoather December 7, 2019 at 9:50 pm

      My head soars but luckily my feet are securely planted in the ground 😀. It’s a good thing that I’m optimistic too 😄.
      All my best wishes GP


    Your chosen profession clearly entails a LOT of hard work! But I can tell you love it. Learning another language is challenging, not to mention singing it! Best of luck with this new performance and send us a clip!

      Charlotte Hoather December 7, 2019 at 9:59 pm

      I honestly don’t think i or anyone else could do it if you didn’t love it, the work has no security, no guaranteed regular income so it has to be a passion otherwise the problem you would have is the insecurity would do you in. I was conversing in German last night I just love the opportunity to practice in real life.
      I’d love to capture a clip for you but I’m the sort of person who never has my phone with me in rehearsal so I miss photo and video opportunities.
      Best wishes Noelle
      Charlotte 🧝‍♀️


    Charlotte, you truly are amazing.
    Working so hard with everything you do. While keeping up your blogs, which everyone loves to read.
    Good luck for your performance.xx


    Such a lot of work and preparation goes into each role you take on! No wonder you look so self-assured and your performances are fabulous!
    I wish you well with your ‘Christmas Elf’ xx

      Charlotte Hoather December 7, 2019 at 10:07 pm

      Thank you for your lovely message Clare. I’ve had an amazing year and I have to start again fresh in the New Year. Really looking forward to meeting everyone on the Christmas Elf next week.
      All my best wishes


    Quite a rigorous schedule. Good for you. Hard work will be so helpful. Best Wishes,

      Charlotte Hoather December 7, 2019 at 10:11 pm

      Thank you Sheila I just thought today I haven’t had the opportunity to write out my Christmas Cards yet. I’ve had to learn to work smarter to work faster this year memorising, planning, and on technique it’s been a really fascinating year.
      All my best wishes


    Your workflow sounds very complex and hard work! x

      Charlotte Hoather December 7, 2019 at 10:13 pm

      I’m happier busy, it’s been a real big learning year and I’ve worked with so many amazing people all willing to help me.
      All my best wishes


    Charlotte, you work so hard to create such beauty…….
    Hope that you have a wonderful Christmas…..Darlene

      Charlotte Hoather December 7, 2019 at 10:15 pm

      Thank you for your lovely message Darlene. I’m very excited for Christmas, I hope you have a wonderful time too.
      All my best wishes


    Wow.. this is why it’s extremely important to love what you do. Time. Effort. Consistently. Thank you for sharing.

      Charlotte Hoather December 7, 2019 at 10:18 pm

      You know all about this Eric you are an inspiration, the arts are tricky.
      Seasons greetings and best wishes
      Charlotte 🧝‍♀️


    Sound like quite a lot of work even for an elf. But kidding aside, best of luck to you on your performance. If I were in striking distance, I would surely attend.

      Charlotte Hoather December 7, 2019 at 10:21 pm

      I’m seeing elves everywhere 😄. I wish you could come to see it as it’s such a lovely story. Thank you for the good luck wishes.
      All my best wishes

    The Eclectic Contrarian December 7, 2019 at 2:54 am

    Seems like a lot!! Hope everything goes well for ya!


    I just love your dedication to your craft.
    I understand a bit of what you have posted about, but just a tiny bit.
    Have the best time on Christmas Elf !

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