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Cliff Jackson Is the Répétiteur For Kentucky Opera's 'Macbeth.' So What's a Répétiteur?

macbeth Illustration
Kentucky Opera
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Opera is one of the most complex forms of theatre, with singers, an orchestra, usually a chorus, and often it’s all performed in a foreign language.

Attention to detail is required. One of the people behind the scenes is the répétiteur, who plays the piano for all the rehearsals, and also helps the singers with correct pronunciation and historically accurate style.

Cliff Jackson is the répétiteur for Kentucky Opera’s production of Verdi’s “Macbeth,” opening Sept. 18 at the Brown Theatre.

He spoke with us recently about his role and the production of "Macbeth."

He said his job means he knows the production about as well as anyone.

"After the conductor, yes — because you have to," he said. "You have to know all the cues, you have to be able to pronounce the words, to know what the words mean.

"If you don't know it that well when you come in, by the time you finish working with the singers, you do know it."

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Essentially, he stands in for the orchestra until the orchestra comes in.

"Some people think of accompanying as a sort of second-class job, and that you don't have to play as well as soloists do, but that's not entirely true because some of those accompaniments are very difficult and you have to have the technique of a concert pianist," said Jackson, a professor at the University of Kentucky.

(Image provided by the Kentucky Opera)