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The new Royal Opera House exterior (Photo: Luke Hayes)

Royal Opera House

Marcelino SambéPrincipal DancerThe Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House 

Marcelino Samb, Royal Ballet (c) Rankin

What your journey been like from theatre’s closing to reopening?  

It was quite challenging because, as dancers, we train every day from 9 in the morning until 11 at night because we have the performances plus, we train the whole day for current and future productions. Once you are in shape, it’s very hard for you not to be in shape because you work so many hours. During the pandemic, we were so well supported by The Royal Opera House with Zoom ballet classes every day, we had a nutritionist, we did Pilates, so it was an amazing way to keep fit. But obviously nothing really compares to being at that theatre, which we call home. 

How is being Back On Stage for you?  

Yesterday, I had an amazing chance to be on stage again doing a full story ballet, which is what I love telling. I love being an actor-dancer. We can tell a story, that’s what the Royal Ballet is really known for, and that’s why people join the company because it’s such a storytelling company. To be in those sets and in the clothes, to be able to immerse yourself into a new parallel world is such a good feeling, it’s why I became a ballet dancer. 

What have you missed most about live performance?  

The expectation. I think there’s such a sense of expectation that you don’t get in real life, it’s all about the moment – that specific time and partner, the lights and crew, the costume people and the people you interact with. There’s such a buzz – the expectation of the curtain opening. There’s nothing quite like that in my life. That exuberant buzz as the curtains open and you hear that noise. You can feel the expectation from the audience, which you don’t get it when the auditorium is empty.


Stephanie Wake-Edwards, Singer, The Royal Opera House Jette Parker Young Artists Programme

Stephanie Wake-Edwards (c) Rankin

What has the journey been like to get back to theatres opening? 

Well, the whole time everything was locked down, I was still working. So, we did loads of recorded content. We did live streams. And the whole time I was locked down I was still having lessons and coaching via Zoom. So, I was still working on my languages and still having singing lessons and coaching. As soon as we could open again, we did concerts from the mainstage that were streamed on BBC Four. We did stuff like that. And we did a whole production on the mainstage that was just made for film.  

So it was like all these new skills that we learned that you would never normally have to do as an opera singer. It was really rewarding because I learned all these things that I wouldn’t normally have had to do. But there’s nothing like coming back and there being actual human hands clapping. 

How is it being back on stage? 

Yeah, there’s nothing like it. Because it’s literally gone from like nought to a million since August. I’ve been back since August, with everything being opened up again. And I’ve already done a whole production and I’m already on my third show of another production, so I haven’t stopped and it’s almost like when I first started in 2019. But I only had about six months of that kind of hectic lifestyle and now I’m just trying to recalibrate and get used to performing that much again. And then, because it’s a different kind of nerves with the camera than it is with humans. Cameras aren’t that bad, but with actual humans like you’d start getting the jitters again. I got used to cameras, and you’re just like well, no one’s really here, yeah. And if it goes terribly, I’m sure they can delete it, you know? And this is the live stream! 

So, what did you miss most about live performance? 

It’s just that you can’t recreate the feeling of having people in a room and working all together and doing rehearsals without masks and stuff like that. You don’t really know how the other person is truly emoting until you’ve got your masks off. And that’s normally really late in the process. It’s also made me realise how much your eyes actually… you can read from someone’s eyes and you can really see a scene. 

It’s just the people in the room, the atmosphere. Feeling people enjoying it as well, feeling people want to be there – and I do feel like people want to be there even more now. The applause that you’re getting is like, ridiculous. Everyone’s taken on a new feeling of hashtag-gratitude, you know what I mean? I don’t like to say it, but I think everyone is just like so happy that that people are coming and that people still want to see you sing.