OVER the past few years, Reno Troilus has become well known in the Highlands not only as a performer, but as a music teacher and chairman of Inverness Music Festival.
Now the Glasgow-born countertenor has returned to operatic roles with Handel’s Rodelinda.
However, with the Scottish Opera production about to embark on an extensive national tour, Troilus found he had to get match fit before he returned to the boards.
"Coming back to it, I had to train a lot because stamina is a big issue when you are doing 16 shows," he said.
"I spent a lot of the last year working daily towards it so by the time I came to the rehearsals, I’d built the strength up. Physically it is quite tough in having to rehearse scenes again and again. You might end up having to sing the same aria 16 times in a day. That was a little shock to the system, but the body gets used to it."
Returning to the world of opera also means that Troilus can catch up with some old friends and make new ones.
"We’ve all been commenting that on this production there are no black sheep because you usually get one — no divas at all! And that’s with two countertenors," he laughed.
"The opera world is very small in that everyone has heard of each other or worked with them before. I’ve worked with the other counter-tenor, Andrew Radley who is playing Bertarido, and the other artists, I had heard with some of them, but not actually worked with them yet.
"I also knew a couple of the backstage crew, so it was good to see them again. The last contract I did before moving to Inverness was with Scottish Opera, so it’s ironic that’s where I’m starting again."
The last time Troilus appeared at Eden Court with Scottish Opera, he played a military dictator in Judith Weir’s A Night at the Chinese Opera.
His role in Rodelinda is very different, and not just because Handel’s opera predates Weir’s by more than 250 years.
"My character, Unulfo, is the only good guy in the entire opera," he pointed out.
"Everyone else in the show is highly motivated and their mood swings are brought out quite a bit — even if their intentions are good. My character is the sensitive soul and he wants everybody to be OK. He gets pushed around a little bit, sadly, and without wanting to spoil anything, he takes a stabbing later on. It’s quite a lot for the character to take."
The setting of Rodelinda is one of political intrigue and romantic rivalry.
Troilus likens it to A Game of Thrones — it may be lacking in dragons, but the opera makes up for it with its share of deposed monarchs and usurpers.
The title character of Rodelinda, played by Sarah Power, is the wife of deposed King Bertarido (Andrew Radley). She is pressured into marrying the usurper Grimoaldo (Richard Rowe), not knowing that her husband is only feigning death.
"Rodelinda’s son is in constant danger. He is a threat to the new king, so there a question about whether he should live," Troilus added.
"There are a couple of shocking moments that will have people’s hands over mouths."
The arias in Rodelinda are driven by the drama and give the audience a chance to see into the characters’ psyche, which makes it all the more important that the singers continue to give an acting performance as much as a vocal one.
"Once you get to a professional level of performance, you stop thinking about every note being more precious than the text you are singing," Troilus pointed out.
"That never leaves you. That’s why opera singers do what they do."
This will be the first time that Troilus’s music students will have to see him in a full operatic role and he is looking forward to performing for them in the Highlands.
"It’s going to be very interesting because the role I’m playing is far away from my usual real life character. I think there will be great amusement from my students," he said.
"You could argue that my character has an attraction to the other male lead. It’s not thrown in the face as such, but the students will be out in force to see that.
"But it’s a nice personal thing to be able to perform in the place I now call home. My wife and I bought our home in Beauly in July and that was our declaration that we’re not moving from the Highlands. There are a lot of shows in the Highlands in Inverness, Ullapool and Nairn, so it’s nice to be that close."
However, though he acknowledges he is loving being back in an opera, Troilus is not yet ready to commit to this being a full time career just yet.
"This is kind of a wait and see," he said.
"I’m working with an agent, but I’m taking it slow. It’s not going to be a full time occupation just yet. Even being in Glasgow, away from the kids, has been quite tough. I have commitments in the Highlands that I am not going to give up. It’s nice when these things come round, but they will have to fit round normal life."
•Reno Troilus appears in Scottish Opera’s production of Rodelinda at Wick High School on Saturday 5th October; the OneTouch Theatre, Eden Court, Inverness, on Tuesday 8th October; Haddo House, Ellon, Aberdeenshire, Thursday 10th October; Nairn Community and Arts Centre, Thursday 24th October.