IN 30 years of conducting, John Atkin has participated in more than 100 theatre productions and orchestral concerts, ranging from Sondheim to Sibelius. Having worked with York Opera a couple of times previously, he now makes his full musical directorial debut with the group, staging La Traviata from tonight.

How have you enjoyed working as York Opera's musical director for La Traviata, John?

"It's been a great experience. Very hard work, but hearing the piece coming together now is so rewarding and we're all really looking forward to the performances."

What are the greatest challenges of pulling together an operatic production of this size?

"The sheer scale of things to do both in rehearsal and performance. There's over two hours of music, no dialogue and approximately 200 tempo changes, so there's nowhere to hide. Members of the cast come, not only from York, but from as far away as Bridlington and Doncaster, simply for the joy of taking part in opera. But you have to be on the ball and get it right."

What have you found most pleasurable?

"It has to be performing and conducting the music of Verdi. This is grand opera on a big scale and you don't get the chance to conduct it very often, so I was delighted when York Opera asked me. The soloists, chorus and orchestra offer vast amounts of experience between them and now it's all coming together it produces a real buzz."

Aside from La Traviata, what other operatic productions have you been involved with during your career?

"I was repetiteur for Bath Opera in the Nineties and worked on a number of productions and concerts, including Peter Grimes and Nabucco. Since moving back to York, I have directed a semi-staged version of The Marriage Of Figaro for York Opera and have worked with many other local theatre companies on light opera and musical theatre productions. Other productions I’m working on at present are Barnum, Fame and Guys & Dolls."

What can someone new to opera expect if they attend La Traviata?

"A full evening of high-class musical entertainment. La Traviata contains some very challenging singing for both soloists and chorus, but York Opera are a very capable company and you will leave with all the melodies lodged in your mind.

"When the music begins, audiences both experienced and new to opera will experience moments when you recognise the tunes. From the famous Brindisi drinking song to the Gypsy Chorus, it's packed full of well-known tunes and iconic moments. That's why it's one of the most regularly performed operas to this day."

York Opera presents La Traviata, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, June 13, 14, 16 and 17 at 7.30pm. Box office: 01904 501935 or at