YORK Opera members are in full swing working towards next month's production of Bizet’s Carmen at York Theatre Royal – and not only those who will appear on stage from October 23 to 27.

The company has always designed and built its own scenery and made the vast majority of its costumes. Properties (better known as "props") are assembled from many sources, some borrowed, some hired and some made by the back-stage team.

For Carmen, director Clive Marshall, knew it would be necessary for the singer playing an army officer to have a sword that could be drawn, but not used, in any fight. Given that swords are expensive to hire, he asked whether the construction team could make one.

York Press:

A detail of the hilt, made with part of a redundant cafetiere

Step forward Bill Ankers, retired vicar of St. Peter’s Church, Norton, and York Opera a founder member, who played Jupiter in the society's first ever fully staged production of Orpheus In The Underworld.

He went home and reappeared a week later with a very presentable sword, made from a redundant cafetiere, to form the hilt, and a chromium-plated brass stair rod. He also fashioned a scabbard out of plywood, leatherette and felt and renovated period rifles made by York Opera for past productions.

York Press:

In the firing line: York Opera construction team members John Soper (set designer), Peter Butler, Steve Bingham and Paul Richardson (head of construction) with the rifles

Having seen the results, Clive said: "The company is incredibly lucky to have such a talented team of designers, scenery builders and painters who give so much of their time to each production."