As the judge we love to hate on Strictly Come Dancing, Craig Revel Horwood is notoriously hard to please.
For the next three weeks, however, it’s his turn be judged as he trains as an apprentice conductor in a new, three-part series of BBC2’s classical music talent show Maestro.
This time around, the series, which begins on Friday May 4, has an operatic theme, with Craig competing against actress Josie Lawrence, DJ and presenter Trevor Nelson and mathematician and broadcaster Marcus du Sautoy.
TV&Satellite Week magazine caught up with him to find out more…
What’s the most challenging part of Maestro?
“The conductor’s boot camp. It was from seven in the morning to 8.30 at night. We all learned to sing a bit, vocalisation, to walk into the space with command and authority, exercises for conducting. My right arm was getting a major workout and I couldn’t move it the next day.”
There’s more to it than just waving your arms about, isn’t there?
“Yes, it’s a big creative ask as well as a technical one. You not only have to keep in time and keep everyone together and all of that, you have to bring yourself and the music to life in your own way. Also, to conduct opera, you’ve got to be able to read the whole score. You have to understand the Italian, the French and the German, which is imperative. That’s a nightmare.”
As a trained dancer, did the physical side of it come fairly easily?
“Yes, but I need to contain myself a bit when I’m conducting. I tend to start out too big, and then have nowhere to go. I could do with Josie Lawrence’s timing, and Trevor Nelson’s groove.”
Will we be seeing a very different Craig from the one on Strictly Come Dancing?
“On that I wear a judge’s hat, on this I’m wearing a conductor’s hat, and I’m also a student who’s being judged, which is a bit odd. I did say to the judges: ‘If you need any advice on how to judge, darling, I’m available’.”
The prize – conducting one act of an opera in the Royal Opera House – sounds a bit daunting. Would you secretly not mind if you lost?
“I want to win for my mentor. Plus, I don’t want to let down the professionals, the 60-piece orchestra and the 100 singers, or make them look stupid.”
Has this changed your view of conductors?
“I thought they would be sort of up themselves, but they’re really quite normal. I work in opera as a director and choreographer, and it’s important that I understand the conductor’s job. I’ve got a newfound respect, honestly. What we’re doing in 10 weeks, these guys have trained passionately their whole lives for.”
Will the experience of being judged yourself make you a bit less harsh on Strictly?
“I appreciate the celebrities who come on Strictly a bit more now. As a professional in my field, I tend to forget who I’m judging and I just judge what I see. Sometimes they have to learn three dances in a week – that’s like us having to do an aria, an overture and another piece of music on Maestro.”
Opera is seen as quite elitist. Will this series of Maestro bring a new audience to it?
“The best thing about this show is that it will open our fans up to a whole world they think is inaccessible. Shakespeare, ballet, any of the classical forms are worth investing in. Even if you don’t understand it, you still get an amazing experience. This art form needs bums on seats.”
Maestro At The Opera starts on Friday May 4 at 9pm on BBC2.