NCO guidelines for directors

NCO Production Guidelines 

These guidelines are intended as guidance for applicants for the role of artistic director/vocal director of shows mounted by Nelson Community Opera.  They outline the parameters directors should appreciate when planning a show, particularly its budget.  They also outline the expectations of the Amy Ferguson Institute (AFI) Board of Directors with regard to reporting and communications channels.

Section A – Overview

Nelson Community Opera (NCO) is the wholly owned production company of the Amy Ferguson Institute (AFI). It is the goal of NCO to try to alternate, year to year, between opera and musical theatre. Very rarely AFI has mounted another major classical vocal work in place of musical theatre or opera. We try to let the community of music directors and theatre directors know that we are interested in proposals for opera or musical theatre a year ahead of the production with the aim of selecting an overall director for each show by February or March so that auditions can take place in the Spring and roles assigned before the summer, allowing performers to prepare over the summer period before rehearsals that begin in September.  Performances are usually scheduled for the second week of November. Applicants for the role of artistic director of an NCO production should include the information listed in Section C below with their proposal

In addition to selecting the overall artistic director (or vocal director in the case of opera ) the AFI Board of Directors also appoints a producer for each show.  The producer is the Board’s liaison with the artistic director and/or production team for each show and is responsible for financial oversight of the show’s budget and ensuring the overall success of the production.  The producer and the principal artistic director (usually the vocal director for opera and either the musical or the stage director for musical theatre) jointly select the remainder of the other key directors and designers for the show. The producer participates in the audition/casting process with the ultimate casting decision being made by the artistic director(s). The artistic director(s) and the producer jointly develop a marketing/publicity strategy for the show that the producer usually implements in collaboration with the artistic director(s). The key artistic director(s) will supply the producer with invoices for payment and/or receipts for expenditures for items within their approved budget in a timely manner and will prepare written outlines of production needs and production reports as needed for the Board and for the show’s funders.  The artistic director(s) will attend a de-briefing meeting with the AFI Production Committee after the production to assist AFI to identify the lessons learned from the production.

Nelson Community Opera is essentially a volunteer company that pays modest honoraria to the extent permitted by the revenues available to us.

Until 2008, no performers in NCO productions received an honorarium.  In 2008 we were successful in implementing a partnership with several institutional sponsors that allowed us to create a special fund for musician and singer honoraria.  This partnership is a continuing one. By agreement with the donors, this fund of $2500 is earmarked for musicians and singers only.  One of the early tasks for the producer, artistic director and musical director is to determine the composition of the orchestra required for the show and therefore the portion of this musicians’ fund that must be reserved for the orchestra.  The remainder can be shared among the principals for the show.  No payments apart from out of pocket expenses for travel and child care are possible for the chorus members, minor solo roles, corps de ballet or minor backstage and technical roles.

Honoraria for artistic directors involved in each show are covered from the revenues generated by the show itself.

For budgeting purposes these honoraria generally run as follows:

Artistic directors, music directors, concert master, vocal directors, stage directors (and producer, if paid)            $500 ea.

Stage manager, set designer, costume designer                                                                                    $250 ea.

Lighting designer, sound designer, rehearsal pianist                                                                                    $150 ea.

Graphic designer (poster/ads), assistant stage manager, principal set builder                                                $100 ea.

( In consultation with the producer, these amounts may be interchanged or adjusted to meet the specific needs of each show.)

Where an individual has performed more than one of these roles we have increased that person’s honorarium, but generally by adding half of the second or third role’s amount to that person’s full honorarium for their principle role.

For example, if a stage director also performed the set designer role the honorarium allowed would be $500 for the stage director plus 50% of the set designer normal honorarium of $250 for a total of $625.  It should always be born in mind that these honoraria can only be paid if the show’s ticket sales achieve the budgeted sales revenues and if the other costs for the show don’t exceed their budgeted amounts.  Show directors and producers should be careful to inform all production participants who are offered an honorarium that if the show fails to generate the planned tickets sales, it may not be possible for the show to cover the entire honorarium amount offered.  All honoraria are paid out after the final tally of show revenues and expenditures has been completed – usually early December.

When a show significantly exceeds its ticket sales projection and, therefore, realizes a substantial profit, the AFI Board of Directors has the final say in how this profit is distributed.  In the past profits have been used in the following manner: to increase the Institute’s production reserve, to endow the Institute’s June Lythgoe Music Scholarship Fund with the Osprey Community Foundation, to increase the Institute’s Production Skills Mentorship Fund, assist Nelson’s Capitol Theatre to improve its orchestra pit  and to pay pro rata bonuses to that production’s personnel (performers and production staff).

Section B  Production Budget

The following is a list of the cost headings and revenue headings as well as the average amounts budgeted and experienced in earlier NCO productions for directors’ use in budgeting for their show:



Theatre rental (incl GST)


  –  theatre insurance


Ticket charges


Rehearsal Space Rental


Piano rental (if needed)


Royalties  (as needed)
Music/score rent/copy


Audition costs


 –   posters & handbills


  –  print & radio ads                                                            $750
  –  banner


Costume rent/materials/labour


Set materials




Lighting  (as needed)
Sound  (as needed)


  – programs


  – other print/copy


Credit card charges




Travel/child care


   – Artistic Directors


   – Musicians/Singers


Miscellaneous prod’n costs:
   –   flowers


   –   food for cast party & dressing room


Total expenditures – up to max> $25,000 to match projected revenue


Ticket sales (est. 60% of house max x ave. ticket price for budget)  Example: 60% of 420 seats X 3 shows X $22.50 ave. ticket price  =


Advertising in program (  __ ads @ $100 ea. = )


Grants in aid
   –  City/RDCK


   –  Osprey Community Foundation


Musician/Singer Fund


Total Revenue



Section C –  Information required for your proposal

If you have specific conditions or limitations associated with your proposal, please include them with as much detail as possible.

Your proposal should include:

  • the name and composer for the work you wish to mount
  • a complete draft budget based on the above format.
  • what you will and will not undertake in your role as musical director or artistic director (e.g. do you or do you not wish to direct the orchestra; do you need someone else to rehearse the chorus; how many rehearsals per week – individual, ensemble and full cast – will you direct; do you or do you not wish to perform yourself, if you do, how will this impact your directing role?);
  • your own expectations for an honorarium and the time commitment you can undertake in return;
  • if you would need to share your director role with someone else, who else and how you would divide the roles and responsibilities; have you identified this person and have they agreed to share the responsibility and director’s honorarium with you?
  • when do you wish to hold auditions and when are you available to begin rehearsals;
  • are there specific times during the rehearsal schedule when you have other commitments which will require someone else to direct rehearsals or for there to be a break in rehearsals;
  • do you have specific individuals in mind for key director positions and is your participation contingent on their involvement; have you discussed their participation with them and have they committed to participate;
  • as NCO’s mandate is to showcase local talent in all our productions, how do you propose to fill the principal roles in your production, have you identified prospective local singers/actors/dancers for these roles?
  • minimum size or composition of the orchestra;
  • how many evening and matinee performances do you anticipate presenting?
  • What ticket prices do you believe this production will sustain?

With regard to an operatic orchestra we strongly recommend (unless you have other plans entirely) you discuss the work you are proposing with the prospective orchestra conductor and/or concert master prior to submitting it to NCO as they will likely be the key people involved in trying to assemble and rehearse the orchestra.


Production Management Team Roles and Responsibilities


This is paper is intended to facilitate the establishment of the specific roles and responsibilities assigned to the key personnel in any Nelson Community Opera production.  Apart from the oversight responsibilities of the producer(s) assigned by the AFI Board of Directors, the specific responsibilities suggested in this paper can be modified, re-assigned or shared at the discretion of the production team leaders involved but should be decided well before the production gets under way and made explicit to all the team members.



The producer(s) is appointed by the AFI Board of Directors to oversee the production and serve as the Board’s liaison with the production team.  The producer(s) will keep the Board advised of the progress of the show and report any significant difficulties or incidents that might affect the success of the production. The producer(s) is particularly responsible for the financial oversight of the production.  The Producer(s) will chair production team meetings and delegate an alternate chairperson when unable to attend.

Financial Oversight

In consultation with the principal artistic directors, the producer(s) will prepare the production budget for approval by the Board of Directors before any expenditures, other than those involved with securing the key directors and show auditions, take place.  The producer(s) will assign subsidiary budgets as appropriate to directors or designers and establish reporting and payment procedures for those budgets.  The producer(s) will obtain final financial reports from each director and assemble these into a complete financial report for the entire production for presentation to the Board of Directors and funders after the production.


The producer(s) will consult with the principal artistic directors, offering advise and assistance concerning the hiring of other directors or designers and the casting of the show while leaving the artistic decisions to the discretion of the principal artistic directors.


The producer(s) will consult with the principal artistic directors concerning the publicity program for the production and implement the publicity program and budget in accordance with the plans developed jointly with those directors.

Vocal Director

The Vocal Director is responsible for the overall musical content of the production including:
– casting key vocal roles (in opera voice production and musicianship are the primary casting considerations)
– ensuring all principal singers are prepared vocally for the requirements of the show
– directing the show chorus (or engaging and guiding a choral director competent to the task)
– consulting with the producer(s) and stage director concerning the hiring of an orchestra director
– consulting with the producer(s) and the orchestra director concerning the make-up of the orchestra and the scheduling of orchestra rehearsals
– scheduling and directing the vocal aspects of all rehearsals (in consultation with the stage director and orchestra director where appropriate
– advising the stage director concerning the voice production implications of all aspects of stage direction

– assisting the producer(s) in the preparation/implementation of the publicity program

– participating in the leadership of all production team activities
– consulting with the producer(s) regarding all major financial decisions for the budget assigned to the vocal director and providing all required reporting information/documentation for monies spent under this budget and requiring the same of all subordinate directors engaged by the vocal director,
– providing in a timely manner information and documentation requested by the producer(s) on any aspect of the production under the vocal director’s responsibility.

Stage Director

The Stage Director is responsible for the overall direction of the non-musical aspects of the production including:
– casting of non-singing roles and consulting with the vocal director on the casting of the vocal roles,
– providing all stage direction,
– developing the overall vision of the production (in consultation with the vocal director and producer(s),
– scheduling and directing all rehearsals in collaboration with the vocal director,
– in consultation with the producer(s) and the vocal director, engaging and directing all other non-musical directors and staff required to mount the production,
– assisting the producer(s) in the preparation/implementation of the publicity program
– consulting with the producer(s) regarding all major financial decisions for the budget assigned to the stage director and providing all required reporting information/documentation for monies spent under this budget and requiring the same of all subordinate directors engaged by the stage director,
– participating in the leadership of all production team activities,
– providing in a timely manner information and documentation requested by the producer(s) on any aspect of the production under the stage director’s responsibility


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