Well I hope that title got your interest in my review about the Opera ‘Tosca’ that I saw last week at the Opera Bastille in Paris a magnificent opera house, the first time I had seen the building and been inside. There were English surtitles so my prior research wasn’t necessary.

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Inside The Foyer Of The Opera Bastille

 

Tosca had a marvellous, dramatic storyline that kept my full attention throughout. My only negative comment is that I felt the ending was a little rushed with Mario’s departure.

Sebastian Catana gave a fabulous portrayal of the baddy Scarpia. I really disliked his character he made me squirm in my seat. Sublime singing lots of vocal firepower on display – magnifique.

Tosca was a true diva complete with a crown (I was a little jealous I love tiaras) Beatrice Monzon played the audience and Mario for that matter very well. She was the only female soloist in the show, I enjoyed her selfish moments in the text especially in the Church scene which was wonderfully played by Tosca and Mario and really got the audience laughing. Her jealous scenes were fantastic and I identified with quite a few moments :).

The sets were awesome, a huge cross creating an ominous grey platform for the scenes to play out upon. The stage was moveable to create new spaces and perspectives, I wished my best friend Rob could have seen it, he’s a scenic carpenter, I drew him some pictures afterwards.

Vissi d’arte was a great aria, I can find it a little dull out of context but within the opera it was heart-warmingly beautiful showing the innocent side of Tosca whilst praying, asking “why?” as some days all of us do. Completely effortless singing accompanied by piano I took lots from this performance she was wonderful.

There was such detailing in the props, down to books, globe, food, lights it felt like I was looking into someone’s study. The red dungeon room was brilliant and from Toscas perspective must have seemed terrifying as she couldn’t see it from her position on the stage. The blood was very realistic, reminded me a little of my brother Tom’s horrible histories magazines.

The shooting scene from the third Act was very emotional brought to life with the most beautiful tenor singing delivered by the hunky Massimo Giordano; it was a startling set with scattered crosses made out of trees filling the stage. It was an incredible performance, no one stole the show because they were all equally well cast and performed their parts so realistically, and the chorus equally so, it felt very real.

Evelino Pidò ( Conductor ), Pierre Audi ( Stage Director ), Christof Hetzer ( Sets ), Robby Duiveman ( Costumes ), Jean Kalman ( Lighting ), Klaus Bertisch ( Dramaturgy ) and José Luis Basso ( Chorus Master ) all stupendous, really breathtaking, can you tell I really loved it.  I did!

Paris

Au Revoir Paris

 

 

Tosca at the Opera Bastille

November 13, 2014 — 55 Comments
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My First Glimpse Of Paris At Night From The Top Of The Eiffel Tower

 

As lots of you know my first visit to watch an opera was for my 18th birthday at The Lowry Theatre in Salford near Greater Manchester.  Well my parents have topped that this year; they bought me tickets to watch ‘Tosca’ at ‘The Opera Bastille’ in Paris on a two night break for my 21st birthday.

The main auditorium has 2,745 seats and my Dad said it was nearly sold out when he booked a couple of weeks ago.

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Opera Bastille

 

I reviewed the story by Giacomo Puccini, because I guess the Italian opera will have French surtitles. Tosca is a story of political instability and menace, there are three principal roles.

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The sadistic Chief of Police of Rome – Scarpia (sung by a baritone) – is one of the wickedest villains in opera.  The story is set in June 1800 in Rome, with the Kingdom of Naples control of Rome threatened by Naploean’s invasion of Italy.  Scarpia ruthlessly searches for and tortures enemies of the state.  I’m hoping for some vocal firepower here.

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Sebastian Catana Performs The Role Of Scarpia This Evening

 

Mario Cavaradossi (a tenor role) agrees to help a convict escape and sets in motion a series of unfortunate events that will lead to disaster for him and his lover Floria Tosca (Tosca is a soprano role) I’m looking to see how she conveys the melodrama, passion and impulsiveness that is usually associated with this role.

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Béatrice Uria Monzon Performs The Role Of Floria Tosca This Evening

 

Tosca and Cavardossi have very passionate lyrical arias, the most famous aria is ‘Vissi d’arte’  Tosca is also one of the most frequently performed operas.

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Massimo Giordano Performs The Role Of Mario Cavaradossi In This Evenings Performance

 

The play has three acts – melodrama en trios actes.  This is the write up from the Opera Bastille:

“A singer in love, passionate, jealous and impulsive; a romantic painter, an idealist and a defender of liberty; a police chief with a lust for flesh, power and blood, ready to do anything to achieve his ends. Puccini artfully combines the ingredients of a melodrama written for Sarah Bernhardt and comes up with what might be called the opera of operas, a spectacle at once primitive and decadent. In a mythical yet real Rome, from the shadows of the church of Sant’ Andrea della Valle to the terrace of Castello Sant’ Angelo, passions collide and tear all apart, mingling the erotic with the sacred, love with possession, theatre with life. Nothing is what it seems in Tosca: beautiful women who come to pray are conspirators, defeats are victories and mock executions are real. A spectacular work which captures the essence of opera as few others do.  Pierre Audi signs a new production of this violent and passionate work for the Paris Opera.”

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I can’t wait to hear this production and see the sets and costume.

Evelino Pidò ( Conductor ), Pierre Audi ( Stage Director ), Christof Hetzer ( Sets ), Robby Duiveman ( Costumes ), Jean Kalman ( Lighting ), Klaus Bertisch ( Dramaturgy ) and José Luis Basso ( Chorus Master ).

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I have had a whirlwind of a week which has been a wonderful experience and tonight I know will be a great finale for me. Thank you all for your fabulous comments and well wishes. I hope that you understand why I have not had time to answer everyone, but once I get home I will catch up with you all :)

Never Forget

November 10, 2014 — 49 Comments

Yesterday Sunday 9th November, at Lunch time the soloists and several members of the Tideswell Male Voice Choir had a run through of some of the songs from the evening show at Best Western’s Lee Wood Hotel in Buxton, a lovely venue, it was a lovely warm sunny day for November, having sampled the delicious carvery I can recommend it if you find yourself in Buxton.

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The Tideswell Male Voice Choir ‘Never Forget’ show was a very special event, it was a very ambitious project and was a full journey of emotions sharing an assortment of music, dance, and poetry to help us pay tribute to the men and women who fought and still do for our freedom. As Edwina Currie, the Tideswell MWC President wrote “We are commemorating not only the centenary of the First World War, the ‘War to end all wars’ as it was called at the time, but to remember the lives of men and women in so many human conflicts over more than 200 years.”

We had audience participation too with a sing-along of old favourites; Its A Long Way to Tipperary; Pack Up Your Troubles; Keep the Home Fires Burning; There’ll Be Blue Birds Over the White Cliffs of Dover. Everyone was in fine voice and enjoyed it with all the words in their complimentary program. I sang ‘Danny Boy’ and ‘Jerusalem’ after the sing-along with everyone joining in which was just lovely, very moving for me.

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The evening was brought to a close with a minute’s silence to allow everyone time for reflection and remembrance which was very touching and I prayed for peace which I know most of us wish for.

Armistice Day, the 11th November 1918 saw the ceasefire on the Western front .  The date was both a celebration of the war drawing to a close and a time to think about those who did not return or carried the wounds they received during the fighting.  I have always been aware that the date was special to many people and over the years I have become more aware as to the reasons why.

It will be my 21st birthday tomorrow on Armistice day and though I will be spending the time with my family to celebrate a milestone in my life we will still remember the importance of the day to so many others.

 

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I have had a fabulous time over the last couple of weeks and I just don’t know where the time has gone.  I was really overwhelmed by all your kind wishes and lovely comments for my birthday.  I have not been able to answer them all and have to dash back into school now so a BIG thank you to everyone :)

Best wishes

Charlotte

Bonfire Night

November 5, 2014 — 37 Comments

Bonfire-Night-Blog

For 400 years, bonfires have burned on the 5th November to mark the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605, to blow up the Houses of Parliament and King James, the first King of Great Britain, with 36 barrels of gunpowder. Soon afterwards the use of fireworks were added to the celebrations.

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The Original Westminster Palace

An Act of Parliament was passed to appoint the 5th November as a day of thanksgiving for ‘the joy of deliverance’ 
Preparations for Bonfire Night include making a dummy of Guy Fawkes, which is called ‘the Guy’ and children used to ask for 1p for the Guy to use the money to buy fireworks.

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The Original Conspirators

There is a well known rhyme to accompany the day: Remember, Remember! The 5th of November, Gunpowder, treason and plot, I see no reason, why the gunpowder treason, Should ever be forgot!

Bonfire or Guy Fawkes Night is celebrated all over the UK. In recent years it is becoming more popular at organised events rather than home bonfires and fireworks mainly because of all the accidents and incidents and the strain it often puts on the Fire Service, who advice people now to ensure a safer, enjoyable evening.

On the night itself, the Guy is put on the top of the bonfire that is then set alight, fireworks fill the sky and in the region I’m from people eat; creamy tomato soup; jacket potatoes with cheese melted inside; sausage rolls; fruity red cabbage; toffee apples; toad in the hole; or hot sausages and fried onions in a bun.

It’s often very chilly, and as the night draws in around 5pm to 5:30pm it’s very dark which is perfect for the early firework displays.

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Westminster Palace As We Know It Today Following The Fire Of 1834 Which Destroyed The Original Home Of Parliament.

Well I am off out now to our local organised bonfire display so I hope there are some great snacks on sale :)

Glasgow Cathedral Choir

November 2, 2014 — 49 Comments
Outside

Glasgow Cathedral

Today started like any other Sunday for me and I had no expectation that it would be any different to last week or the week before.  I went about my usual Sunday routine taking the opportunity to review and practice my repertoire and go over what I had learnt in the week.  However all that was about to change when one of my friends approached me in the early afternoon and asked if I would help her out by singing in the choir at Glasgow Cathedral.

Well you know me and how I love a new challenge so of course I said yes :)

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Inside The Cathedral

I have never sung as part of the Cathedral choir at the Glasgow Cathedral before so I asked my friend Tim Edmundson if I could walk over with him as he is a regular member.

We arrived in good time for the choral evensong service which I was told was to be filmed and broadcast on the internet for those people who could not attend in person.  Which I though was a great idea for anyone who does not live close enough to  the cathedral or is housebound.

The cathedral has a long and interesting history, it’s lower crypt is the final resting place of the patron saint of Glasgow, St Mungo. I first remember coming across St Mungo when I visited the Trades House of Glasgow and read about the coat of arms of the city.

Glasgow cathedral dates back to the late 12th Century and luckily survived the Reformation of the Church in Scotland in 1560.

Adjacent to the cathedral is Glasgow’s necropolis, which sounds a little creepy but in fact is a rather beautifully laid out cemetery and park which dates back to Victorian times.

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Glasgow Cathedral And The Necropolis ( 1893 )

I had a great afternoon with the help of my friends and the other choir members and though the experience was a first for me it was one that I will remember fondly.  Over the last two years I have been a part of a female chamber choir, Les Sirenes under the direction of Andrew Nunn and this has helped me immensely when it comes to sight reading in situations like this.

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Male-Section

If anybody reading this wants to have a go at singing then joining a local choir can be an excellent way to start.

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My iTunes Experiment

October 29, 2014 — 47 Comments

FrontCover

Over the summer I was lucky enough to record the songs that I had been working on over the past couple of years. I wanted to have something to look back on to remind me of the fabulous time that I have had at the RCS and the wonderful people that I have worked with on improving my vocal technique.

I was excited with the results and shared them with my family. I never really thought about trying to sell them as these recordings were intended to be a personal record of my training but my dad convinced me to burn a few CDs to sell at my recitals and concerts next year as I am often asked if I have any.

But now looking to the future I wonder if it would be possible to try and raise some funds for my future training by trying to sell these tracks on iTunes. I have no idea how they will be received but whatever funds I can generate will help me towards achieving my dreams so I have nothing to lose by giving it a try.

I would love to hear any suggestions that you may have to help me with this project as this is all new to me :)

If you are interested in checking them out here are the links :

Download-on-iTunes

 

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Special thanks go to George Todica for his beautiful piano playing on these recordings and to Pascal Barnier for his fabulous images used for the cover art. It has been a tremendous treat to work with such good friends.
It would be a great if you could share these links and I would really appreciate it :)

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CMcG

I first met Charlotte McGuinness in my first year at the RCS during a cross discipline collaboration and she ended up strung up like a puppet :)  Whoever said that blondes have more fun was obviously hanging out with the wrong brunette.

I was so pleased CharlotteM agreed to let me quiz her about her course and hopes for the future:

Charlotte, as you’re in your final year of your three year BA Acting degree  at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS), it must all be getting a bit real for you now, so when you finish your degree have you decided what your next step will be? What would you like to do next?

I really want to do acting with writing as an add-on, it is obviously hard as an actor to have that that as their only job and wait around waiting for a phone call every day.  So you have to have a secondary job, in London before I started my course, I did a foundation course and I did all the phone jobs and retail jobs to supplement that, so I want to get into writing as that is still creative and I hope to make my own work with our company ‘Ink Dolls’.  The world is so big with social media and social networking and everything you’ve got to be ready to take on every aspect.  I was really inspired by the women who wrote Upstairs, Downstairs they wrote it and put themselves in it.  The same with James Corden and Ruth Jones the creators of Gavin and Stacey to stop getting themselves typecast they wrote for characters to give themselves acting challenges outside their usual casting, they wrote it, developed it then put themselves in it as the actors.  It’s just another way into acting.

Sometimes you do have to create your own opportunities, it’s the same for singers, so how do you know where to start in your speciality?

I think if you want to get into it, you just have to be brave and leap, we started this summer at the Edinburgh Fringe, we were looking at how to develop new stuff we were writing.  I did a mini internship recently at the Channel 4 Glasgow office producing in their creative diversity unit, making sure their creative programming is varied.  I read lots of projects that have been put forward and it is interesting to see there are funds to create new and exciting projects.  For example have you heard of Scrotal Recall, the program was written and developed using funds from C4?  It is now a successful big programme.

What are you doing at the moment at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland?

I love comedy, I love to do that, at the moment we are rehearsing for ‘The Country Wife’ my role is Lady Fidget, she’s a Tory MP’s wife, very coiffured the original version of the play was written before even Shakespeare wrote his plays so when you first hear it you think this is odd.  It was banned at the time because it was too outrageous, the lead man is Master Horner who is very horney, which is not very subtle, the modern equivalent is the Russell Brand sort of character, the story is from France and he, Master Horner, claims he’s an eunuch .  It’s a lot about public face and private face and my character reflects rich people’s perceived obsession with how they look, honour, dating the right man, upper class, then you see what she is really like underneath.

So you are keeping it quite farcical or realistic?

It is quite farcical which is hard with a modern interpretation.  You start thinking its high style and ridiculous, possibly Oscar Wilde style and then you get into it and there’s no truth in that at all.  You’ve still got to develop the acting, get into character.

Is it true that some actors develop the character from the shoes they’re given?

It’s funny you should say that we had so many challenges with shoes in the last week, we have these costume parades, when you come in front of the Director and they see all this stuff and ideas get developed, so you parade yourself out in this catwalk thing and about eight people are just staring at you and ideas get thrown around, people are readjusting your sleeves and adding or taking away from your costume.  Robert Carson our Director is quite fabulous anyway and he was into detail, for example, he wanted my character in a bigger heel because my costume was quite conservative and he still wanted my character to be sexy and believable.  I was like oh heck because I’m running around all over the stage in 4.5” suede pink shoes (Charlotte M’s smiling back at me now “I knew you’d like that” – “Oh wow I do!”).  So now I have to glide in and be very dignified and it forces me to take smaller steps, very birdlike, so I guess it’s all helping characterisation.  You can’t just move without reason you have to think about heel toe, heel toe.

In singing we don’t get our costume till late and we’re told it’s all about the voice, all about the voice.  But I think costume is so important, when I went to see Cinderella at the Opera last week I was quite disappointed with some of the costumes.

Your degree is in Drama, if I was 17 and asking you about what to expect what would you say?

The majority of our work in the first and second year is skills classes, movement which is different to dance; animal studies; colours; personalities and exploring all aspects of those.  Voice lessons how to reach the deep parts of your voice and how to have more gravitas, Shakespeare pronunciation.  We have classes in singing, choral and personal and participate in dance sessions.

That sounds jam packed!

We also do acrobatics, Cirque du Soleil, I was asked to do things I’ve never ever done before, but we started with stuff you’d do when you are about 11 like cartwheels, balancing.  I did parkour instead of acrobatics second year, getting grounded.  Workshops including improvisation which is great, you have to fail and get it wrong and explore, it’s the only way to learn to fail and fail again and work on getting things right.  Then we do a big project, ours was ‘Russians’, you start with ‘The Seagull’ laid back understated it’s all about what’s not said.  Then in the second year we carry on with skills classes and a Shakespeare outreach where you teach secondary school students with workshops and games on how say Macbeth develops.  Everybody has energy boards and we develop that on the stage and get into a scrum, we did this project with ‘King Lear’.  We did a big show ‘Coriolanus’, a Shakespeare tragedy about a Roman leader, we took it on tour to Russia.  You have to go for it but it’s crazy and you can’t be afraid to explore Shakespeare large.  Then we build into our high style and Oscar Wilde style which is bigger and we have a Panto which is even bigger, we have the archetypes, the lovers and all of that and a full exploration.  Finally we go back into Film in February, so we go from the glitz and glam of Panto to solid acting pared right back.

Gosh the course can’t be accused of being stale and sticking with say Stanislavski!

It’s important to be versatile.

Do you see yourself as being an advocate for Shakespeare and Drama in say the school curriculum?

Absolutely!  I went to a High School that was put in special measures who gave no encouragement to go on to higher education and they have now converted into an Academy, we did Drama but then only at 13 and 14 it wasn’t part of the English curriculum.  Aside from the fact that for people with reading issues like dyslexia drama and play acting so helps to relate to problem issues in a different way and helps with understanding text. For a lot of people they would otherwise not come into contact with plays and drama productions if it wasn’t covered at school.

I read about you getting into photography in this article  , how did you get into that was it something your Mum was in to?

My Mum went to a similar school to me and they were encouraged to go into offices or shops, people got married and didn’t really consider an arts career.  So my Mum wasn’t part of that world, she was very artistic but she went off to be a secretary and secretarial college, so eventually she retrained as a teacher and now she’s into politics.  But I love art and I sketch and draw, and photography is just an extension of that and it’s something we could develop together and she encouraged me.  I did fine art and photography and carried it through to ‘A’ level.  I did a lot of dark room stuff.  I love fantastic images I researched Annie Liebovitz photography a lot and a guy called Tim Walker, Gregory Crewdson very colourful images, but I like black and white too.  My friend Rob and I used to photograph each other for projects, he’s in Les Mis. at the moment on the West End.  I’m glad I did develop it because I can use those skills to create headshots and posters and I know how to use Photoshop so we can cover lots of our own marketing.  We were clear about what we wanted our logo to look like we used a designer in Greece.  We helped create the poster for ‘Flat Pack’ our play we created for the Edinburgh Fringe.  Em J my partner in Ink Dolls came from a background in the arts as well and it helps with staging, costumes and just how we want things to look, I’m getting quite involved with typography at the moment.

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What do you feel is the most important characteristics for an Actor?

Be aware of what makes up your soul, be aware of your character, be aware of your unique characteristics; be sure you represent your quality – whether it be sly, charming, crazy, or romantic.  People can audition for three to five years just to get into schools like the RCS if it’s something you’re serious about you can’t just have a quitting nature.  Maturity, confidence, experience, love, loss, having a presence , foundation courses, rep years, get experience on the Fringe, mini courses, NYT just getting experience and what the demands are and being around other actors, its relentless.  A good memory is helpful you have to remember monologues with just one day’s preparation.  Go do all the crap jobs to build your character and meet some great characters, see the world around you, and don’t just stay in the rarefied environment of the classroom.  Audition tutors are a good idea too, it does cost quite a lot but so is the cost of auditioning and re-auditioning, they will tell you to concentrate on your strengths and give your critical feedback.  The top Universities like Oxbridge are sometimes easier to get into than the best Drama schools and they have organisations who offer Oxbridge application training to get into those organisations, it’s something you shouldn’t be ashamed or afraid to do I wish I’d have known about it.  It is all about you and they help to teach you how to make yourself shine and hope that someone needs the character that you are.

I think a thing to remember is that no Actor, not even someone I admire like Leonardo DiCaprio started out perfect, they will have a back catalogue of less than perfect performances that have helped to hone their skill over the years, until today when he isn’t type cast and can trusted to truly represent a variety of roles, it is unrealistic of 21 year olds to expect to be perfect from the off.

Were there any days you thought you couldn’t do it?

There have absolutely been times where the pressure and the multi-tasking for example when we lived with everyone who did ‘The Flat Pack’  project with us, we didn’t have our internet set up, we’d just given everyone the script, sometimes the hours are so long, so little time for sleep and the house was so mental you forget to eat and we were so busy that it seemed the project might not get done, had we taken on too much? I can’t believe I thought it was a good idea to write, direct, produce, one of us act in it, market it, raise the funds, there are days where you are so exhausted that you just think I can’t do this.  With all big projects I would imagine there are days where you think the monies going to run out, people aren’t auditioning, it’s just a game sometimes of whose the last person standing.  Just remember have faith, keep on going, pick yourself up, get some sleep, if you have a modicum of talent its often those who can handle the most, have great friends, family and remember to be a regular person and that this is a job, you are a person first and foremost and don’t lose sight of that.

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Read the fabulous 5* review in The Herald http://www.heraldscotland.com/arts-ents/stage/review-theatre.25791991