On Friday I had a wonderful opportunity to perform near home in Chester with my talented peers Anna Cooper (Mezzo-Soprano) and Prajna Indrawati (Piano). We have all become great friends over this past year whilst we have been studying at the Royal College of Music in London. It was a delight to work on this recital programme with them both.
The concert took place in the beautiful St. Werburgh’s RC Church. The church had recently invested in a wonderful grand piano, which had a brilliant tone to support the voice. We arrived in the early evening after driving up from London during the afternoon and we immediately began rehearsing and preparing for the concert. We tested the acoustics both for singing and speaking and adapted our performances to reflect this. In the concert, I performed a range of songs from my personal journey through the world of classical music, featuring songs that I felt represented key moments of my training and other personal favourites.
We had an absolute blast and I would love to go back. The audience were very friendly and welcoming, which is always a nice feeling for a performer! It means you can take risks and experiment with ideas that you have so that music is alive with spontaneity and imagination. I was especially pleased to see my parents and my good friends Gill and Terry Howard in the audience who had driven to Chester after work to catch the performance.
On the 16th May, I will be participating in another set of Opera Scenes at the Royal College of Music under the baton of Christopher Middleton and the direction of James Bonas. We began rehearsals from the 24th April meeting twice a week for 90 minutes. I will be performing the opening scene from “Il Re Pastore” by Mozart as the character Aminta. The opera was first performed on 23 April 1775 in Salzburg, at the Palace of the Archbishop Count Hieronymus von Colloredo when Mozart was just 19.
Aminta is a young and impoverished shepherd boy who is in love with a shepherdess, Elisa. But as in all good operas, nothing is quite that straightforward. Alessandro the mighty King and ruler of Macedonia had just fought and defeated an evil tyrant, Stratone of Sidon. Alessandro was determined to find the rightful heir to the throne of Sidon and sets out on a mission to bring order back to the city-state.
You guessed it, Aminta is the rightful heir but initially, wants no part of it. He is happy living the simple life of a shepherd and plans to marry his true love Elisa at the earliest opportunity. Aminta is convinced by Alessandro to return to Sidon to take up the throne and put aside his love of Elisa for his duty to his people.
Alessandro believes that it would be good for Aminta, and for Sidon, if he marries Tamiri the daughter of the deposed tyrant, Stratone. But she loves another and Aminta’s heart lies with Elisa. Elisa and Tamiri plead with Alessandro to change his mind and allow them to marry for love. Realising how unjust his original proclamation would be he relents and allows Aminta to marry Elisa. The story ends with Aminta being crowned King of all Sidon.
This performance will be a first for me, as Aminta is a pants role, which means I will have to play a boy. The reason for this is because the role was originally written for a ‘castratto’, a male singer who has the range of a soprano or mezzo-soprano. From the middle of the 16th Century through to 1870 when it became illegal in Italy, young pre-pubescent boys would be castrated so that their larynx would not develop into that of an adult male. This meant that they retained a childlike quality to their voices with an extended range. Their bodies without the influence of testosterone developed in a unique way, their joints did not harden the same as an adult male and their bones would grow unusually long. This often gave them a tremendous lung capacity coupled with a youthful-sounding voice. As the practice fell out of favour the roles that had originally been written for their voices would then be performed by women.