Opera: Passion, Power and Politics

I hope that you have all had a wonderful week and if you have any exciting tales to share you must let me know. My week has been filled with music making and observing my talented peers, which I ended with a Saturday focused on Opera.

Every day when I walk to College I pass the iconic museums that are an important part of South Kensington and on occasion, I love to visit them to break up my busy timetable. I find wandering the great exhibition halls of the Victoria & Albert Museum ( V&A ) fills me with inspiration and provides context about society during the periods of history that have affected many pieces of music that I study. Across the road from the V&A is the grandeur of the Natural History Museum which I often drop in to see the butterflies.


However, on Saturday I went with my friends to an exhibition at the V&A dedicated to Opera aptly named Opera: Passion, Power , and Politics which is a collaboration between the V&A and the Royal Opera House. This wonderful exhibition aims to map out the journey of opera from its creation in Italy to the worldwide platform that exists today. For my student priced ticket, I received a high-tech audio guided tour, (with pretty awesome headphones by Bower&Wilkins) that glided seamlessly between selected pieces of operatic music beautifully handpicked to frame the amazing layout of the exhibition. It was extra special for me to hear Sir Antonio Pappano, a fantastic world-renowned conductor who holds the position of Music Director of the Royal Opera House, relate his personal interpretation of Shostakovich’s Opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. It felt so personal and exciting that I hung on to his every word. It was an amazing exhibition with so many pieces of beautiful art, videos of performances, librettos and manuscripts, and a working baroque stage. If I am able to, I would like to go again to really soak it all in. Each item was accompanied with a informed explanation that would both interest a new comer to Opera or add to the knowledge of an Opera aficionado. The exhibition ends on February 25th 2018 and if you are in London whilst the exhibition is on I can highly recommend.

Then on Saturday evening, I went to the London Coliseum to watch a performance of Verdi’s Aida. A collaboration between Improbable and the ENO. It was an exciting event for me to attend as my delightful director from Bambino, Phelim McDermott, directed this spellbinding interpretation. The singing was outstanding from the principal cast and the chorus performed with a beautiful blend and incredible dynamic range that kept the intensity of the piece alive. I particularly enjoyed the visually stunning, smokey and dimly lit Sacred Rite scene from Act 1 scene 2, which created a world that was far more intimate. I really believed in the magic of the High Priestess.

In act three the relationship between Aida, Latonia Moore and her father Amonasro King of Ethiopia, Musa Nggungwana, was so raw and honest that it left me guessing as to what would happen in this iconic operatic tale even though I know the story so well. For the production to command your attention in this way was an incredible thing to achieve on stage, as the story develops it draws you in and feels so real that you are there with them for each and every moment.

I want to work on this element in my own singing with the intention to communicate my feelings to the audience as if I myself don’t know how the aria ends, so that I too am in the moment and finding fresh ideas to make each performance unique in its own way.

A truly beautiful interpretation of Aida that is a must see.

59 thoughts on “Opera: Passion, Power and Politics

    1. Thanks John, when I was in Verona training with MAI I had the good fortune to see it performed in Italian, it was great to hear it in English and see this interpretation I gained a new understanding.
      Best wishes

  1. The exhibition sounds wonderful! I wish I could see it, especially after reading your description. Likewise the ENO Aida.

  2. Sounds like a wonderful performance of Aida. And the exhibition at the V&A museum sounds fantastic. I hope you are able to go back and soak it in a bit more! Thanks for this little glimpse into how your mind works during your journey from being a singer to being an Artist.

    1. It was great to hear it in English, I love the Italian but I must admit I picked up on nuances I’d missed before. The V&A is a brilliant museum in London. Lots to soak in.
      Best wishes

    1. I think you’d really enjoy the exhibit Christine, I hope they take it around the UK. I’m going to be up in your neck of the woods next month to watch my old singing teacher perform in Liverpool very excited about that.
      Best wishes

  3. That was a wonderful week you had. I just looked up V&A museum online. It looks fantastic. I would have to keep it in mind if I have a chance to visit London in the future.

  4. Thank you for sharing this beautiful time Charlotte – You really make me want to come back and do some pictures in London – Regarding diving the audience in a performance, I recently saw a report that showed mixing video and live for the television, but also the new projection technology offers amazing possibilities –
    I wish you a fabulous week

    1. London has been lovely and warm this weekend. Yes I agree, a couple of years ago we went to see Love Never Dies in London and they used a projection screen in that performance it was very effective, I can see that modern audiences will enjoy, certainly music sung in foreign languages, projected images to help with understanding as long as they’re not too distracting from the singers of course 😜.

  5. The museums up exhibition road are truly magnificent, and have spent hours in all three (the science museum is also really worth a visit) I used to loose myself in the Burne-Jones windows and other delights, and they always have very interesting exhibitions as well. I have been to many great performances at the Colosseum, given by English opera. There really is always so much to imbibe in London, one could never be board here!

    1. It’s like another world compared to Cheshire where I grew up. When I first moved there, and to Glasgow, I was like a kiddie in a sweet shop wanting to do everything all at once 😊. So much art and activity, creativity and entertainment.
      Best wishes

      1. Yes I remember my first trip to Europe, trying to keep going all the time, and at the Edinburgh festival, going to 55 events in 10 days! Have been to Cheshire, and enjoyed it a lot, but was only there for about 4 hours, so there was enough to see and do to keep me interested. Best wishes Charles.

  6. Yes, the V & A exhibition is the one for me! I hope to get to London some time in the next few months and would love to make time to see it. I have never seen Aida or heard it in its entirety though I know some of the arias and choruses. I’m glad you had a good weekend, Charlotte.

    1. Do make time for the V&A I think you’d love it, some days they have special live performances too. That’s why sometimes these operas are good to watch in English then again in Italian.
      Best wishes

    1. So glad I kept my blog going, it’s nice to just look back sometimes and remember what a great time I’ve had whilst at the same time studying what I love to do.
      All my best wishes

  7. Love museums, can’t get my fill. You too I see, Charlotte. Your experiences sound so compelling. Would love to see it all. Thank so much!

    1. When we were little we’d each have a little sketch book and pencil and be taken to all the museums whenever we went to London and just sat and sketched things that caught our attention and write down information about the exhibits, my Mum still has lots of these little pictures, it helps information stick in my memory.
      All my best wishes Darlene,

  8. Another fine week. Loved the AIDA bit. I have only heard it in the Italian, but saw a production that had the English streaming across the screen on the proscenium top. Wasn’t the same.

    1. I understand the purists Don who want works in the original language, in fact I wrote a dissertation about it a couple of years ago where i argued for original language works, however, I think there is room for both and I really did enjoy this production in English getting a deeper understanding. Hope you’re well.
      All my best wishes

  9. Thank for the opera tour of the V & A – we might just get there. Pappano is the best and I feel privileged to be attending opera while he is at the helm of the ROH and giving so much to audiences way beyond the Opera House.The intimate parts of Aida can be stunning and I still love the final act when Radames discovers Aida is entombed with him and cannot bear that she is dying just because he loved her. Yes, do work on the drama as well as the voice, I need to believe that a character is utterly inside her role – no matter how unlikely the plot.

  10. As usual, you cram in so many cultural activities into a single week, Charlotte! I am envious. I certainly wish I could be in London to visit that exhibit – the National History Museum is one of my favorite places. So many things to see and admire!

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