With the ‘Fire Of Olympus’ opening in Burnley, Lancashire on Saturday 14th September 2019, this coming week is going to see all the hard work put in by the cast and creatives as all the pieces finally come together. There are still a few tickets left for the performance in Burnley if you want to be amongst the first to see this amazing production you can get your tickets here:
Following my interview with Tim Benjamin last week on my blog, Tim turned the tables on me with some questions of his own. He kindly allowed me to share them with you along with a short promotional video that he had filmed to help raise awareness of the opera.
1. Pandora is famous, yet people don’t really know much about who she really is. Can you give us the lowdown?
I discovered that Pandora was the first human woman on Earth. Zeus the leader of the Gods asked Hephaestus a fellow God to create her to go to Earth to be an evil thing for men to balance out the theft of fire for use by mortals by Prometheus his name meant ‘forethought’ he was as his name suggests a thoughtful Titan (one of the original supreme beings on Earth) 🔥.
During Pandora’s creation, the other Gods were asked to bestow gifts upon her. Hephaestus made her in the likeness of the goddesses, Athena dressed her in silvery robes and taught her feminine skills, Aphrodite gave her elegance and desirability, Hermes gave her a beautiful voice, but Zeus contrived within this to provide her with curiosity, a litany of lies and deceitful essence. She was also given a bottle/jar full of the ills of the World. She was told when she was sent to Epimetheus (Prometheus’ brother another Titan, his name meant afterthought) to be his bride not to open the bottle under any circumstances.
After they were married and had a daughter her curiosity got the better of her, she opened the bottle and unleashed the evils and sins on humankind, other than hope which some believe was trapped in the bottle when she hurriedly tried to put the stopper back in place.
2. Pandora is the character who changes the most in the opera. How do you interpret and realise this role?
In ‘Fire Of Olympus’ Pandora is a personal assistant to Zeus on Mount Olympus, she is extremely efficient and hardworking, promoted by him, a trusted and loyal worker who is very ambitious and driven to succeed and expects be respected. I believe in her mind she sees herself as one of the elites and wants to be accepted as an equal.
After the mysterious ‘Fire’ is stolen from Zeus’ office, Zeus is incandescent with rage, especially when Epimetheus avoids capture and starts a people’s rebellion, a revolution. Pandora is asked to report on the mob and the people’s uprising. Zeus has a plan that changes Pandora’s outlook in an instance, he wants her to go to Epimetheus and ‘allow him to do what he wants with you’ he wants her to give him the bottle and be sure he opens it. Zeus just sees Pandora as a tool, a nothing, a disposable pawn ♟ she finds this impossible to accept, if she remained loyal to Zeus he would always just use her as a girl and would never see her as she saw herself an equal.
She is disgusted, drained and feels she is worth more. Without knowing what is in the bottle she takes it from the office with the intent to work with the rebellion against Zeus.
3. In what ways are this role and music like Baroque music and Handel? In what ways different?
The ‘Fire Of Olympus’ blurs the musical traditions of contemporary and baroque music. The singers are accompanied by a chamber orchestra, which is a large ensemble for various instruments that existed during the baroque era, such as the harpsichord. The opera presents its story-telling in a similar way to Handel and Baroque opera. The Recitatives move the story forward in a speech like manner and the Arias allow for dramatic soliloquies in an ABA format. (For context, in pop music you have typically verse chorus verse chorus. This can be called ABAB format.) The character’s initial emotions are presented in Section A, then explored further with new musical ideas in Section B and finally when section A is repeated, typically with ornaments, the character’s emotions turn into decisions which are then acted upon the scenes to follow. However, I would associate Tim’s use of syncopated rhythms and atonal harmonies in the recitative and melismas as a contemporary music tool to word paint.
4. Do you approach roles in new opera differently from well-known roles from the operatic canon? How?
Yes, I approach roles in new operas slightly differently from well-known roles, for a start I can’t just watch other videos of fellow singers interpretations and I wouldn’t have studied the characters in scenes during my training or watched other people doing the roles in their scenes. However, that is what I also love about portraying characters such as Eve, Hero, Uccelina and now Pandora I have to breathe life into the character from scratch. I always try to interpret from the words and music what the composer and librettists intentions are for the character. I create a drawing and a storyboard of how I imagine the character to look and act. I get as much information in advance from the Director and I was also very pleased to meet the librettist during rehearsals last week to get his feelings and thoughts about my interpretation and make any changes from what he told me.
5. Everybody sings, perhaps to their baby, in a choir, on the football terraces, or even in the shower, but few people can sing like an opera singer. Can you explain in layman’s terms how you make such an incredible sound?
I’ve always had a natural amplification. I was frequently told in school performances and choirs I sang with that I was “too loud”. Whilst at High School, I participated in musical theatre productions and often my microphone was turned down or completely off on stage to balance with my colleagues. When you’re told ‘your voice cuts through like a blade’ you think “Is that a compliment or not ?”😂. But in Opera this vocal quality is essential. When I began training professionally I found that operatic singing is dependent on three different categories: Support (Breathing / Posture / Muscular Activity), Phonation (the production of sound by the voice box) and Filtering of the Sound (resonance and the impact of the lips and tongue). Each category has lots of intricate layers, which is why operatic singing is an athletic art form that needs the training to maintain stamina and flexibility so the body can naturally and healthily produce sound that can sustain a three-hour performance over an orchestra that is both dramatic and pleasant to listen to.
39 thoughts on “Pandora – Heroine or Villain?”
Fascinating post, Charlotte. Too loud? Ha ha ha I wonder what they have to say now?
Probably “I told you you were too loud” hehe. I did a lot more training in groups with two choirs during my undergrad in Glasgow and learnt to blend better by singing high soprano quietly (pianissimo – a more floaty sound with colour without too much body and weight) over the four years I was there, my very first choir performance was at Primary School aged around 10 we went to Buxton which is a lovely spa town very quaint, I’d started practice on the first row at the front because that’s usually where a soprano voice sings and ended up on the back row behind all the boys.
All my best wishes John,
Hahaha. Quite a story. I could imagine you back with all the boys. 😁 Thanks for sharing.
Brilliant blog Charlotte,.
It’s always good to know a little about the story, before you see it ,and listen to your amazing singing … Good luck for the first show in Burnley.
Cannot wait to see it in Tunstall.xx
Thank you glad you enjoyed it. Stoke on Trent is on Wednesday 30th October at 7:30 and finishes at about 9:10 pm ‘ish. I looked it up the other day because I’m driving myself there, it is in Hanley near Hanley Park off Cauldon Road/Staffordshire University on the A52 next time you’re up in Hanley let me know how the parking is around there hehe.
Wonderful video. I really like your enthusiasm and energy, but I think I’ve said that before. Excellent interview. The music directors I’ve worked with love singers who project. I think they would have held you up as a good example of how they tell singers to project. You are blessed with a beautiful voice and lovely personality. You are inspiring. You have a nice challenge with Pandora, and I think you have her figured out very well. “Fire Of Olympus” sounds like it will be fantastic.
Thanks, Timothy, that’s a lovely message to read. I’m excited for my first show on Saturday, we’re filming too at the end of the month.
All my best wishes
Isn’t is amazing, that things others see in us that they find irritating, turn out to be some of our greatest assets. This production sounds wonderful and I thoroughly enjoyed the video.
My parents always told us to work to our strengths and work on the weaknesses as you go along but develop the things you’re good at first. I don’t think for one minute they thought I’d take them quite so much at their word hehe.
Good morning have nice day
Good morning Amritpal, I hope you have had a lovely day too.
All my best wishes
You rock on Charlotte. I know you will.
Thank you, Cindy. I’m rocking it.
All my best wishes
Lovely blog Charlotte, I learn so much from you about opera which helps me enjoy your shows with a much better understanding and appreciation. Thank you. 😘😘👏
Thank you Gill, you’ll have to let me know if you can get to one of the shows around Manchester.
All my best wishes
I found the technical explanation fascinating. I often wondered how much is natural and how much is trained / developed. I think my microphone would be turned down for a different reason 🤭
😂 lovely to hear from you Andrew I hope you’re well. Thinking about it I’ve been singing with a weekly coaching in a group class at first for twenty years, learning the words and music in time for Saturday classes it was never a chore because I love it.
Thank you, thank you, dear Charlotte for sharing your deep insights about operatic singing and about the Greek mythology of Pandora who brought all kinds of evil into this world by the stupidity of Epimetheus… and the courage of Prometheus… very very interesting…! Zeus surely is finally identified as an exploiter and preyer while Prometheus is the bringer of Fire…! LOL…
Thank you for reading Eberhard 😊_ I still wish Pandora’s curiosity didn’t cause her to open the bottle but the hands of her fate must have been too strong to resist.
Géniale, bravo !!!! I’m sure you will be the best Pandora of the millenium !!!! Meilleurs pensées pour Toi et toute la troupe !!!! Big hug my friend !!
Thank you Pascal for your faith in me 😊.
All my best wishes
That was fun and informative, too. So, is there an ABBA format, haha?
😄 I quite enjoy Abba I used to sing their hits all the time at Saturday theatre school.
I like to read your blog again and again . It’s very interesting, detailed, to read your blog made with so much enthusiasm (again such a Greek word, originally means “possession by God”) and your love for music. For me it is a plunge into another world. It’s something other than all the technical and other problems I normally have to deal with all day.
As a child I liked to have something read to me about Odysseus’ journey. Now I was able to learn more about Prometheus and Pandora. And if I am curious, I read a little more about it. Since I am currently on holiday with my parents in Remscheid, I also have time for that.
Pandora as “Femme fatale”, as Zeus revenge for the stolen fire (the poor men had actually had nothing to do with it 😊). “Pandaro is the robbing fire in response to the fire stolen by Prometheus.” What disturbs me a little is the somewhat “old” image of the woman, which in such legends is briefly summarized as “beautiful on the outside and mean on the inside”.
So much for Greek legends.
It is also nice to hear your voice. Here in Northern Germany we swallow a lot of vowels 😊 . I understand the dialect here in the Rhineland, but unfortunately I grew up with High Standard German. In Ludwigsburg (in Swabian) where I currently live, one often says for the “s” a “sh” and also the greeting was for me in Ludwigsburg new, there you say instead of “hello” “Grüß Gott (roughly translated “greetings God””.
P.S.: This week I found an offer for a direct flight from Düsseldorf to Manchester for 30 €, which is cheaper than a train ticket from Stuttgart to Cologne. If I didn’t have so much to do at the moment, I would have booked the flight. Just to experience England for the first time, but I’m sure there are other possibilities.
P.P.S: I am also sure that you can assert yourself well in discussions with your voice 😊.
Many nice greetings from Remscheid (Ludwigsburg)
Thank you Arndt I’m happy to give you a break with my blog post from all your hard work. I hope your holiday was fabulous, I must look up Remscheid.
I’ve been studying German for many years now, I passed an examination recently and will be taking another in the New Year if my listening preparation goes as planned. I have a fabulous teacher who is a bit cross with me that I’m too busy at the moment to study but we will resume shortly.
You’d love England and that plane ticket is a great price. If you do get over to Manchester, as well as our opera, if you like football there’s a football museum and of course two of the best stadiums to visit but if you can only fit in one it’s got to be the Etihad Stadium :). Then there’s the Manchester Cathedral and Art Gallery. If I was visiting Manchester though I’d get on a bus to Cheshire Oaks and spend a day shopping at the outlet village bargain hunting hehe.
Good evening, Charlotte,
Sorry for the late reply . A good idea. I looked again, the offer for the flights exists still the following weeks, thus also in October. As soon as I am sure about the planning (flight and hotel), I will let you know. Thank you very much for the interesting suggestions.
Congrats on playing Pandora…..A very fierce role, Charlotte….
Do tell pro or con? Darlene
It’s not a great tale that the creation of woman is seen as the start of all evil on this world. I don’t think a woman wrote this tale hehe. It is quite ironic that ends up doing what Zeus wanted her to do after all.
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved and thine house also. I hope you have a blessed career.
There are similarities with the Christian Eve. Eve like Pandora was known as the first woman on Earth and they both disobeyed God. Both women are alleged to have brought ruin and misfortune upon the men on Earth and are said to be the reason the world is cursed today at least Eve had the snake to blame.
I enjoyed reading the interview, Charlotte. Congratulations on playing this role!
Always enjoy the interview posts, especially as they include anecdotes about you. “Too loud” haha
Thank you Alex, I need an extra day in the week at the moment, I hope you’re well.
I know that feeling well. And I also know you’ll manage far better than most of us 🙂
I’m blown away!
Your reach into and understanding of the character you portray is very admirable. The physical nature of what you do… be an opera singer, is an athletic achievement.
I’m very in awe!
Thank you Resa, I actually feel like I’m running a marathon at the moment hehe. Got my head in the score of my next project as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, lovely music lots of it.
Keep running that marathon. … or as in the words Janis Joplin sang… “Get It While You Can” ❦
I am the exact opposite. When I was in the choir ..or with classmates at school, people told me my voice was too low. Almost Baritone. So, I tried to ‘adjust’ it to draw less attention and fit in more with the other kids. Unfortunately, this caused me to lose all control of my voice because I didn’t allow it to change naturally as I got older. To this day, my voice can suddenly leap higher when I’m nervous or anxious. But I must say I’ve come a long way in regaining control of it.
Children do try to fit in with each other as you say I’m glad you’re able to control it now. I remember something Angelina Jolie said “Difference is good. When someone tells you that you are different, smile and hold your head up and be proud”.
All my best wishes