Gothic Opera – An Interview with the Directors

This week I interviewed the co-founders and directors of Gothic Opera to find out about the company’s origins, their team working skills, and what events led them to specialise in telling supernatural stories and creating eerie atmospheres. Read on to find out more.

The Team

Beatrice de Larragoiti

Charlotte Osborn

Alice Usher

Me, Alice Usher, Beatrice de Larragoiti , and Charlotte Osborn

Why did you decide to create the Gothic Opera Company?

Béatrice: I was doing some candlelit recitals in cemeteries for Halloween. It was an idea that I submitted to a festival called London Month of the Dead. I put together bits of music that had gothic and ghostly subjects. I felt a bit frustrated that I couldn’t do a whole opera and that I was limited to singing from my soprano perspective, which is often a young gothic girl who is very miserable. Nevertheless, I enjoyed doing this project. Then I worked with Charlotte [Osborn] at Trinity [Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, London]. Then Alice and Charlotte came to me, and we decided to work together.

Alice: Over the years, we realised that we had gained various skills from different jobs. Skills that would enable us to produce as well as sing. I think it’s good to have an outlet to put something together where you get to do everything. You realise that you know more than you think.

Charlotte: The impetus to start the company came from an increasing awareness of how many talented people are out there and how few opportunities there are for everyone to gain experience and perform. We wnated to create a stimulating, positive environment. And give opportunities to singers like us out there

Alice: The profession is really difficult and challenging. Sometimes it’s nice to take that entrepreneurial spirit and be part of the change.

Copyright – Gothic Opera

What are your hot tips for working creatively in a team?

Charlotte: Communication – Communicating well with each other and knowing who is doing what task.

Béatrice: We use Google Drive, Email and Whatsapp to stay in touch and to keep everyone updated.

Alice: Also, It is important to figure out where each other’s strengths lie and who can take responsibility for something and trust them to do it.

Charlotte: It can take a while to figure out your team’s strengths but be patient, and you will grow together.

What do you enjoy most about producing operas?

Charlotte: The people – The most fun is meeting people in auditions and interviews and getting to know people in rehearsals. Each production has a whole new set of people, like a new little family.

Copyright – Gothic Opera

Why did you pick “Le Loup Garou” and “Le Dernier Sorcier”?

Alice: Le Loup Garou came to us first via Eleanor Burke [current Director of Le Loup Garou production]. She got in touch and was like, what about this? So we had a meeting with her and were quite interested in it. We figured out it needed to be in a double bill with something else.

Béatrice: I always try to think when is the best moment to do a work. I thought it would be good to do the Louise Berton this year, as I didn’t want anyone else to premiere it before us. However, I was worried that Louise Berton was a bit too obscure. It would attract some new audiences but not necessarily all the opera regulars. Whereas if they see Pauline Viardot [the composer for Le Dernier Sorcier], her name may bring opera lovers. As a company, we also thought it was time to do some female composers because we hadn’t done that yet. Interesting fact: 40 years separate the two operas

Neither of these operas has had a UK Premiere. What preparations did you undertake so these operas are accessible to your cast and audience?

Alice: Le Loup Garou is a challenging score [For example, the musical score uses old methods for music notation]. This is often the case when you perform rarely heard or neglected operas. So, as soon as Julianne [Conductor] came on board, we realised that we needed to do various things to it. First, like in the past, we commissioned a new arrangement because we will perform with a small ensemble. Then it’s just a question of someone going through the score with a fine tooth comb and making sure it will make sense dramatically and musically. We also realised fairly early on that we wanted to write new dialogues to bring the story up to date.

[Side Note: They also provided the cast with an English translation of the libretto, which I found to be very helpful towards my understanding of the story and character development]

Copyright – Gothic Opera

Your upcoming performances feature a cast of emerging artists. Why is it important for you to include young artists in your productions?

Alice: ‘One of the motivations for setting up the company was to create opportunities for others like ourselves, so we are very excited to give opportunities to young / emerging singers alongside more experienced professionals.

Béatrice: I think that when you reach a certain point, everybody sings really well. You just need to trust people with a slightly less advanced career level and allow them to shine as part of a team.

Your shows are often seen as a fantastic introduction for newcomers to opera. So, what can someone coming to their first opera expect from a gothic opera production?

Alice: It’s just fun. Chuck out any negative ideas that you have. Some people think it’s going to be really long, and they won’t understand anything. But we have surtitles, some moments are in English and we try to keep it pacey.

Béatrice: It’s a show like any other show. We want you to be entertained. We just happen to use this classical technique to express ourselves.

Your shows often take place during Halloween weekend. Have you ever experienced spooky surprises as a result?

Alice: One of our first productions took place at the Old Church, Stoke Newington. You had to actually walk through the graveyard to get into the venue. That was really cool and very spooky.

In one production, I had to cross from one side of the church to the other [by going outside], and my blocking was that I had a chain around my neck held by my father. During my transition, there were police outside who saw us, and as it was Halloween, they just shrugged and said, “Evening”.

Charlotte: Sometimes, audience members come in costume. and then you realise that they’re scarier than you onstage.

Alice: Last year, an audience member came in full costume with a birdcage full of fairy lights on shuffle mode. Sometimes it would flash really, really fast. Luckily he was sitting next to Florian (Deputy Stage Manager), who was very sensible and asked them to turn it off.

Béatrice: We had another funny moment, also next to Florian. A guy was looking at his phone during the show, which sadly is very common. At some point in the staging, all the men were singing this massive masculine drinking song, and they were all being very vulgar. At some point, they all had to take their chairs and heavily drop them on the floor simultaneously. It made the theatre tremble, and the guy on his mobile suddenly gasped in fright.

Alice: We also had a woman take shelter at the opera, as fireworks were going off nearby and scaring her dog.

I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Gothic Opera so far and have enjoyed observing their entrepreneurial spirit. I am thrilled to share this interview with you. If you have any questions for members of the Gothic Opera team, please write them in the comments section below, and I will endeavour to find an answer for you.

29 thoughts on “Gothic Opera – An Interview with the Directors

    1. Thank you Annette, its been a while since I last did an interview. I’m happy that you found it interesting.

      Best wishes

  1. Gothic a go go. Great Gothic interview. What a fun opera. Sounds like you get a little Gothic-style Rocky Horror Picture Show with people showing up in costume for Halloween.

    1. Thank you Timothy, I’m thoroughly enjoying rehearsals and seeing how the ladies are bringing this all together. Can’t wait for show nights.

      Best wishes

  2. A wonderful interview. I also liked the first photograph very much: four young, bright-eyed women who will change the world. Compliments. (We have a sort of urgent need of more of you…) (and I said “change” not “save”. Let’s stick to what’s feasible… LOL)

    1. Hello Brian,
      I like your vision and I believe that there is always a chance for our shared community to grow, especially if we incorporate creative energy to find new solutions.
      Best Wishes,

    1. Hello Cindy,
      I believe that they really consider the spectator’s experience, and aim for it to enjoyable. I would love to see some audience members wearing fancy dress. If you were able to come, what Halloween character would you come dressed as?
      Best Wishes,

    1. Hello Derrick,
      Thank you for your lovely compliment. I really enjoyed coming up with the questions for this interview and that they sparked such interesting answers. Thank you for reading.
      Best Wishes,

    1. Hello Don,
      They are a fantastic team and I find it highly motivating that they are creating their own opportunities to perform. I shall pass on your best wishes to them.
      Best Wishes,

    1. Hello Jovina,
      Thank you for reading my blog post. I love to share these interviews with my blog friends, as they highlight how everyone is so unique and full of wonderful ideas and experiences.
      Best Wishes,

    1. It was a really inspiring meeting and I loved having an opportunity to pick their brains about their origins and processes.
      Best Wishes,

    1. Hello Abraham,
      Thank you for your support. Sometimes a project can seem very daunting. I try to break it down into smaller tasks and focus on completing one – even if it is small. I find that this can really increase my motivation and propel me to continue. I wish you the best of luck with your own projects.
      Best Wishes,

  3. Hello Charlotte! So excited for your double performance coming soon. I noticed in an earlier post you mentioned both the operas were written by female composers in the 19th Century. Will the Gothic Opera continue to search for such older female composers who usually don’t get seen in big productions, or will they also look into producing current/contemporary works?

    1. Hello Atreyee,
      That is a great question and I have asked the G.O. Team. They said that they would be open to working on modern operas or new commissions, as long as they have a gothic theme. It was a happy accident that both Le Dernier Sorcier and Le Loup Garou are from the 19th Century.
      Best Wishes,

  4. Charlotte, this is a fabulous interview. Also, what amazing people for you to work with at this stage of your career as a Soprano, and your other endeavours writing and producing.
    This is perfect!
    All in all a wonderful post!
    Resa ❦❦
    PS, I’m going to catch up on your next post, then pop a couple of “work in progress” pics into an email.

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