On the 29th June 2018, I am excited to be singing again with my friends from the Tideswell Male Voice Choir. It is quite a special moment for me as it will be my last concert as a student before graduating from the Royal College of Music on the 6th July 2018. The concert will be held at St John the Baptist Church, Tideswell at 7:30 pm.
St John The Baptist Church, Tideswell
I remember fondly first meeting Maurice Hargreaves and John Richie, members of the choir when I first competed in the Hazel Grove Music festival back in 2009. It was my first time in the festival competition and they were so supportive and encouraging and made the day extra special for me.
Prizes From My Time At The Hazel Grove Music Festival
Having had such a great time, I decided to come back the following year and enter even more classes. This gave me the opportunity to expand my repertoire and improve my performance skills and develop friendships. So, when I was invited to sing with the Tideswell Male Voice Choir at the Romiley Forum on the 18th August 2012 you can imagine how excited I was.
My First Performance In Romiley With Tideswell Male Voice Choir
I would like to announce that the Box office for Waterperry Opera Festival, located a stone’s throw from Oxford, is now open. I will be participating in the company’s inaugural production of Mansfield Park, a chamber opera in two Acts by Jonathan Dove, based on the novel by Jane Austen. The performances will take place on the 18th and 19th August 2018 at 2pm. The ticket will also include access to the splendid Waterperry Gardens where you can explore the estate, with its Riverside walk, numerous gardens, Medieval Church, Museum and much more. I am looking forward to trying an afternoon tea and the homemade cakes in their Tea shop between rehearsals.
In the opera, I will perform the role of Maria Bertram, who is the eldest daughter of Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram. Fanny Price the novel’s protagonist, is Maria’s cousin, yet their relationship isn’t a close one.
During this snapshot of her life, Maria is engaged to Mr. Rushworth, an eligible match due to his wealth and property. However, Maria finds him tedious and his conversations dull. In contrast, she admires Henry Crawford, with whom after much flirtation, she falls in love. However, at times he is quite manipulative and uses her interest for his own gain and unfortunately, he does not love her back.
I’m looking forward to playing Maria Bertram as she is quite confident, at times arrogant, and her rebellious nature finds her in situations that cause a few scandals. Perhaps not always likable, but her involvement in the story allows us to glimpse the restrictions women dealt with during this period and how ‘ill’ choices can lead to a ruined reputation and being shunned by society.
I won’t continue to discuss the story in detail, in case you would like to read the novel that the opera is based on. I would certainly recommend it or perhaps listen to an audiobook. I particularly enjoyed BBC4’s dramatisation of the novel with David Tennant, Felicity Jones, and Benedict Cumberbatch performing.
I am on the lookout for a visual dramatisation of the novel at the moment so that I can study appropriate movements and gestures as well as fill my imagination with settings, costumes, and objects of the period. If you would like to share any personal insights I would be very interested to hear your voices.
UPDATE: Only 15 tickets left for the performance on Saturday 18th August.
The first week of rehearsals for Candide with Surrey Opera has started with a bang! I am working alongside such talented colleagues and I look forward to sharing the rehearsal process with you over the coming weeks, I’d like to try to get some photographs but its always difficult if you’re in the middle of the lively action.
You can listen to all my albums recorded in 2014 and 2016 on these popular streaming services, this will help me to keep up my singing and coaching training now I’m cut loose from the college environment, thanks in advance for any help you can give me by taking a listen:
Hello everyone wishing you all a happy June. I’d like to start this week by thanking the fantastically talented George Todica who unleashed his brilliance on piano during my final recital at the Royal College of Music and kept me calm and sane in the days before the performance on Monday morning, even suggesting using print shop when my trusty printer wouldn’t work on Sunday!
Me and George Todica After My Recital
I had to dash off after the performance and a quick lunch with friends and family to Croydon on the other side of London to start rehearsals with Surrey Opera https://www.surreyopera.org/ for their production of Bernstein’s ‘Candide’ and my role as Cunegonde. I’d spent some time getting the role ready before the rehearsals and with the agreement of my brilliant singing teacher Rosa Mannion and awesome coach Simon Lepper I put ‘Glitter and Be Gay’ as the final aria in my recital which after 40 minutes of near continuous singing was quite a high note to ask my voice to end on!
Bernstein was mentioned in the conductor Marin Alsop’s interview I’d read when I was reading up on Women in Music, he was her mentor and teacher. She credited him with this piece of advice ‘morality is very simple and based on human diversity, tolerance and about what we all strive to be. Be yourself, do not seek to be somebody else, but be the very best of who you are’ that’s all I sought to be in my recital.
Rosa Mannion and Me
Anyhow, a bit about Cunegonde and Candide for you if you’ve not heard of this Operetta. The score was written by the American author, composer, conductor, lecturer in music and pianist Leonard Bernstein in 1956. The story is based on the 1759 Voltaire novella of the same name, Cunegonde is the daughter of a Baron from the Country of Westphalia, a region in North West Germany. When war breaks out Westphalia is destroyed and her family murdered. Cunegonde is thought to be dead but she turns up in Paris, France with her duenna (chaperone). She has fallen into the role of a demimonde (a woman supported or exploited by wealthy men) shared by a Grand Inquisitor and a wealthy Jew.
Candide is in love with Cunegonde, the daughter in the house where he is brought up. Dr. Pangloss, their tutor, teaches them that everything in this world is for the best, part of God’s universal plan. Candide is then tested in a knockabout series of unfortunate events to test this theory. He is expelled from the Baron’s home, press-ganged into the army, is told Cunegonde is dead and meets Pangloss, together they survive an earthquake, are captured by the Holy Inquisition, and finally Pangloss is hanged. When he is reunited with Cungonde, he kills her new lovers and they flee to South America where she is sold into slavery. After many adventures, he returns to Venice where he finds Cunegonde in a completely fallen state, a whore in a gambling casino. Finally disillusioned, he realizes that the world is neither good nor bad but what we make of it.
The cast is lovely, my role is dual cast and it’s going to be great getting to know Lizzie Holmes. The direction is clear and very well organised. We will be performing this summer (praying for good weather) at the magnificent Minack Theatre on the clifftops of Porthcurno in Cornwall from 16th to 20th July 2018. The tickets are £14/£10 Adults and £7/£5 for under 16’s great value for this crazy romantic comedy full of wonderful music.
Minack Theatre By Day
Minack Theatre By Night
Surrey Opera receive no regular funding for their productions and are reliant on sponsors and fundraising to help finance the shows as ticket sales alone rarely cover the costs of putting on their lavish productions. You can join their supporters club and take advantage of their packages starting with a Bronze membership with an annual fee of £30 giving you a newsletter, priority booking, programme listing and invitations to Surrey Opera’s fundraising events.
Sadly I missed a couple of my friend’s recitals on Monday but I’m hoping to watch a few of my colleagues at the RCM this afternoon and during breaks this week.
Every evening though for the next month I’ll have my head stuck in the score whilst developing my characterisation throughout the days, there is a lot of singing it’s a chunky role that I’m really looking forward to performing.
On Tuesday, 22nd May I participated in my last opera scene at the Royal College of Music. It was so much fun and I learned so much from the process and from watching my talented peers.
Me and Marcella di Garbo
I sang the role of Governess alongside Marcella di Garbo as the ghostly Miss Jessel.
Henry James who wrote The Turn of the Screw in 1897 lived at that time in Sussex in a big Country house. He was interested in ‘spiritual phenomena’. Telling ghost stories at the time was a tradition during the Christmas holiday festivities. James had been told an anecdote by the archbishop of Canterbury of a couple of young children haunted by ghosts of a pair of servants who wish them ill. In the story the evil spirits of Miss Jessel the previous governess and Peter Quint formerly the valet try to lure the children to their deaths to get their souls.
The ghosts in the story are only visible to the Governess. Are the ghosts a figment of her neurotic imagination or is she the plucky saviour of her charges from damnation? This decision is usually left to the audience member to decide.
A new challenge that we both had to face together was singing in corsets for the first time. This is because our Director Stuart Barker placed our scene from Turn of the Screw in the middle of the nineteenth century, (fitting the original plot). It was fashionable at this time to wear a corset underneath your blouse/dress. Corsets during this period were shaped like an hourglass but were made longer to cover the hips. Luckily for singers, modern corset designs became more flexible, with less boning. This allows for a little more movement when breathing, but still, we have to adapt to the obvious restrictions still maintained by the design.
Marcell di Garbo and Me ( Photo Taken By Stuart Barker )
To make this work for me I had to be sure that I didn’t breathe out during my fitting, although I must admit that is was very tempting at the time. Luckily my singing teacher Rosa had warned me to take in a big breath during the fitting so that the corset allows for the expansion of the rib cage which is so important when singing.
When wearing a corset some movements become more restrictive such as bending over, (I was very careful not to drop any props!) and when changing levels from standing to sitting. This was very interesting and luckily our wonderful costume mistress Alice Lessing allowed us to take the corsets to our stage rehearsals to practice. In keeping with this theme, Alice recommended to us to put our shoes and tights on before being fitted into the corset, as bending down to do them afterward is quite a task. This proved a very handy tip!
( Photo Taken By Stuart Barker )
I personally found singing in a corset quite helpful, it encouraged me to sit and stand upright helping me to maintain good poise and posture. It also gave my character a sense of control and seniority, which was useful as I wanted to depict my character as a strong and determined Governess who could be trusted to look after the children of the house. The corset also gave me something to feel, as I could sense my muscles expanding and contracting during my vocal line helping me to focus on supporting my breath evenly, which in turn helps to create a sustained legato line. All in all, it was a very valuable lesson and one that has given even more to think about when performing in costume.
But don’t get me wrong, I was quite happy to take it off during my breaks from the performance and I’m glad that they are no longer a staple of modern fashion.
In the scene the ghost of Miss Jessel actually appears in my school room from outside along the passages and the stairwell. ‘The room is mine, the children are mine, be gone you horrible, terrible woman!’ I then take up my pen to write of my concerns to the guardian of the children telling him I have something I must tell him about even though he has warned me not to disturb him.
Me, Claire Swale, and Barbara Job backstage
Me with the amazing piano accompanist Lucy Colquhoun
On Friday, I participated in an evening of opera scenes along with my fellow students at the Royal College of Music. I had a lot of fun taking on the character of the ‘Controller’ in Flight and it was very exciting – but nerve-wracking as I had to sing a top F in a public performance for the first time. It was a great challenge, but one that I enjoyed immensely.
Zachary Neal, Me, and Jessica Cale
Ready For My Scene
It was lovely to see so many friends, colleagues, and family in the audience. I was especially happy to see my dear friends Hilary, Edwin, and Norman and it was lovely to be able to see them after the performance and share this experience with them.
These productions would not be the same without all the help that we get from Costume, Wigs, Hair, Makeup, and all the technical staff, and of course not forgetting the fabulous musicians who play for each of the scenes.
Hannah Crerar and Me In The Changing Room ( Photo Julieth Lozano )
Julieth Lozano and Me
The Whole Cast ( Photo Julieth Lozano )
Our next set of scenes are on this coming Tuesday at 5:30 pm in the Britten Theatre at the RCM.
On Monday 4th June at 11:10, I will perform my final recital of my Masters of Performance. The recital will take place in the Recital Hall at Royal College of Music. It would be lovely to see as many friendly faces in the audience as possible, so if you are in the area please come along. Entrance to the performance will be free, but because it is an exam please arrive early. George Todica will be accompanying me and we will be performing pieces by Massenet, Gustav Mahler, Lliam Paterson, Grieg, and Bernstein.
On Friday 18th May 2018 at 17:30 pm I will be the Controller in a scene from ‘Flight’ at the Royal College of Music, the scene will be directed by William Relton and conducted by Peter Selwyn. Flight is an English opera with music by Jonathan Dove, who also wrote ‘A Walk from the Garden’ that I performed for Scottish Opera Connect three years ago, playing the role of Eve. The libretto (text) for ‘Flight’ was written by April De Angelis.
‘Flight’ had its premiere mainstage performance at Glyndebourne Festival Opera in 1999. The inspiration for the story was from the true-life story of an Iranian refugee Nasseri who lived at Charles de Gaulle Airport unable to exit the terminal. Did you watch the 2004 Spielberg film with Tom Hanks called ‘The Terminal’ that was also based on Nasseri story stuck in terminal one in a Paris airport for 18 years, from 1988 to 2006, without any passport and documents? It never ceases to amaze me how life is often stranger than fiction. I’ve spent quite a bit of time recently in airport lounges listening to Controllers and soaking in the atmosphere, watching and waiting, and worked on the score to try to get it off copy (learned off the score) ready for rehearsals this past week.
He also made the mistake of thinking that a floundering relationship would be rectified by an overseas trip, like Bill and Tina. And he once sat with two people who were starting a new life in another country, which pops in with Minskman and Minskwoman.
“I think we had the feeling that the airport was potentially a kind of microcosm, with lighter elements.” He said.
Carly Owen As The Governess and Me as Flora, From January 2017
On Tuesday 22nd May 2018 at 17:30pm, I will play the Governess in a scene from ‘The Turn of the Screw’, this was the Britten opera that was my first opera scene at the Royal College of Music when I performed the role of the child ‘Flora’ in the Britten Theatre so it’s fitting that it will be my last scene. I did quite comprehensive research last year so I got out all my old notes and references to get into the new character, this is a fabulous opportunity to expand my work on this great opera. The score is very tricky. I’ve enjoyed working with Marcella Di Garbo, who plays Miss Jessel, since my return to London. The scene is being directed by Stuart Barker who directed my scene from the ‘Dialogue of the Carmelites’ so it’s lovely to work with him again and the ever-wonderful Michael Lloyd conducting, with Lucy Colquhoun on piano. Tickets for both events are free but require booking ( Click Here )
I will try and get some photos of both casts this week to share with you all.
This past week I was introduced to and worked alongside some wonderfully gifted people who made my week at the Metropolitan Opera House extra special, I will always remember their generosity, encouragement, and enthusiasm. Their individual commitment was truly inspiring and I will treasure these memories in the years to come.
David Sneddon, Me, and Marsha Drummond
David Sneddon, Margo Maier-Moul, and Me
The Education team: Marsha, Dan, and Angela were super hosts to the BambinO team and I enjoyed chatting with them and sharing some amazing times. They made us all feel like part of their family, providing us with tickets to the opera, pre-show parties, introduced us to some great Mexican food, and gave recommendations for things to enjoy in the city. One of their key duties as a department is creating the Education Guides for Schools that accompany each of the seasons’ performances put on at the Met. I was thrilled to find out that these guides are available for free online. If you want to learn a little more about a particular opera or use them in the classroom check them out here:
There is also an option to check the archives and see opera education packs from previous seasons. They are well worth a read!
During the week we reached our 100th Performance of BambinO and it was great to have everyone there to celebrate it. It was quite a milestone made extra special by the performance being at the Met !!
After Our 100th Performance !!
During my time in New York, I explored the city mostly by foot with the occasional trip on the subway. I was invited to go and observe a panel discussion on music and early childhood development, between the creators of Bambino and faculty members from the Rita Gold Early Childhood Centre, Columbia University Teachers College. It was both interesting and exciting that professors were exploring the effect of the work that we were doing. The panel discussion was held in the super swish Norwood Club, a private members club for Artists and Creatives in the heart of New York City. We were lucky enough to meet the owner Alan Linn who warmly welcomed us and encouraged us to enjoy the artwork and the themes to each floor of the building. As we climbed the flights of the stairs on our way to venue space on the top floor, it felt like I was walking through the looking glass in Alice and Wonderland.
The Norwood Club – New York
One of the greatest perks of working for the Metropolitan Opera House were the invitations to attend the opera performances as their guest. This made for a wonderful week as I was able to watch three Operas: Roméo & Juliette, Lucia di Lammermoor, and Cendrillon all with supreme casts, telling stories with scintillating singing, in wonderful costumes, portrayed on amazing sets.
Roméo & Juliette
Lucia di Lammermoor
My favourite was Cendrillon. I loved the outlandish costumes! In particular the red costumes for the female chorus in the ball. This was because each character was given a different style of dress, that was crazily elaborate. One had a bustle like a rooster, another had enormous horns like a maniacal princess and many, many more. James, the head of costume at the Met, told me that the performers were given the stage direction to focus on the fact that they thought they were beautiful – fit for a prince – and that these dresses were the best they had available. Rather than play up to the hilarity of their character’s image. This worked really well from an audience’s point of view. Other elements were punctuated with farce and comedy and the outstanding singing contributed to a wonderful evening. The set design for Cendrillon was particularly thrilling, and it’s magical appearance brought this iconic fairy-tale to life. Although the performances throughout were stunning I thought that Joyce DiDonato’s interpretation of Cinderella was simply fabulous, her singing was sublime and her stage presence was charming and witty and she had me enticed throughout.
Back Row : Lliam Paterson, Laura Sergeant, and Stuart Semple Front Row: Me, Joyce DiDonato, and Timothy Connor
So, can you imagine my reaction when I discovered that Joyce DiDonato had come to watch a performance of BambinO with her family on Friday afternoon, to see her in the audience was quite surreal.
I’ve tried to stay awake as much as possible today in London after a night flight to try to readjust to British Time and I’d just like to thank my very best friends for coming to my help and entertaining me all day.
After weeks of anticipation, Saturday finally arrived and team BambinO set off to New York for a week of performances at the Metropolitan Opera House. If you would have told me twelve months ago that working with this amazing team of creatives would lead me here I would never have believed it.
I was up bright and early, packed, and excited for the day ahead, eight hours after leaving Edinburgh we landed in Newark, collected our luggage, and met the drivers who were to take us to our hotel. The drive in from Newark Airport was a great way to see some of the City and I couldn’t wait to check in and explore the area around the hotel.
The Metropolitan Opera House
With a five-hour time difference, I was keen to stay awake as long as possible and not let the jet lag take hold. After a quick freshen up I arranged to meet up with Lliam Paterson, and together we set off walking to explore the area around where we were staying. It wasn’t long before we found the Lincoln Centre Plaza and I found it hard to contain my excitement as we approached the Metropolitan Opera House. It was only just sinking in that we would be here on Monday for the first of our performances.
Lliam Paterson, the Composer of BambinO and Me
This morning after a great nights sleep I met up with David Sneddon and Laura Sergeant and we set off to enjoy our free day in the City. Amongst some of the things we managed to do today were walking across Brooklyn Bridge, catching The Staten Island Ferry, and we walked through Times Square. I wanted to finish off tonight’s post by sharing some of the pictures we took.
I Can’t Believe That I Am Here On Brooklyn Bridge, New York.
Laura Sergeant, David Sneddon, and Me On The Brooklyn Bridge
Laura Sergeant and Me On The Brooklyn Bridge With The New York Skyline Behind Us
Statue Of Liberty
New York County Court House
New York City Fire Station
Madison Square Park Looking Down 5th Avenue Towards The Empire State Building
Check out the trailer for BambinO on the Metropolitan Opera’s YouTube Channel:
During my free time whilst working in Paris I have enjoyed reading your comments so thank you for taking the time writing them, I have also enjoyed eating delicious food, practicing my French, visiting galleries and walking my socks off. I thought this week I’d share some of my highlights and places to visit in case you may be planning a trip to Paris, or just wondering what it’s like.
The team and I stayed super central, near Les Halles, in the Citadine Hotel. Our rooms came with a little kitchenette which proved very budget friendly during a long stay. We were very close to bustling cafes and bars that populate Paris. I slept extremely well but that may be because I was running after crawling babies all day.
Louis, Me, and Matthew at Café Vigouroux
We quickly made Café Vigouroux on 10 rue des Halles our local. The staff there were friendly but strict with our French lessons that were to come. I will remember fondly, trying to ask Louis (one of the owners alongside Matthew) for the internet ´passwort’ in a wonderful mash-up of German and French. I quickly realised saying a word in a French accent with some conjugated verbs was not going to cut it. Louis then taught me to say ‘Qu’est-ce que les mots de pass pour le wifi?’ Which on my travels was very useful. Another great phrase for those trying to save some pennies ‘Je voudrai une carafe d’eau, s’il vous plaît.’ Which enables you to ask for tap water – l’eau du robinet. This was particularly handy during the beautiful sunny weather we experienced during our stay. If you are in this area of Paris I would definitely recommend you to stop by Café Vigourou.
The food in Paris was très délicieux! I visited a few restaurants for my evening meal. Amongst my favourites were:
Café Plume on 164 Rue Saint-Honoré, this restaurant and thriving evening bar served the most exquisite dauphinoise potatoes, that when Stuart (our percussionist) and I tasted them, we decided we simply had to bring the rest of company there to visit. This recommendation was very well received and confirmed with six empty plates.
Au Terminus du Châtelet on 5 Rue des Lavandières Saint-Opportune, is a beautiful traditional French restaurant, which I believe is in its 4th generation of family management. The Bambino team shared our first meal here and the food was outstanding. The menu is changed daily, responding to the chef’s inspirations based on the produce for the current season. A real delight for the palate!
Le 6 Paul Bert on 6, rue Paul Bert 😉(catchy and helpful name), a un tres goûteux menu (had a very tasty menu). The restaurant grows their own vegetables and take great pride in the produce used in their dishes. With great lighting and attentive service, this is certainly worth the walk.
In between eating and more eating, I was able to burn off some calories by exploring Paris on foot (hence the trainers). During my adventures, I visited many of Paris’ beautiful museums and art galleries. I didn’t realise, before Laura (our cellist) advised me, that I could visit most of these museums for free because I am under 26. (Make the most of this deal if you can, all you need is proof of age!) So as a true bargain hunter I tried to visit as many as I could. My all-time favourite was Musée d’Orsay, it was here that I was able to see Renoir, Monet, Rousseau (who I remember studying in High School ´Tiger in a tropical storm’ springs to mind) and more, my favourite piece of art in the gallery was Galatée by Morceau. I am now in search of a print of this image. The internet pictures do not give justice to the brilliance and sparkle that he has been able to achieve in the original to capture the mythical and magical subject it’s inspired by.
Exhibition at CentQuatre
Exhibition at CentQuatre
My favourite places to read, relax and study my music in the sun were the ‘Jardin du Luxembourg’, I will remember fondly the beautiful arrangements of tulips, the outstanding palace which now holds the Sénat, the beautiful water fountains, and the Grand Bassin, an octagonal pond where children can play with toy sailboats that can be rented. I lost many hours here and will miss this spot greatly. My other little spot was the little garden that surrounded Saint-Jacques tower. A peaceful place to people watch and listen to some great French jazz.
To get an amazing panorama view of Paris for free, visit the rooftop of the Galleries Lafayette! I was recommended the Pompidou Centre too, however, I thought the windows of the viewing deck needed a good scrub clean, but if you walk down to level 4 or 5 the view is very lovely there too.
If you love flowers don’t miss Marché aux Fleurs Reine Elizabeth II. One of the marketers told me flowers have been sold there since 1808 and are the oldest market of any kind in Paris. I sadly missed this, but my friend told me that on Sundays it turns into an eccentric bird market, where one can purchase a fine creature of flight! Next time I visit I’ll try to go on a Sunday!
On that note, I will bring my recommendations to a close, if you are interested in anymore please do get in touch! These are just the tip of the iceberg, but my main piece of advice is talk to the locals take their recommendations and walk, walk, walk and soak up the amazing atmosphere that is Paris!
Next stop New York, I can’t believe I’m actually saying that 🙂
Me, David, and Alison on an open top bus tour of Paris
Laura Sergeant, Tim Connor, Ruth MacKenzie ( Théâtre du Châtelet ), Me, and Stuart Semple
The venue for our final week’s performances of BambinO is the CentQuatre, it is a huge exhibition and performance space owned and financed by the City of Paris. We are using one of the many smaller performances areas within this amazing building, which in total covers over 25,000 square metres and can accommodate over 5000 visitors per day.
Outside one of the great halls at the CentQuatre
I discovered that the building has over 200 artists in residence and provides a varied and intriguing mix of both live performances and static Art exhibitions. It is hard to visualise that this building originally housed the city undertakers for Paris, for over 120 years it employed over 1000 people who arranged over 150 funeral processions each day. In 1993 the municipal monopoly on the provision of funerals came to end and the building finally closed in 1998. Luckily the building was registered as a historical monument and with the backing of the people of Paris, the Mayor went about finding out the best way to both safeguard and reuse the space. In 2008 I think that they achieved both when it reopened in its current configuration, and I hope that it continues to provide Parisians with a place to socialise, a grand exhibition space, and somewhere to enjoy a wide variety of live performances.
Our run here at CentQuatre finishes on the Friday 20th April, which will also mark the end of our short tour here in Paris for the Théâtre du Châtelet. It has been a wonderful time with some amazing venues and I will be sad to say goodbye when we have to leave next Saturday, so instead, I’ll just say au revoir.
After One Of Our Performances Last Week at Bibliothèque Jacqueline de Romilly