Archives For My Performance 2017

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It’s been an absolute dream to be part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer. I took part as a member of the Scottish Opera team, who performed an opera specifically created for babies aged 6 to 18 months, called BambinO! After our successful run in the Manchester International Festival, I was excited to be part of the team to take BambinO to a new venue in Edinburgh, enabling different families to encounter the wonder of this beautiful Opera.

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Back Row: Laura Sergeant & Stuart Semple Front Row: Me & Timothy Connor

My role in the production is Uccellina, a bird who discovers an egg.  The egg grows and hatches revealing a baby bird, called Pulcino (Timothy Connor), he takes Uccellina for his mother and explores the world.  I’m initially happy though a bit annoyed at his hyperactive behaviour, we reconcile quickly being pleased to have found each other.  I tell Pulcino of the sky and its wonders and that it’s his destiny to fly from our nest, although also sad about the thought of being separated, we are caught up in our excitement of his first flight.  When Pulcino is ready to fly we sing our final duet of farewell, he soars among the clouds and I ponder his journey.

The show kept the original music wonderfully performed by Laura Sergeant on Cello and Stuart Semple on Percussion, drama, set and costume and we continued to make babies gurgle, laugh, squeak, sing and occasional cry! I couldn’t believe that our show sold out within the first couple of days and that many who missed out wanted details of the dates for our performances in Glasgow in the Autumn.

We began on the 8th August 2017 and continued until our last performances today. Our shows took place at 10:00 am and 11:30 am each day. I loved every minute of each show, and though we had early morning calls it was definitely worth it.  Joining us in Edinburgh to complete our gang were the delightful Lee Reynolds, Julie Burns and Paula Duncan. Their help was outstanding and enabled each show to go on without any troubles. It has been an absolute pleasure working with them. It was also wonderful to see the education team join us at the venue and share in the joy these performances have brought to their young audiences, and their parents, and grandparents, many of whom told me it was their first opera too.

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Back Row: Me, Paula Duncan, Julie Burns Front Row: Lee Reynolds, David Sneddon, Audrey Blake

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Lee Reynolds, Audrey Blake, Julie Burns, and David Sneddon

Waiting For David

Julie Burns, Lee Reynolds, Me, and Laura Sergeant

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Julie Burns, Me, and Lee Reynolds

I was also able to see some of the festival myself as an audience member as my super-duper family came up to support me and to celebrate my Mum and Brother Matt’s birthdays. We saw some fabulous shows and these were the ones that stood out.

 

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Me and my Brother Matt

 

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Ada Campe and the Psychic Duck

We fell upon this show by accident, having joined up with my Mum, Dad and brother Tom and his girlfriend Anna on Saturday 12th we decided to explore what the fringe had to offer.  Walking along we were approached by a persuasive assistant outside the venue and as the show was due to start we decided to pop in.  The show did not disappoint, Ada Campe was an entertaining and articulate performer whose act recounted stories of her life as a variety performer.  She kept the audience enthralled for the 50 minutes she was on stage, delivered adlib lines with aplomb, drew belly laughs from the audience and when she interacted with the audience you laughed with them not at them which is a tremendous skill.  We all enjoyed this little gem.

Meow Meow’s Little Mermaid

This was a late-night show which started at 10:30 pm so the only chance we had to watch it was on Sunday night as my day off was on the Monday.  So, I booked tickets for my two brothers Matt and Tom who came along with me to watch. The show was an enticing cabaret full of laughter, aerial stunts, music and singing.  We had a blast in ‘The Hub’ our seats were a fabulously situated in a fabulous purple booth in which we could truly relax and unwind after a busy day. It was an especially wonderful show for me as my fellow BambinO cast member Stuart Semple was playing! Goodness knows how he managed to juggle his late evening performances for this show with the early starts of our baby opera! He’s a true trooper!

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Velvet Evening Seance

To sample some of the drama of the fringe we decided on my day off to check out some of the shows on offer.  We liked the sound of this one man show, which was set in a Victorian court room.  The monologue was delivered eloquently with sufficient depth to draw you in as the story developed.  The script cleverly twisted in different directions providing enough misdirection to make you think about the guilt of the accused.  Would you send him to the gallows?

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Into The Woods

Though I missed out on this performance my Mum, Dad and brother Matt said they thoroughly enjoyed the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s Musical Theatre department production. Maybe I will get the chance to catch it again as they were singing about it for a couple of days.

Into The Woods

It was lovely to combine my holiday with work and take some time to catch up with my family.

On our last performance day, today the cast and crew celebrated with lots of cake, homemade shortbread in the shape of birds (by the wonderful Paula), tarts, cups of tea and surprise party poppers from the marvelous Stuart Semple after our final bow.

I had such a blast and can’t wait to work with everyone again in October!

Please click on the above images to see a larger copy.

Save The Dates !!

July 30, 2017 — 68 Comments

[ This is a new promotional video from Scottish Opera for BambinO ]

With August, almost upon us and preparations for the ‘BambinO’ performances at the Edinburgh Festival about to start, I am busy working on my rehearsal schedules for the coming months.  One of the most important things that I have found whilst studying music is the need for good forward planning.  If you don’t sit down and spend quality time working out rehearsal schedules you can find yourself feeling overwhelmed quite quickly.  I try not to put things off, it is better to know what needs to be accomplished and set time aside to achieve the goals that you have set to complete.

I try and work through my diary and schedule my time as accurately as possible.  I set myself tasks for each day and then again for each week.  This allows me to be realistic about what I can achieve in the time available to me.  Knowing what concert and College commitments I have over the horizon is so important as these need to be introduced into my schedule with enough lead time to complete them.

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Back in December 2016 I received an e-mail quite out of the blue from Gary Waller, the chairman of the Gustav Mahler Society. Having read my blog and listened to my recording of Strauss’s ‘Zueignung’ he invited me to perform at a recital as part of their 2017 programme of events.  I was quite taken aback at the time and was thrilled to have been asked, the fact that the enquiry had come after reading my blog was just ‘the cherry on the top’.

Following the initial enquiry, we exchanged several e-mails, met on a number of occasions, and a date and location for the concert were agreed.  Over the months Gary has been wonderful, supporting my recitals, enthusiastic with his encouragement, and understanding of my work and college commitments. I am hoping to perform a mixed programme with a little something for everyone.  With pieces by Mahler, Strauss, Schubert, Wolf, Liszt, Grieg, Quilter, and Dvorak.  The date is Tuesday 10 October 2017 at St Botolph-without-Bishopsgate Church Hall, Bishopsgate, EC2M 3TL Tickets are available from The Gustav Mahler Society.

Gustav Mahler

To prepare a rehearsal schedule for an event such as this, there are several areas that I need to factor in and work on. For each new song, I have to translate the lyrics, both literally and poetically, trying to visualise in my mind what I think the composer or poet wanted to achieve with the song. I then learn the music and how this interacts with the accompaniment.  I then bring the lyrics and the music together working on the alignment and clarity of vowels and then concentrate on how to articulate each consonant so that the text can be understood, whilst making sure the legato line is not disturbed. Finally, it all comes together so that I have my interpretation of the song which I hope reflects a little of my own personality too.

To close tonight I just want to thank everyone who downloaded a copy of ‘Down The Rabbit Hole’ and I hope that you enjoyed it and that it made you smile.

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Update: Monday 31st July 2017, I’ve just received the very sad and quite shocking news that my friend Gary Waller died suddenly and unexpectedly last weekend. We had only spoken recently when Gary asked me to learn Schubert’s ‘An Sylvia’ for the concert as it was one of his favourites and I’ve been singing it today. I will remember him every time I sing it. Even though I’d only met Gary this past year in London, I feel we knew each other really well as he read my blog religiously and always sent me a supportive message to encourage me. Our concert has been postponed whilst the Mahler Society come to terms with his immense loss. We shall miss him, I send my sincere condolences to his family and friends.

Down The Rabbit Hole

July 23, 2017 — 77 Comments

Down The Rabbit Hole- Cover Art

My third and final album from my time studying at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland is now available to download at Amazon and iTunes, or to listen to on all the streaming sites. It’s my attempt to fund my living costs for my second year of Masters of Music Performance in London (my 6th year of study).  You may remember George Todica and I dressing as Alice and the Mad Hatter from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to get into character for the cover of our English Speaking and Song concept album.  Pascal Barnier used those photographs to imaginatively create the artwork that now hangs on my Mum’s office wall and is used on my ‘Down the Rabbit Hole’ album cover.

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All of the songs are classical English Art Songs and the spoken sections are prose and a monologue from Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’.  It’s quite bonkers and a bit ‘off the wall’ but I didn’t want to lose it, so we recorded it live last year.  ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ by Lewis Carroll is the epitome of nonsense literature and fills our heads with imagination.

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The album is my reimagining of adventurous Alice exploring ‘down the rabbit hole’. Using the vast depth of English song repertoire full of wonderfully illustrative poetry and Lewis Carroll’s prose to rework the tale of one glorious golden afternoon’s adventure, where everything is imagined as the only weapon in the war against reality –with a philosophy of life to finish my program when a girl goes through that awkward stage of transition, imagined by her sister at the end of the book, and how she hoped Alice would keep, through all her riper years, the simple and loving heart of her childhood.  If you want to know more about what happened in Wonderland you will need to read the wonderful book.  I tried to tailor the songs to express my ideas and emotions about the start and end of Alice’s Adventure and in the words of the King of Heart’s ‘Begin at the beginning…and go on till you come to the end: then stop’.

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1. Sweet Chance That Led My Steps Abroad

‘Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and having nothing to do: when suddenly a White Rabbit with pink eyes ran close by her’.  I selected Michael Head’s ‘Sweet Chance That Led My Steps Abroad’, using the poetry ‘A Great Time’ by W.H. Davies to create the scene.

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Punting In Cambridge

2.  A Piper

 Alice started to her feet, for it flashed across her mind that she had never before seen a rabbit with either a waistcoat-pocket, or a watch to take out of it, and, burning with curiosity, she ran across the field after it, and fortunately was just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit-hole under the hedge’.  I imagined the White Rabbit was rather like the Pied Piper leading Alice astray so follows ‘A Piper’ also by Michael Head from O’Sullivan poetry. It’s one of my favourite English songs.  

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3. Do Not Go My Love

“Why, how impolite of him. I asked him a civil question, and he pretended not to hear me. That’s not at all nice. I say, Mr. White Rabbit, where are you going? Hmmm. He won’t answer me and I do so want to know what he is late for, I wonder if I might follow him. Why not? There’s no rule that I mayn’t go where I please. I– I will follow him. Wait for me, Mr White Rabbit. I’m coming, too.”

Do Not Go My Love’ without asking my leave by Hageman with text by Tagore.  This is an English song I’ve sung for a couple of years and was included to represent the dreamlike fall into the unknown.

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4. Monologue

‘I wonder how many miles I’ve fallen by this time?  I must be getting somewhere near the centre of the earth…  I wonder if I will fall right through the earth! How funny that would be. Oh, I think I see the bottom.  Yes, I’m sure I see the bottom.  I shall hit the bottom, hit it very hard and oh how it will hurt!’

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5. Let the Florid Music Praise

At this moment, Five, who had been anxiously looking across the garden, called out “The Queen! The Queen!”, and the three gardeners instantly threw themselves flat upon their faces. There was a sound of many footsteps, and Alice looked round, eager to see the Queen…… “And who are these?” said the Queen, pointing to the three gardeners who were lying round the rose-tree; … How should I know? Said Alice, surprised at her own courage.  It’s no business of mine.”  The Queen turned crimson with fury, and, after glaring at her for a moment like a wild beast, screamed “Off with her head! Off___

Only one song could fit this moment of chaos at the end of the day ‘Let the Florid Music Praise’ by Benjamin Britten with the words of WH Auden.  I chose this dark humourous song because it’s so full of energy and excitement I think it fits that moment of panic, with a bold opening flutes and trumpets, imperial standards flying, hot sun raising temperatures.  The unloved Queen of Hearts with too much power.

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The three final songs were chosen from works by Roger Quilter (1877-1953).

6. Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal

“Wake up, Alice Dear! said her sister…why, what a long and lovely sleep you’ve had’.Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal’ now the white. The beautiful sonnet poetry of this song is by Lord Tennyson.  Tennyson discloses in this poem the stillness of the twilight, beautiful rest and stillness of sleep.  That time in sleep opens your heart and mind to new adventures with an emphasis on what you can see.

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7. Dream Valley

“Oh, I’ve had such a curious dream!” said Alice. And she told her sister, as well as she could remember them, all these strange adventures’.   Alice got up and ran off, thinking while she ran, as well she might, what a wonderful dream it had been. Memory, hither come, begins Dream Valley’ with words by Blake .  Lewis Carroll’s adventures included: happy and sad tales with lots of morals.

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8. Love’s Philosophy

Lastly, her sister sat still just as she left her… till she too began dreaming after a fashion:

‘As Alice remembered her dream, her sister, …. pictured to herself how this same little sister of hers would, in the after-time, be herself a grown woman… ‘.  ‘Loves Philosophy’ with poetry by Shelley that describes how different parts of nature interact and depend upon one another and is a classic story of unrequited love using natural imagery.

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I was very fortunate to have George Todica as my accompanist, he has now completed his Master’s degree in Piano at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and is undertaking several large competitions this year to launch his career; he also has an engagement next year ( 2018 ) at The Wigmore Hall, London.

Team BanbinO

Timothy Connor, Laura Sergeant, Me, Martin Wooley, David Sneddon, Stuart Semple

It is hard to believe that our time here in Manchester has come to an end.  We have performed in Manchester, Wigan, Hyde, Heywood, Oldham, finishing today in Salford.  The staff and Volunteers from the Manchester International Festival have been fantastic and made us feel so welcome at each venue.

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Me with Gwyneth, One Of The MIF Volunteers

Today we all said goodbye as we went our separate ways for a couple of weeks before we get back together again in Glasgow to prepare for the Edinburgh Festival.  We start our first performances there on the 8th August and run through to 20th August 2017.

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Sam Phillips, Laura Sergeant, Timothy Connor, Me, Stuart Semple, Sophie Skellern, David Sneddon

This is one of the duets from the opera that I sing with Timothy Connor

 

Here are some links to press reviews of the production:

‘The payoff for an initiative like this is incalculable…rarely has innocent pleasure felt more vital.’  Please read this review as it is an insightful article which delves into the accessibility of opera and pretty much sums up how I feel about it.

★★★★★ Fiona Maddocks – The Observer

‘Full marks to BambinO. Opera can work for babies, and maybe one day they’ll come to enjoy it as adults, too…’ 

★★★★ Robert Beale – The Arts Desk

‘…it was genuinely moving to see a little girl of no more than nine months giggling with delight as the soprano, Charlotte Hoather, imitated bird sounds during a playful yet beautiful aria

Sam Jackson – The Times

‘…the joy of something like this is watching the joy in your little one’s face.’

★★★★ Dianne Bourne – Manchester Evening News

This video about ‘BambinO’, from the FaceBook page of the BBC, has received over 1.3 million views so far !!

 

 

I have had a truly special and humbling week! It was the premiere week for Bambino as part of the Manchester International Festival. We have performed in 12 shows with over 258 babies, their parents and family, and some very special guests. It has been an exciting experience and I can’t stop smiling.

The Whole Cast and Crew

The Cast and Crew

I arrived in Manchester on Monday evening in Scottish Opera’s people carrier along with the team and the wonderful Stuart Semple who had driven us down from Glasgow. We settled into our apartments after being welcomed by the magnificent Manchester International Festival team (MIF). I have been working closely with Angela, Sophie and Tracy and many many wonderful volunteers over this week, all of whom have made the show a huge success.

For the first couple of days, we performed in the centre of Manchester in the Pavilion performance space, in Albert Square. It was wonderful to be performing at the heart of the festival and the vibe of MIF was incredible, hosting great food, drink, and music accompanied by a wonderful atmosphere. If you are in the area during the Festival it is well worth a visit.  It was here that I met Emma and Giuseppe Belli’s sweet and fantastic children. They came to watch the first performances in Manchester, making it extra special.

The babies in each show are very inquisitive and engaged in the performance. There is at time some crying but it rarely lasts for longer than a few moments so perhaps they are just overtaken with emotion 🙂    But as my Mum pointed out, there are a lot more chuckles, laughs, claps and plenty of singing along. Whatever their reaction you can guarantee that every show is individual and very special. And as our director Phelim McDermott said, ‘My hope is that in later years, there’ll be adults who are asked, when they’re at the Opera, what was the first opera you saw? and they’ll be able to say, Well, I was 11 months old when I went to see an opera” and they won’t be pretending when they say that.  It will be absolutely true’.

Drawing By Eva

I was thrilled that Eva Belli ( Aged 4 ) , Emma and Guiseppe Belli’s daughter, drew me this beautiful picture of Bambino.

Sophie, one of our producers, helped organise tickets for two other shows for us to attend in the evening after our daytime performances. I was able to go to Bridgewater Hall to watch the BBC Philharmonic perform ‘The World Was Once All Miracle’, and ‘Available Light’ a dance choreographed by Lucinda Childs at the Palace Theatre. It was a wonderful performance and took me back to my contemporary dancing days at Knutsford High School.

Available Light

After completing our performances in Manchester City Centre we started taking the show to places outside of the city centre such as Wigan and Hyde. These shows are so important and it brings music out to communities and venues that aren’t usually used for these events. Everyone deserves the chance to experience live music and theatre. I hope that this can continue!

In Wigan, I had the wonderful treat of my best friend Ellie and her family, Rory and baby Annabelle, come to watch the show! This made it extra special for me. I’m sure I’ll be visiting them again soon and we can sing the songs together. Ellie said Annabelle was mesmerised and that as well as Annabelle it was Ellie’s first opera too!

I’m having a day off at my family home tomorrow to recharge and then I’m back into a busy week ahead. I can’t wait!  We have performances in Heywood, Oldham, finishing in Salford.

To finish I must admit that it was very exciting to see the production mentioned in interviews for BBC radio and for the BBC Regional News I’ve shared the links in my facebook if you’d like to take a look.

 

School’s out for summer!! (Well at least for me), on Wednesday 7th June I performed my end of year recital program at the Royal College of Music. I sang a program of Mozart, Liszt, Strauss and Moore.

Prajna and Charlotte

Amelia Widjaja, Prajna Indrawati and Me

My delightful singing teacher Rosa Mannion reminded me to think of it as a performance rather than an exam.  I thought this was a wonderful sentiment and reminds me to stay positive and share music with those around me.  My recital celebrated all that I have learnt this year and showcased some of the beautiful music that I had the pleasure of preparing with Rosa and my wonderful repertoire coach Andrew Robinson.

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Rosa Mannion and Me

On that note, It was a real treat to be supported by my friends and family who were able to make it to the performance and for all the many kind thoughts sent to me from those unable to attend. You all added to the magical atmosphere and boosted my confidence to get out there and shake a tail feather!

However, after a few photos, hugs and a quick celebratory lunch with my wonderful duo partner Prajna Indrawati and our friend Amelia Widjaja, who kindly turned pages at the piano, I jumped onto a train with my family heading to Glasgow ready to begin rehearsals for BambinO!

On Thursday morning I arrived surprisingly fresh-faced and full of energy for a day of music calls at Scottish Opera lead by composer Lliam Paterson. Laura Sargeant (cellist), Timothy Connor (Baritone), Stuart Semple (Percussionist) and myself started to work through the score scene by scene, marrying each independent instrument together. We continued our work on Friday morning and then in the afternoon, I had my first costume fitting with the wonderful designer Emma Belli. The costume looks fantastic and I can’t wait for my second fitting when the next layer of details can be added on. Plus anybody that has worked with me before technically, knows that I adore costume and the first fitting always gets me ridiculously excited!

On Saturday we were given a sneak preview of the set design by the fabulous designer Giuseppe Belli (who is Emma’s partner in crime). The set is in the final process of being built and should be ready for our production rehearsal beginning on Monday. We then continued our music calls by performing a little mini taster for the director Phelim McDermott and Assistant Director Lissa Lorenzo. So that they could hear the new music and allow their imaginations to begin bubbling with inspiration.

I will find out how much I can share during the process but one thing for sure is that I’m really excited and can’t wait to perform the production at the premiere in Manchester on the 4th July!  If you are in the Manchester area please check out the schedule.

I am excited to share some wonderful news with you all, last December I was invited by Scottish Opera to participate in a week of exploration and development for a new project they were hoping to produce.  It was very hush, hush and I wasn’t able to share the experience with you at the time so that the concept could be fully developed before announcing their plans.  All I can say is that I had a fabulous week and enjoyed every minute of it.  I returned to London happy that I had been involved and excited for the production team as they had some wonderful ideas, I had no idea what was to happen next.  After a couple of months, I was contacted and asked to be part of production, and tour as one of the cast members this summer and autumn.

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Here is the press release that I was sent which explains a little more:

The long-awaited follow-up to Scottish Opera’s hugely successful BabyO performances, BambinO is a pioneering and unique piece of music theatre for infants aged 6 to 18 months.

A new co-production with Manchester International Festival and Improbable, the show premieres at Manchester International Festival in July, before traveling to Edinburgh as part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe, then to Glasgow for performances in Scottish Opera’s Production Studios.

Written by Scottish Opera’s Composer in Residence Lliam Paterson and directed by Improbable’s critically-acclaimed Phelim McDermott, BambinO will be a celebration of the possibilities of music and the power of the infant imagination.

The show reinvents operatic language and traditions for children at an age when their minds are wide open to new sounds, images, and experiences. Babies are free to explore during the performance and to interact with the singers, musicians and each other.

Programme Bambino

Director, Phelim McDermott, said: ‘It is inspiring to create a new opera for what is possibly the most discerning – and important – audience there is. We all know that babies respond to music and we want to nurture and stimulate that relationship through their very first opera.’

Scottish Opera’s Composer in Residence, Lliam Paterson, continued: ‘BambinO will bring an operatic experience to a little audience with ears open to discovering new sounds. It is so exciting to create a colourful and vibrant work that can engage both babies and adults fully while conveying the drama and passion of opera. The opportunity for me to work with as imaginative a director as Phelim McDermott is fantastic and truly inspiring. He and design team Giuseppe Belli and Emma Belli will bring a beautifully crafted operatic world to a whole new audience!’

Scottish Opera’s Director of Education and Outreach, Jane Davidson, said: ‘Incorporating rich, exuberant colours and images – both musically and visually – we’ve created the perfect miniature opera. Complete with percussion, cello, and tiny pianos, all four performers fashion a magical soundscape that will enthrall and challenge both the babies and the adults who come along with them. This is not a ‘baby’ show in a traditional sense; this is baby baroque as you’ve never seen it before!’

BambinO is commissioned and produced by Scottish Opera, Manchester International Festival and Improbable.  It is supported by Scottish Opera’s New Commissions Circle and Scottish Opera’s Education Angels.

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Cast and Creative Team
Composer           Lliam Paterson
Director              Phelim McDermott
Designers           Giuseppe Belli & Emma Belli
Soprano              Charlotte Hoather
Baritone              Timothy Connor
Cello                     Laura Sergeant
Percussion          Stuart Semple
Stage Manager   David Sneddon

I can’t wait to join everyone on the 8th June when we start rehearsals and I will keep you posted as we progress and the tour gets underway.  It will be great to work with Stuart Semple again who I toured with last year in the Scottish Opera production of “ The Little White Town Of Never Weary”

I must admit that it was quite a buzz to see the production listed on the Scottish Opera website in this season’s events and to have the opportunity to work on this new composition which is to Premiere at the Manchester International Festival on 4th July.

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