We have had a productive week of rehearsals here in London for Waterperry Opera Festival’s production of Mansfield Park. Next week we travel over to Oxford to start the staging at the venue. I can’t wait to see where we will be performing and soak up the atmosphere of the house to see if we can bring a little something extra to our characterisations.
I will try and get some pictures over the course of the week and share them with you once the performances are over or put them on Instagram.
Scottish Opera are putting on a Scottish tour of BambinO this autumn and I have been asked back to perform alongside Samuel Pantcheff who will be taking on the role of Pulcino, with Andrew Drummond Huggan on Cello and Michael D Clark on Percussion, they are currently performing at the Edinburgh Fringe if you are in Edinburgh next week with your baby check it out with Hazel McBain as Uccelina.
Since graduating from the Royal College of Music at the beginning of July my summer has been full of new experiences.
This week rehearsals for Jonathan Dove’s Mansfield Park have started with gusto. The production for the Waterperry Opera Festival began rehearsals on Thursday 2nd August in London, led by our director Rebecca Meltzer. We began the process by exploring our characters, the social hierarchy, our character’s desires, and their relationships with the other characters throughout the opera. I found this exploration on the first day very useful because you learn how the others (characters) view your character and how each actor/actress has filled the gaps in their personal narrative. This then allowed me to build on my initial interpretation of Maria Bertram and inspired me to craft specific details to develop the character so that it becomes more sympathetic to the characters portrayed by the other cast members.
As a company, we began to plot out the staging for the opening scenes. Due to the complexity of the score, we began this by stepping away from the music and delivering our text like a play. This helped us to find the natural fluidity of the conversation which later influenced our musical interpretation. It also allowed me to develop layering to assist in my memory building. I learned where my positions were, my actions and movements, where the person I was talking to was positioned. Securing this level of information, meant that once the music was added I could comfortably concentrate on accuracy and interpretation of the score comfortable with the movement on stage.
I am very lucky (again) to be working with such delightful and talented colleagues, both within the cast and the production team. Everyone brings their own twist and flavour to the ensemble numbers which keeps the pieces fresh and interesting. This opera is unlike any others that I have done, in the sense that previously I have performed roles which have included the need to perform solo arias, duets, small ensemble and some large ensemble. However, for this opera, my role is far more ensemble-based. I sing alongside many different characters in passionate or scheming duets, melancholy trips and triumphant decreto (an ensemble of 10 people). There are odd moments of aria style singing but I am enjoying this new and exciting challenge being an integral part of these multi-layered harmonies and captivating storylines which beautifully portray the difficult and intertwined relationships of Mansfield Park.
We have two full weeks rehearsals together in Central London then a week in Oxford which I’m very much looking forward to as we’ll be staying at Waterperry Gardens which will be amazing I’m sure. I’m looking forward to watching the other productions Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit and Don Giovanni if time allows. If I get any rehearsal photographs I’ll share them with you. You can follow the run-up to the opening of the festival on Waterperry Opera Festival’s twitter here.
Here is a YouTube video by Viv Green which gives you the synopsis of Mansfield Park:
Bright and early Saturday morning on 14th July I met up with my friend and fellow cast member Rosie Clifford before embarking on a road trip down St Levan in Cornwall. The time flew by and after 5 hours we arrived at The Land’s End Vineries which was to become our home from home for the upcoming week. We shared our chalet with two orchestral members Lily Beatrice Cooper and Bjorn Kleiman, who were both delightful and charming housemates. The chalet that we stayed in took me back to a world without WiFi and little mobile signal, we even had to put a pound coin in the electricity meter. I quite enjoyed this weird aspect and will remember playfully working out how to use the meter with Rosie.
Because we only had intermittent mobile service the four of us talked, laughed and bonded over great food, skilfully cooked for us by Bjorn who quickly became head chef of chalet 20. I was very happy to wash dishes, provide supplies and eat! It was during these periods of break (between and after the performances) that I learned that Bjorn organises a concert series in Sweden, Lidköping Music Festival which will have performances 5th-8th August. Lily will be playing cello and he will play violin there with other musicians. It sounded delightful and I wish I could be there to enjoy what I’m sure will be beautiful music.
The first day was long and tiring but the great atmosphere from the full cast, creative team and orchestra meant that we had a lot of fun. We began with a tech rehearsal in the morning at 10:00 then onto a dress rehearsal run at 2pm with me and then another dress rehearsal at 8pm with Lizzie. In the morning and afternoon, the sun was out and blazed during the rehearsals. This made the view of the Minack Theatre outstanding and rather breathtaking, with the crystal clear blue sea stretching as far as the eye could see behind the main stage. During the week we saw lots of wildlife such as seals enjoying the beautiful weather and even some fishermen and sun seekers.
However, this weather can cause a few issues to a performer, such as heat exhaustion and dehydration. Surrey Opera was at hand and offered wonderful advice throughout this process. We were encouraged to wear a lot of sun lotion, wear hats, shade bathe 😅 whenever off stage and drink plenty of water. It was quite tricky to get used to but by mid-week, I started building up stamina for this style of weather.
We opened the show on Monday night which was a roaring success, and as the week progressed gags got lengthened and we crafted the action to suit the audience that we had in, for example, if they particularly enjoyed the slapstick comedy moments we would play these moments for longer and with greater enjoyment. Giles Davies was a real pro at this and taught me a lot about comic timing. I was so impressed that by the end of the run he could get two raucous rounds of applause for his comic death scene! I was really blessed to share the stage with such wonderful colleagues, everyone brought something extra special to the performance and it reminded me how important it is to treasure our individuality. Joanna Gamble, Tom Kennedy, Giles Davies, Brian Smith Walters, Rosie Clifford, Callum Speed, Tim Baldwin, and Lizzie Holmes.
With a special thank you to Stephen Anthony Brown who played the role of Candide so effortlessly, it was a sheer delight to perform alongside him.
Lastly, I must mention the amazing 18 strong chorus who put so much energy into each performance and huge respect to each of the 29 members of the orchestra who played with such emotion and skill.
I enjoyed working with the fantastic Jonathan Butcher who directed the production as well as conducting it, a real multi-talented artist.
You can read a review of the opening night performance on the Minack Theatre website ( Link )
I was also very lucky to have my family travel down from Cheshire, Stoke On Trent, Glasgow, and London to come and support me. My parents, brothers, grandparents and future brother-in-law. Their support never ceases to amaze me and meant that my downtime felt like a holiday!
I have some truly amazing news to share with you, last week I entered the Pendine International Voice of the Future competition at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod in Wales, UK. If you remember I last entered the competition back in 2014 when I came third. This year I was thrilled to reach the final, which was held on Wednesday 4th July 2018, during the Classical Collection concert on the main Pavillion stage. My fellow finalists were Rachael Marsh from Wrexham and Mark Christian Bautista of Calamba in the Philippines, who along with myself were selected from the live preliminary round held the previous day.
It was such a thrill to walk out on to the grand stage and perform in front of the large assembled audience, adjudicators, patrons and sponsors. I can’t easily express the emotion that ran through my body as Nico de Villiers the pianist who accompanied me started to play. I sang through my programme and left the stage in what seemed like the blink of an eye, I then re-joined my fellow competitors as we waited for the results to be announced, the atmosphere at the Eisteddfod was lovely.
The results were announced after the concert starring Vicky Yannoula and Peter Jablonski followed by beautiful choral singing from the Cantorion Sirenian Singers and I am thrilled to let you know that I was awarded the first prize of £6,000.00 and new silver Pendine Trophy, awarded by Mr. Mario Kreft MBE of the Pendine Park care organisation.
Mr Kreft MBE awarding me the Pendine trophy
Mr Kreft MBE said:
“I believe we have seen a star born this evening as Charlotte Hoather’s performance was simply breath-taking and spectacularly talented.”
The festival’s music director, Vicky Yannoula said :
“The standard of performance we witnessed from all three finalists was exceptional…singing in a competition such as the Pendine International Voice of the Future competition isn’t just about standing in front of a piano and singing, it’s about a performance.”
This award will be such a great help to me as I start my first year as freelance as it will help cover some of my living costs, additional singing lessons, and coachings that I require to continue vocal development and language skills, I also need to attend auditions both here and abroad.
At the end of the concert, we all joined in to participate with The Big NHS Singalong Live which was shown on ITV to help celebrate 70 years of the NHS.
It is hard to believe that this wonderful journey started with my introduction to the wonders of classical singing by my first singing teacher, Jayne Wilson when at Knutsford High school. She encouraged me to enter festivals and competitions to perform new repertoire and introduce me to other singers and their teachers, and I can’t wait to see her again when I’m next at home. If you’ve followed my blog you’ve read the journey and adventures along the way I couldn’t do this without the help of many wonderful teachers, coaches and advisors, thank you all too for your continual encouragement and support.
After completing the first run through of Candide with Surrey Opera last Thursday evening, I hastily returned home full of excitement for the day to follow. Friday began with an early start, checking my bags, which I had carefully packed the previous morning and downloading my pre-ordered train ticket for Buxton. Where I would have the pleasure of performing alongside my friends in the Tideswell Male Voice Choir in Tideswell, Derbyshire.
The weather was fabulous and made for a lovely journey from London to the Peak District, with its amazing views of the picturesque Towns and Villages. George Todica, who was to accompany me for the concert, had traveled down from Glasgow and luckily without delay, which ensured that we both arrived in Stockport within ten minutes of each other, ready to catch the train to Buxton together.
Malcolm and Alison Bennison with Me before the concert
We were met at the station in Buxton by Malcolm and Alison Bennison who had kindly agreed to drive us the final 20 minutes to the Village. Malcolm had arranged for the choir to perform an afternoon concert for the residents of Nicholson Court, a care home in the village, as many could not make it along to the evening performance. This concert was to celebrate the newly refurbished interior of the home. He asked if George and I would like to perform with them, we happily agreed, so our first stop was at Nicolson Court.
It was lovely to have the chance to sing for the residents, who were so friendly and made us feel really welcome. It was lovely when talking to them after the concert to hear how music had touched their lives in so many different ways. After a light lunch, it was time for a sound check in the Church before getting changed for the evening performance.
It was a warm evening with clear blue skies, such a difference from my last visit when the heavens opened and poured continuously during the concert. Nick Montague, the choir’s music director welcomed the audience and set the tone for the evening, which was friendly and relaxed. Nick is the new music director for the choir and also directs a ladies choir called the Knutsford Star Choir in Knutsford where I went to school.
The choir’s programme included a wide variety of songs such as Anthem, Let it Be Me, What a Wonderful World and an amazing rendition of Right Said Fred ornamented with props and percussive instruments to add to the joyful atmosphere. Their performances were full of heart and sang with enthusiasm and panache. They were skilfully accompanied throughout the evening by pianist Alison Wheeldon.
The Choir Singing Right Said Fred
Altogether After The Concert, the only person missing is Edwina Currie ( who was taking a picture too )
If you get the opportunity to go and watch the choir perform I would thoroughly recommend it, I believe they are going to provide some of the onboard entertainment on a Fred Olsen cruise to Scandinavia so if you happen to be on the same cruise you are in for a treat.
If you are from the local area and would like to try your hand at singing in the choir then you could go along to one of their rehearsals, which happen on a Tuesday evening from 7:30 pm at the old grammar school in Tideswell or give Thomas Eccles a call on 01298 872800.
I had an amazing time catching up Edwina Currie, the choir’s President, spending time with my friends and making some new ones, I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and I hope that I get to sing with the choir again in the future. I wish them all every success in their future performances and I hope they continue to enjoy singing these beautiful songs as much as we all enjoyed listening to them.
Me With Maurice Hargreaves, a good friend, and an excellent singer
As I sign off tonight I do so in fond remembrance of my friend John Richie, he was a member of the choir for 30 years, a very talented musician whom I met at the Hazel Grove Music festival when I first started to sing seriously. His constant encouragement and kind words will always be remembered.
Rehearsals for Candide by Surrey Opera are now well underway. The scenes are starting to slot together like jigsaw pieces, and I’m looking forward to the coming week to finalise the blocking, (the setting of movements, character’s intentions and gestures) for the last few scenes.
It has been a real joy to explore the arc of Cunegonde’s growth through this process. She begins the operetta as the adolescent school girl, who is the daughter of a Baron and Baroness, she lives in a grand home surrounded by love and the comfort provided by wealth. Cunegonde is taught by Dr. Pangloss that ‘this is the best of all possible worlds’. A philosophy that the play questions dramatically throughout.
After Pangloss’s lesson, Cunegonde experiences the instant chemistry between her and Candide, which begins to bud and blossom into a sweet first love. However, the first love duet is quite humorous as they both list their desires for the future, without really listening to the other. If they had paid attention, they would have realised their dreams were quite dissimilar. If this was a different story, perhaps they would have had a discussion, found a comprise and lived happily ever after.
But sadly, that is not the case, this love story is interrupted by the horrors of war with their lives turned upside down, Cunegonde, now orphaned and without the means to support herself, is taken to Paris where she is shared between two men. Her innocence is quickly stripped away and she must learn how to survive using only her instincts, clouding the emotional heartache with her blinding optimism. These chaotic occurrences are interspersed with moments of hope each time her path crosses again with Candide. Unfortunately, time and time again she has to fend for herself and use her womanly wiles in order to survive.
Jumping to the end, in order to not spoil the plot too much. Just before the finale, Candide finds Cunegonde in a Casino in Venice, attending to the needs of the Male visitors and is appalled by what he sees. He asks in his aria if this is what he’s been fighting for and if her soul is dead. It is a heart-wrenching moment as Cunegonde decides whether to interject or if it’s better to stay silent knowing the awful situations she has lived through in hope that they would meet again and reunite their relationship. It is her strength at this moment that helped me to understand her character more deeply and realise the sincerity of her love for Candide.
It is a very complex story with multiple twist and turns, I do hope that I bring her character to life and do her story justice. I can’t wait to work alongside my brilliants colleagues in the coming weeks as we finally get to perform at the Minack Theatre, Cornwall
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