Archives For My Performances 2019

On Friday I joined the Pop-Up Opera team to participate in the Borders Book Festival, which took place in the heart of Melrose, which is south of Edinburgh.

Just off St Mary’s road, Harmony Garden was home to marquees filled with events for both adults and children, a pop-up bookshop with some authors present to sign the books bought by visitors to the festival, and the ticket booth.

We were parked in a great spot between Harmony Garden and the Orchard where a delightful collection of Food and Drink trucks were situated decorated in bunting and festive twinkly lights. As well as delicious and artisanal food to nibble on, there were stretch tents and tipis for shaded cover – on what turned out to be a miraculously sunny day!

I thoroughly enjoyed being part of the festival and between shows, I took time to explore the stands and enjoying hunting for treats and oddities.

Then on Saturday and Sunday, we set up the trailer at the tranquil Archerfield Walled Garden in North Berwick. The beautiful grounds host a Garden Cafe where the chefs in the kitchen use local produce to create scrumptious dishes for all tastes. Not only was there a soup of the day, but also a scone of the day.

On Sunday it was Father’s Day (Love you Dad) and the cafe celebrated by offering a deal to Dad’s, a burger and a locally brewed beer! Yum! On-site there is also a farm shop, Knops microbrewery, and amazing trails to walk peacefully alone or with your friends, family, and dogs.

One walk that enticed the company, in particular, was the fairy walk! So we decided to treat our stage management and instrumental crew to fairy wings from the shop and prance around the grounds in our Iolanthe costumes. The setting was so beautiful and we had a great time.

Ross Stenhouse was on the bike.

Next week you can catch up with us in Callander, and the following week in Banff, Aboyne, and the Haddington Show.

I’ve got four days off work in a row which is great because I’ve got to finalise my preparations for The Llangollen International Eisteddfod Classical Gala on the 2nd July at 19:30. I’ve been offered the wonderful opportunity to be part of a Classical Gala with French/Mexican tenor Rolando Villazón as part of my prize for winning the Pendine Voice of the Future competition last July.

Rolando is one of the leading tenors of our day he is frequently seen in Europe’s leading opera houses and sings with orchestras and opera houses all around the World.

Llangollen International Eisteddfod

Good news if you’re in the North West of England you don’t have to go to London to the Royal Opera House to hear Rolando he is coming to Llangollen in North Wales for the first time, Llangollen is one hour’s drive from Liverpool, 45 minutes from Chester (one hour by train), one and a half hours for my friends and family from Manchester and Stoke on Trent they’re staying overnight in some of the lovely bed and breakfast accommodation and hotels in Llangollen, I told them they could even glamp this year.

James Hendry

We will be accompanied in the Gala by the British Sinfonietta under the baton of British conductor James Hendry. James joined the prestigious ‘Jette Parker Young Artists Programme’ for emerging talent at London’s Royal Opera House in 2016. Hendry promises his Tuesday night concert to be an ‘opera pick and mix’, offering guests an exclusive repertoire through opera, classical and even musical theatre. He adds, “It will be a passionate performance that offers an inspiring tour for opera fans and newcomers alike.”

“In recent years the orchestra has performed extensively in England, Scotland and Wales as well as visiting Western Europe. Highlights include the London Welsh Festival of Male Choirs at a sold-out Royal Albert Hall in London, a performance of Berlioz’ Requiem at Cheltenham Festival, screenings of Casablanca at the Royal Opera House in London, screenings of Home Alone in Denmark, and the televised world premiere of ‘Adiemus Colores’ by Sir Karl Jenkins at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in 2014. “

I wish that you could all be there with me, got my dress ready, got my shoes, feeling prepared, can’t wait to get started.

Say Hi To The Whole Team, including Keith the driver of our amazing Trailer!

Part of the joy of this production is the way it reaches so many different people in places and venues that you would not normally associate with opera.  It is such a thrill to share our love of the artform with young and old alike, with the added benefit of traveling to some amazing parts of Scotland.

All of this would be so much harder if it were not for the lorry that Scottish Opera had purpose-built to put on these shows. The design of the lorry allows us to be self-sufficient. If needed we have a generator for electricity, (which we’ve not had to use yet).

If there are no changing facilities available to us then we can get changed on the stage behind the curtain like a large shopping changing room.

We have coat hooks on the sides of the trailers to hang out costumes and personal items which can then be hidden behind the black cloth background surrounding the performance space.

All in all, it is an ingenious design and makes the best use of every inch of space, for example, the stools, used by the audience, also double up as storage when the show is traveling to the next venue.

Next week we are off to Old Kilpatrick, Barrhead, Giffnock, Melrose, and North Berwick. Please join us if you are in the area, as we would love to see you in the audience.

This week we commenced the start of our Pop-Up Opera tour!

This year Scottish Opera’s Pop-Up Opera provides three different 30-minute performances of specially arranged Operas, selecting top hits, arias and duets and ensemble numbers to be sung by a small chamber music ensemble.

Ross Stenhouse, Sharron Griffiths, Jessica Leary, Laura Cioffi, Aiden Edwards, and Me

Our chamber ensemble consists of a soprano, (I share the role with the delightful Jessica Leary), baritone (Aidan Edwards), Flute (Laura Cioffi), Harp (Gwen Yorke Sinclair & Sharron Griffiths) and for our children’s show accordion (Lizy Stirrat), with Ross Stenhouse (Storyteller) binding them together with his own inimitable style.

I’ve never worked with these instruments alone before, so I was excited to hear how supportive and resonant the accompaniment is.

Our three shows are :

A Little Bit of The Magic Flute

A Little Bit of Iolanthe

Puffy McPuffer and the Crabbit Canals

What makes these productions so special is that they are performed in a specially converted articulated trailer.  It has been fitted out with a raised stage at the back, fitted with windows for natural light whilst rehearsing and blackout blinds for during the performances. There are spotlights and even a chandelier to add a touch of elegance to the internal surroundings.

The inside is painted to match the auditorium of the Theatre Royal, Scottish Opera’s Homebase theatre in Glasgow, even down to the carpet which is exactly the same as the carpet used in the actual theatre.

By putting on these productions in the trailer it means that Scottish Opera can take their fabulous shows on the road to all corners of Scotland and reach a much wider audience across all age groups.

This week we arrived in the City of Perth and explored the area around where we were staying. We all enjoyed eating together at the end of each day and I can heartily recommend the great restaurants that we found in Perth.

North Port Restaurant

They have a great a la carte menu with food exquisitely cooked and celebrates British cuisine. I had a mouthwatering chicken supreme.

The Post Box

Has a Michelin star and a pre-theatre menu that lasts until 10pm!

The meals were scrumptious and deliciously plated up. I felt like I was on MasterChef

Brothers 3

A family run Italian restaurant with well priced and delicious food. Plenty of variety and good quality food.

Aiden and Laura Made Ross Wait Whilst They Took Pictures For Their Instagram

In Iolanthe, I play a Fairy and if you have ever wondered what a Fairy eats when there are no Fairy cakes, well it has to be Rainbow Unicorn Cake!!

I am looking forward to my performance at this year’s Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod on Tuesday 2nd of July as a guest of the renowned International Tenor Rolando Villazón. The evening’s gala concert is to be accompanied by the British Sinfonietta Orchestra conducted by James Hendry, also starring is the famous Welsh lyric soprano, Rhian Lois. If you have never been to the International Musical Eisteddfod in Llangollen I can heartily recommend it, whether you intend to compete in one of the many categories or just come to enjoy the beautiful singing, fabulous dancing, or the joyous multicultural atmosphere that permeates around the Pavillion and throughout the Town during the festival.

The event is best described on their website:
Every summer since 1947 Llangollen has staged one of the world’s most inspirational cultural festivals. Each year around 4,000 performers and as many as 50,000 visitors converge on this beautiful small Welsh town and its International Pavilion; to sing and dance in a unique combination of competition, performance, and international peace and friendship.

The International Pavilion, Llangollen

Llangollen’s place in world music is now immutable. Since its inaugural year in 1947 more than 300,000 competitors from over 100 nationalities have performed enthusiastically on the Llangollen stage. In 1955 a young Luciano Pavarotti sang in the choir from his home town of Modena, conducted by his father. The choir won first prize in the Male voice choir competition. Pavarotti returned for a spectacular concert in 1995.”

“Margot Fonteyn, Alicia Markova, Joan Sutherland, Angela Gheorghiu, Kiri Te Kanawa, Jehudi Menuhin, José Carreras, Lesley Garrett, Bryn Terfel, Katherine Jenkins, Dennis O’Neil, James Galway, Nigel Kennedy, Elaine Paige, Michael Ball, and Montserrat Caballé are among the musical stars that have appeared in our concerts. Placido Domingo confesses that his first professional engagement in the United Kingdom was at the 1968 International Eisteddfod.

The River Dee and the Town’s Railway Station

If you want to come along to the Eisteddfod you can buy tickets from the
Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod website.

Just to let you know that if you want to come along to watch Waterperry Opera Festival’s production of Mansfield Park this year that although they have increased the number of performances the tickets are selling fast so don’t leave it too long to book or you may be disappointed.

Finally, I am thinking about changing the header picture on my FaceBook page to the one below, please let me know what you think 🙂

Pop-Up Opera Tour

April 28, 2019 — 48 Comments

This week as April draws to a close I am really happy to share with you that I will be working with Scottish Opera again on their Pop-Up Opera tour around Scotland in May and June.  This year we will be performing three separate shows aimed at audiences of all ages:

A Little Bit of Iolanthe │Gilbert & Sullivan arr. Derek Clark

“ Iolanthe is banished by the Fairy Queen for marrying a mortal. Now, 25 years later, two worlds again collide when her son announces he’s in love. Unfortunately, his beloved is a popular girl and he has some serious competition… Light-hearted satire at its best, Iolanthe is full of fun.”

A Little Bit of The Magic Flute │Mozart arr. Derek Clark

  “Tamino is in love with Pamina, the daughter of the mysterious Queen of the Night. When she is abducted, he sets off to rescue her but soon realises all is not quite as it seems. A beguiling mix of comedy, fantasy and pantomime, The Magic Flute is also a profound story of the search for love, wisdom and truth.”

Puffy McPuffer and the Crabbit Canals │Music Marion Christie Words Allan Dunn

  “A tale of the five waterways that link Scotland from the North Sea to the Atlantic. Like most families, each one is different: Caledonian – the longest; Crinan – the most beautiful; hard-working Monklands; Union – the fastest; wise old Forth & Clyde. Each one thinks they’re the best. Can an ordinary little puffer boat make them think again?”

The tour will include dates at the Perth Festival of the Arts, Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival, Old Kilpatrick, Barrhead, Giffnock, Borders Book Festival, Dirleton, Callander, Cupar Arts EDEN, Aboyne & Deeside Festival, Haddington Show.  You can see the times and dates for the shows here:

For these productions, I will be performing alongside Jessica Leary ( Soprano ), Aidan Edwards ( Baritone ), Ross Stenhouse ( Storyteller ), Lizy Stirrat ( Accordion ), Sharron Griffiths ( Harp ), and Yorke Sinclair ( Harp ).

Some Of The Places We Will Visit On The Tour

If you have the time I would appreciate it if you could please check out the new Kickstarter page of my friends at Improbable who have been responsible for some really amazing and innovative projects. Watch their video and if you can spare any amount to help them to bring their imaginative plans to life I can assure you that it will be gratefully received as they only have until May the 15th to hit their target.

Taking the time to re-visit my trip to Seoul over the past few blog posts have been really fun. This post is going to focus on sharing a video from my performance in the Recital Hall at the Seoul Arts Centre and the Instagramable Food Treats Inspired by K-pop culture.

One of the verses of Muttertänderlei, is about comparing her gorgeous baby daughter to sweet traditional German baked goods such as Zuckerwechen (Sweet Bun). I think this metaphor describes the deliciousness of cute babies and how you want to gobble them up. Which as a concept can definitely transferred to Korea. Cute cartoons, bold colours and celebrations of K-Pop stars decorated public areas and in turn went on to inspire food!

Rainbow Crepe Cake

The colour palette of magical unicorns, for instance, may have inspired this rainbow cake created by Billy Angel Cake Company in Seoul. This colourful cake is created from 20 individual crepes coloured with different fruit flavours and delicately divided by layers of spread mousse.

Bedazzled Ice-cream

Bistopping ice-cream cafe was a favourite find of mine. Imagination exploded here, in the form of embellished cones (with hundreds and thousands, painted icing, colourful sugar loops), chocolate phrases and crazy cookies which could be added to your ice-cream to produce your own unique design.

Ginormous Gateau

We found a little cafe called Conversation Cake from posts of Instagram. These cakes were  gorgeously decorated with macerated fruit and indulgent layers of sponge. Our most expensive cakes of the day, and sadly on our visit a little dry, but with a glass of refreshing iced coffee they became well-balanced.

Flower Pot Mystery

Bananatree cafe was unbelievably cute from its hand-drawn menus to its quirky presentational style of its delicious food. We tried Candifloss covered coffee, Eggyffogatto and a Flower Paap. The flower pot cake was an outstandingly yummy experience. From the chocolate soil and truffle stones which deceptively hid the delectable strawberry gateau beneath – found by trusty miniature shovel shaped spoons.

Fizzing Refreshments

We delved inside the wonderful world of Line Friends at their flagship store and Cafe and tried a selection of jazzy and vibrantly colourful drinks inspired by the characters. From marshmallow white hot chocolate to a mysterious blue soda float and a popping candy strawberry slushy. Our tastebuds tingled from the experience.

Changdeokgung Palace

April 7, 2019 — 47 Comments

Following my visit to Seonjeongneung – The Royal Tombs I waited to visit the Changdeokgung Palace Complex with my brother Matt and his husband Alex as they were flying out to join me for a short holiday in Seoul. 

The palace complex of Changdeokgung is situated north of where we were staying in Gangnam and across the Han river. We decided to include a visit to the Gwangjang Market in the morning on our way to the palace to make the most of the day!

The journey took around 40 minutes on the tube, which was so easy to use with the T-Money cards that you can use all over Seoul, on different modes of transport, (bus, tube, coach and taxi). What made the travel cards even better is they come with all sorts of colourful designs, using cartoons from popular culture. If travelling in Seoul, I recommend two apps Naver Map and my preferred choice City Mapper, both apps provide visuals of your route and the ability to track your location. The reason I prefer City Mapper is that I could type in English characters and save the journeys to my phone using the Wi-Fi at the hotel. This meant that when I was exploring, I could use the GPS location and map guides on airplane mode – saving some extra pennies!!

The Market is the oldest in the City and was an easy stroll from Euljiro 4(sa)-ga station, there was a huge collection of items available on sale from fabrics and clothes to dried fish and culinary delicacies. The atmosphere was already buzzing at 10:00am, which I was surprised at because my Guide book wrote that it is well known for providing an authentic night market experience.

When we arrived at the Changdeokgung Palace the first impression was the splendour and size of the complex.  I tried to imagine how it must have appeared to those who visited back in the 15th Century when it was built.  The site was considered the secondary palace to one at Gyeongbokgung and was differentiated by the size of the grounds.  It was such a treat to walk around the well-cared for public areas and take it all in. Each Hall was beautifully ornate with painted, sculpted wooden Roofs and rich vibrant interiors. One room had mother of pearl decorated furniture which glowed in the sunlight of modern day.

We wanted to visit the Secret Garden and so we waited for the English tour as you could not walk around unescorted.  The best part was that whilst we were waiting, I found out that if you hire traditional dress, (Hanbok) you are able to enter the complex for free, so off I went to hire a costume. 

I visited Hanbok Rental, a shop just across the main road opposite the Grand Main Entrance and Ticket Office. The staff were so efficient and friendly, guiding me through the many colours and layers to the traditional gown. I really recommend this shop, as they had lockers on site for your larger belongings, and little handbags, hair ornaments, and parasols were included in the rental price. I am so glad that I rented the Hanbok as I felt transformed to another time and enabled me to pretend that I was attending a royal palace event.


Yurie Takano
and Me

As my stay here in Seoul draws to an end, I must thank everyone involved with the Seoul International Music Competition for making me feel so welcome. This has been an amazing experience which has allowed me to briefly sample the culture, both historic and current, of this wonderful Country.

On one of my trips out around the Gangnam district I set out to visit the historic site of Seonjeongneung with Yurie Takano, a Japanese Soprano and fellow competitor.  The site houses the Royal Tombs Seolleung ( The Royal Tomb of King Seongjong – 1495 and Queen Jeonnhyeon 1530 ) and Jeongneung ( The Royal Tomb of King Jungjong – moved to this site in 1562 ).  The site was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2009, enhancing its status and preserving the location for future generations.

The cost to enter the site is only ₩ 1,000.00 which is very reasonable when you consider a cup of tea or coffee can cost ₩ 4,500.00. Walking around the site I found the place very serene and tranquil which was quite unexpected in such a large bustling city.  To me the Tombs were quite phantasmagorical, an beautiful and picturesque resting place guarded by huge statues resembling humble servants and protectors in the shape of man and beast.

This mystical place made me think of the way the homes of the Hobbits were described in the Lord Of The Rings, a story that my Dad read to me as a child, and in my imagination I was immediately transported to another place in time.

I was fascinated that the grounds in the park leading to the tombs at the top of the hill were split into two different paths. One for visitors and the second a spirit road leading to decorative steps of the spiritual shrine.

The Tomb Guardians were on hand to make sure that visitors respected these special stone paved pathways as they weren’t for the living and that we used the right path to explore this peaceful location.

I hope that you will enjoy sharing a little more of my trip to Seoul over the next couple of weeks.

To close tonight I wanted to let you know that I will be performing in Waterperry Opera Festival’s Fundraising Gala on the 11th April.  The event will aim to raise funds for its charitable activities and to celebrate the launch of their 2019 programme. I believe that it will be a fun evening with some fabulous performances and if you can make it I am sure you will enjoy the evening.

Singing In Seoul

March 27, 2019 — 50 Comments

It has been such an honour to be selected for this year’s Seoul International Music competition and I’m having a magical time here in Seoul, such a beautiful place and the people are so friendly and welcoming.  I have met so many fabulous singers and had the opportunity to spend time with them and build new friendships; Yurie Takano from Japan, Yemonja Stanley from the USA, Maarri Ernits from Estonia, and the super Menna Cazel from the UK. 

This year the standard has been exceptionally high, and I have not envied the job of the judges who have to try and mark our performances and pick the finalists.  I have learned so much from the experience and though I did not progress through to the final round the feedback from the judges has been very constructive and it was a privilege to meet them to seek their advice.

Exploring the city of Seoul has been a real treat as the public transport system is easy to use and very comprehensive once you get to grips with the map 😊 So far I have visited the Olympic village which was about an hour on the train, it was quite inspiring to walk around and try and imagine what it must have been like full of competitors and cheering crowds. 

We have walked all over the Gangnam area which is where we have been staying and sampled the Korean cuisine in several of the local restaurants.

The staff at tourist centre have been so helpful and suggested several places to visit whilst we are here. It was fun to walk along the K-Star road and check out the iconic Gangnam Dolls.

I also visited the Starfield Library in Gangnam which had some amazing larger than life illustrations constructed with books, quite an achievement 😊

The Arts centre where we performed was amazing, it houses the Opera House, Music Hall, the Hangaram Art Museum, the Hangaram Design Museum and the Seoul Calligraphy Museum.  The campus was huge and reminded me of Lincoln Centre in New York and so convenient to have such fabulous performance spaces all in the one place. My brother Matt and his husband Alex flew out yesterday to come and support me and to take a short holiday.  It will be a treat to spend some time here with them and share some quality time exploring the culture and heritage of this amazing City and the surrounding areas