Four Years On

March 5, 2017 — 104 Comments

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This week is the fourth anniversary of my blog, and I feel so fortunate to be a part of the wider blogging community.

For any newcomers to my blog, when I began my goal was to improve my writing. As part of my first year as an Undergraduate, I was struggling to answer questions for the critical writing module within the word count allowed, which was often as short as 500 words long. The discipline of writing my blog posts helped, forcing me to be more concise. At that time writing for me was difficult and not something that I found enjoyable. But accessing the knowledge and receiving the assistance of some great wordsmiths through reading their blogs and them kindly commenting on mine changed my opinion and helped me to increase my enjoyment of writing.

Over the years I have met many people from all over the world, through their blogs and other social media ( Facebook, Google+, Twitter, YouTube and more lately Instagram ) I have seen the world through their eyes and come to appreciate the vast amount that we all have in common. Blogging has become a celebration of what we share and allowed me to broaden my knowledge through the diverse interests of my friends within this enlarged community.

I hope that in return through my love of classical singing and opera I have helped introduce a few more people to this beautiful art form that means so much to me.

I don’t know where the next four years will take me, but I can’t wait to share them with you all.

My New Website Is Ready

February 26, 2017 — 69 Comments

This weekend I decided quite on the spur of the moment to pack up a weekend bag and travel home to see my parents. I had quite a bit of work to complete on my website, and I knew that my Mum and Dad could help me with it, so Friday night after lessons I virtually ran down to the underground station and then fought my way through the rush hour commuters, wheelie bag in hand. The train that I had booked was due to leave at 17:07 and I arrived on the platform at 17:05, just enough time to jump on the nearest carriage before the train moved off from the platform, that was too close a call even for me. I found my seat and settled down for the journey home.

It was great to see my parents at the station, and we had a lovely evening relaxing and sorting out images, text and setting the links for my website update. Having talked it through with my Dad, he suggested rather than moving my blog over to my website that I should just change the links in the menu. Which gives the impression that the site is all in one place but saves me possibly losing all my page links and archives. When I get the time to check out the process a little more, I may eventually move the blog but for now, let me know what you think. You can get through to my website using the Home Button on the menu on my blog as the page selections have been re-mapped 🙂

Anyway, enough of the technical stuff and on to the rest of my weekend. My younger Brother, Thomas was competing in a National Inter-Varsity dance competition in Blackpool. It is probably the biggest event in his competition calendar, and as my Mum and Dad were traveling up to watch him, it was a great opportunity for me to tag along, show my support for him and have a little catch-up.

We all jumped in the car and made the hour and a half journey North from my parent’s house to Blackpool on the Fylde coast in Lancashire. When we were small we used to travel up to Blackpool quite often, whether it was to visit relatives, go for a walk along the promenade, make sand castles on the beach, fly our kites or go to the Pleasure Beach, we always had a very good time. I felt a little nostalgic as we drove into the Town and I could see Blackpool Tower up ahead. The Town has changed from what I remember, the number of families taking holidays there has dropped with the advent of cheap air travel and guaranteed sunshine which has led to an unfortunate decline for the town. But the friendliness of the people is still there in abundance, and once you are in Blackpool, you don’t let a little thing like strong winds and a bit of rain stop your enjoyment.

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Blackpool Tower

We parked up and made our way over to The Winter Gardens, in its heyday this was the entertainment hub of the North West with many West End shows making their way there. The building is just as grand now as it ever was and the Theatre looked amazing. The Ballroom where Tom was dancing was huge, and after we had wished him luck, we made our way to the viewing gallery and settled in for the end of the morning session. In the morning, Tom was competing in the Ballroom novice two-dance and out of 170 couples who entered he came 19th which was an excellent achievement.

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Tom and his partner Natalie

During the lunch time break, we walked down to the seafront to buy some chunky chips with salt and vinegar, an absolute must as you walk along the windy promenade. It would have been perfect, but a cheeky little seagull decided to air bomb us and left a lovely little present in our chip tray boohoo 😦  I then went and bought some Blackpool rock (a hard candy dentists hate if you overdo it) for my friends at College, another tradition that you just have to share while you are visiting the Town.

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Feeling windblown and refreshed in the sea air we made our way back to watch Tom in the afternoon session. He was competing in the Latin novice two-dance but unfortunately this time he only got as far as the second round, but I thought he was amazing and it made me want to take up my Latin and Ballroom again. There are just not enough hours in the day 🙂  The Glasgow University team that he dances for all danced fabulously. Saulius and his partner Heather came 3rd in the ex-student advanced 5 dance ballroom and 5th in the Latin ex-student advanced 5 dance.

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Saulius, Thomas, Heather, Natalie, Hana, Antonio, Ryan and Anna

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Anna, Ryan, Antonio, Hana, Natalie, Thomas, Heather and Saulius

This morning I spent some time in my Mum’s craft room making some Thank You and Birthday cards to replenish my stock, and after a lovely weekend visit I traveled back down to London and feel energized for the week ahead.

After several weeks of rehearsals and performances, it was nice to have a little time this week to recharge and become inspired by new repertoire and watch other performers on stage including supporting my friends watching their scenes.

Also last week I had the pleasure of going to watch “Adriana Lecouvreur” at the Royal Opera House. Whilst I’m living in London, I’m trying to see and hear as much as I can and make the most of the student deals that are available. The production was breathtaking and I was able to see one of my singing inspirations, Angela Gheorghiu, who gave an exciting and thrilling performance, but I must say the whole cast was phenomenal. Everybody had such beautiful voices with incredible projection.

roh-friday-17-02-17As a student of Opera, I was interested in how much the set design of this production shaped and aided the story. On stage, there was a working baroque theatre, which allowed for multiple scenes to be portrayed such as a backstage area with dressing rooms, the wings of the theatre, a palace, the actual performing stage and many others. As the story unfolded on stage, our imaginations were entranced by these transformations as the characters glided from one setting to another seamlessly and very naturally.

There was a particularly beautiful moment when there was a ballet depicting a performance of ‘The Judgment of Paris’ within the opera during the palace scene. It created so many dimensions, and it was interesting as the dancers had comedic moments when they made mistakes due to the ‘onstage audience’ diverting their attention as the love rivalry between the Princess and Adriana created a frosty atmosphere. As a performer, I couldn’t help but want to watch the ballerinas while at the same time trying desperately to take it all in. It was such detailed direction I wish I could afford to go and see it all over again.

I have tried to write a brief synopsis of the story which I hope gives you an idea of what was happening on stage:

This tragic story centers around an actress, Adriana Lecouvreur and the men who fall in love with her. Michonnet, the stage manager of the company that she performs for, is one of her admirers. He tells Adriana of his feelings for her, but she tells him that her heart belongs to a soldier, Maurizio, who is in the service of the Count of Saxony. But like all good operas Maurizio is no soldier; instead, we find out that he is actually the Count of Saxony.

Maurizio has another, more important admirer, the Princess of Bouillon. During a party thrown by the Prince de Bouillon, the plot thickens as the Princess tells Maurizio that her heart belongs to him, but he tells her that he does not feel the same way. She guesses that he has taken a lover and though he will not reveal her name the Princess is desperate to find out who her rival is. As the Prince arrives at the party, the Princess is left having to escape so as not to be found out. In the darkness, she is helped to escape by Adriana, and the Princess grows ever more suspicious of her.

The Princess is even more determined to find out the truth, and her suspicions deepen as the story continues to unfold. Adriana is told by the Princess that Maurizio has been injured in a duel and Adriana gives away her true feelings for him when he later joins the group uninjured. The Princess concludes that Adriana is her love rival and decides to have her revenge.

As the story comes to its tragic end, Adriana receives what she believes is an unwanted gift returned by her lover, Maurizio. She kisses the flowers, hurt by the thought that Maurizio no longer loves her and throws them away. But Maurizio finds her and tells her that she is the one for him and asks her to marry him. As the couple embrace, Maurizio fears for her as she trembles in his arms. The flowers had been poisoned by the Princess who gets her revenge as Adriana dies in the arms of her lover.

Here are some of the pictures from the Royal Opera House Flickr website.

Angela Gheorghiu and Brian Jagde in Adriana Lecouvreur, The Royal Opera © ROH 2017. Photo by Catherine Ashmore

Gerald Finley and Angela Gheorghiu in Adriana Lecouvreur, The Royal Opera © ROH 2017. Photo by Catherine Ashmore

Gerald Finley, Angela Gheorghiu and Bálint Szabó in Adriana Lecouvreur, The Royal Opera © ROH 2017. Photo by Catherine Ashmore

Production Photo of Adriana Lecouvreur, The Royal Opera © ROH 2017. Photo by Catherine Ashmore

Angela Gheorghiu in Adriana Lecouvreur, The Royal Opera © ROH 2017. Photo by Catherine Ashmore

Ksenia Dudnikova, Angela Gheorghiu and Brian Jagde in Adriana Lecouvreur, The Royal Opera © ROH 2017. Photo by Catherine Ashmore

Angela Gheorghiu in Adriana Lecouvreur, The Royal Opera © ROH 2017. Photo by Catherine Ashmore

Angela Gheorghiu in Adriana Lecouvreur, The Royal Opera © ROH 2017. Photo by Catherine Ashmore

Angela Gheorghiu and Brian Jagde in Adriana Lecouvreur, The Royal Opera © ROH 2017. Photo by Catherine Ashmore

Goodness gracious, I feel like I have just been flying today. I participated in my first solo concert today with a classical orchestra. The concert was part of the Weber in London concert series taking place at Royal College of Music, London.

As an ensemble, we performed “La Dolce Speranza” by Weber alongside the wonderful conductor Ben Palmer. It was great to work with the orchestra and Ben.

In order to prepare for the first rehearsal with the RCM classic orchestra, I received some coaching from repetitors to prepare the music. It was so helpful to work on the aria with the amazing staff at the RCM, as I could find very little information about this aria and no one had recorded it before so I needed to explore the aria from scratch. It taught me many new skills that I can’t wait to transfer to other concert arias that I want to add to my repertoire. Initially, I had to prepare the piece to different tempos as I wasn’t sure how fast it would be taken by the conductor.

 

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During The Rehearsal ( Picture Taken From RCM Twitter )

In the first rehearsal on Thursday 9th Feb, I was quite nervous but the overwhelming kindness from the orchestra enabled me to be both brave and excited. Ben Palmer recommended that I sang facing the orchestra for the first rehearsal so I could take in all their sound and sing into the depth of beautiful music they create. The rehearsal for my solo took place in the Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall and lasted about an hour. It was during this rehearsal that I finally got a sense of the faster tempo and I felt the performance starting to come together.

 

The next day we then had a shorter rehearsal of 20 minutes and we ran through the piece twice at the tempo which we would take for the concert. I had to put in a little extra homework to get the coloratura runs to the desired tempo but it was rewarding when I was able to keep up with the speed Ben took.

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Today we had a run through in the morning and then I had to change outfit, do my hair and makeup and prepare myself for the performance. I had such fun, I wish I was doing it all over again this evening. Fingers crossed I’ll be able to work with the orchestra again in the future.

To finish I just want to say a big thank you to the RCM for the opportunity and for the generosity and awesome playing from the orchestra beautifully led by the wonderful Ben Palmer.

The area around the RCM had restricted access due to the BAFTAS which were being held this evening across the road at the Albert Hall so I want to also pass on my gratitude and thanks to everyone who took the trouble to come along this afternoon and watch our performances as it made the day extra special. It was also nice to meet new friends after the performance and catch up with my friends from College who had come along to support me.

 

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Tonight’s BAFTAs As Seen From The RCM ( Picture Taken By Carola Krebs )

 

Opera Scenes At The RCM

February 5, 2017 — 37 Comments

I have had another exciting Friday this week, with my second round of opera scenes. This week I had the challenge to play a flirty Zerlina in Don Giovanni, which was quite different to last week’s Flora.

It was a challenging scene for me as my wonderful director Elaine Kidd pushed my partner Christian Adolph and me to be truly in the moment and acting as if for the camera. We had to constantly have sub-textual thoughts, be accurate with the music and listen constantly to the other in order to keep the text alive and spontaneous. I also had to experiment with intimacy on stage which pushed my boundaries as an actress. Previously I had played Zerlina as a sweet and innocent country girl whereas on this occasion I was asked to think of her as a cheeky social climber.

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Me, Elaine Kidd our Director and Christian Adolph

It made me realise how flexible an artist needs to be with their interpretation of a character and how they can be molded around period/situation and insight. In the rehearsal process, we did a lot of improvisation, and I enjoyed the challenge of having to re-create the character and seeing how she might react in different mindsets.

I really enjoyed the process and will continue to approach my acting in this style and use the experience to enrich my future performances. I also learned some great tips for checking in with the conductor for tempo changes and entrances of melodies from the fabulous Natalie Murray – which will certainly make my life easier and enable me to be more flexible on stage.

However, having enjoyed this experience twice in a short space of time, it has made me once again so thankful for all the help of the wonderful backstage team! Without them I certainly would not have got my dress on, hair done, be visible on stage or met my queues to be prepared for the stage. They are all wonderful, and I’m so grateful for all their help.

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Chris, Me, Laura and Ellen

Performing alongside such a fabulous group of singers here at the RCM has been such a rewarding opportunity for me. We all had such a great time and I have to say a special thank you to both Ben Smith, as my “Masetto” and Christian Adolph, as “Don Giovanni” who made both the rehearsals and the final performance so much fun.

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The Whole Cast

Some pictures taken by Ben Durrant during the rehearsals.

Some pictures taken by Juliette Lozano

It was such a pleasure to see Hilary in the audience and meeting Cate and her sister Alexandra after the show. I kicked myself for not asking my parents to take a picture of us for my blog.  It was such a boost to see their friendly supportive faces in the audience after years of communicating here on my blog.  Thank you 🙂

Next week I will be singing again but this time as part of a celebration of the music of Carl Maria von Weber at the RCM on Sunday 12th February at 2:30 pm. You can buy tickets for the concert at the RCM website.

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Britten Opera Scenes

January 29, 2017 — 51 Comments

On Friday I had the pleasure to share the stage with my wonderful colleagues in a set of Opera Scenes produced by the Royal College of Music. The scenes were all from the works of Benjamin Britten to mark the 30th anniversary of the building of the Benjamin Britten Theatre at the College and included:

The Rape of Lucretia
Albert Herring
Turn Of The Screw
Owen Wingrave
Billy Budd
A Middummer Night’s Dream
Paul Bunyan

The week leading up to the performance was well organised and very slick. Each scene had its own separate rehearsal on Monday to iron out any wrinkles and make any final corrections. Then on Wednesday and Thursday we began running the scenes together to get a sense of timings and a feel for the overall production.

It was brilliant to be able to support and watch my colleagues as we began bringing the show together. We then added curtain calls, lighting and special effects. Then on Friday we came in early to do our make up and hair. After that we finally got to wear our costumes and worked out any last-minute niggles and the timings for the quick changes. Then after these two rehearsals we performed the show at 5:30.

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Carly Owen and Me

I performed as Flora from “Turn Of The Screw”, alongside Ashlyn Tymms as ‘Mrs Grouse’, Carly Owen as ‘The Governess’ and Josephine Goddard as ‘Miss Jessel’. I had a great time preparing for the scene alongside these fantastic singers and I hope we can work together again in the future.

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Eleanor Sanderson-Nash, Carly Owen, Harry Thatcher, Me and Amy Manford

I also took on the part of one of the fairies in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” with Amy Manford as ‘Tytania’, Feargal Mostyn-Williams as ‘Oberon’, Stephen Mills as ‘Lysander’, Beth Moxon as ‘Hermia’, Eleanor Sanderson-Nash as ‘Helana’, Harry Thatcher as Demetrius, Rory Carver as ‘Puck’. Eleanor Sanderson-Nash, Carly Owen, and Ida Ranzlov were the other Fairies. It was so much fun to be part of such an enthusiastic group of performers and I had an amazing time.

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The Whole Cast

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Timothy Edlin, Eleanor Sanderson-Nash, Carly Owen, Me, and Amy Manford

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Me with Ida Ranzlov

 

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Rory Carver, Me and Amy Manford

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Me and Director, Lorenzo Mariani

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Timothy Edlin and Richard Pinkstone

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Beth Moxon and Me

To end my post tonight I would like to wish you all a happy and prosperous Chinese New Year as we enter the year of the Rooster.

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A Busy Few Weeks

January 22, 2017 — 48 Comments

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This weekend I have been able to catch up with some sleep and spend a little time with friends ahead of what will be a busy three weeks for me.

Next Friday I will be performing alongside some amazing singers from the Royal College of Music in the first set of opera scenes for 2017.  The rehearsals for these scenes enter their final week, and I am so excited to see how they all come together.  I will be singing the part of Flora in a scene from Benjamin Britten’s ‘Turn Of The Screw’, directed by Lorenzo Mariani, with Josephine Goddard, Carly Owen and Ashlyn Tymms.

I will also be singing the part of one of the fairies in a scene from another of Britten’s operas, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, directed by John Copley.  The cast for this scene is a little bigger to accommodate all the characters needed and is made up of Rory Carver, Amy Manford, Steven Mills, Feargal Mostyn-Williams, Beth Moxon, Carly Owen, Ida Ranzlov, Eleanor Sanderson-Nash, Harry Thatcher, and myself.

Each scene was cast before Christmas, and we received the music in time for the Christmas break so that we could be off copy by the beginning of January.  At the beginning of January, I had a couple of one to one coaching sessions with the conductor, Christopher Middleton, to go over my musical part in isolation of the others but with piano accompaniment.  Following our independent study, we had a music call bringing all of the singers together to see how we performed as an ensemble.  Then we did a music call on stage for the director, enabling him to get used to sound in the performance space.  Once the director was comfortable with our sound, we started work on the staging of the scene. Each Director brought a little bit of their individual flair to each scene which the actress in me found fascinating.

The whole process of how the performance is brought together is quite amazing, the way the Director visualises the scene and goes about instructing and inspiring us all to bring their idea to life never ceases to amaze me.  To be part of their vision is something quite special for me and I hope that I do the parts justice for them.

It has been a wonderful experience for me to work with everyone who is involved in the production and I want to say a special thank you to the staff in the costume department here at the RCM who have the task of producing and altering all the costumes.  Putting on the costumes really helps you become the character that you are being asked to portray, which I hope adds that little bit extra to our performances on stage.

There are just a few tickets left for this performance, and if you are in London on the 27th January and want to come down and support us the show starts at 17:30 and is free, but you need to order a ticket from the RCM website.

I will try and get permission to take some pictures backstage next week and if I can I will share them with you.