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On Friday afternoon I took time out to watch my talented colleagues perform in the dress rehearsal of the Royal College of Music’s production of The Cunning Little Vixen. This wonderful opera by Janácek’s was sung in English for this particular production and tells the exciting and episodic story which constantly raises the imagined similarities and differences between humans and animals.

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The costumes designed by Hannah Wolfe were flamboyant and wonderfully colourful. Every costume was personalised and each suggested a hint of different animalistic features, such as a spiked backpack worn by a hedgehog/man. It was fun as an audience member to notice these intricacies which added to the story and allowed your imagination to build on the images played out on stage.

The set was also exquisite and full of extra compartments that drew your attention as they that opened and closed the space to new scenes. My particular favourite scene that Alex Berry designed was the chicken coop which showcased a Charlie and Chocolate factory esque egg laying factory that really caught my childlike imagination.

Daniel Slater beautifully combines lustful dancing with animalistic gestures performed by the Singers in his direction of this opera. It worked brilliantly and told the story seamlessly. I particularly enjoyed the love duets performed by the dancers which continued to expand on the story during the passionate orchestral interludes, sophisticatedly lead by Michael Rosewell.

This is a great production and my friends were in top form. There are a still a few tickets left if you are in the area and it is definitely worth a visit:  http://www.rcm.ac.uk/events/listings/details/?id=1383768

7:00pm | 27 November 2017
7:00pm | 29 November 2017
7:00pm | 01 December 2017
7:00pm | 02 December 2017

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I’m really looking forward to the ‘Winter Concert’ with the Thames Philharmonic Choir and Beth Moxon (alto), Steve Mills (tenor), Dan D’Souza (bass) under the direction of conductor John Bate and Stephen Disley (organ) in Kingston upon Thames, with our thanks to The Josephine Baker Trust who match us to engagements and provide half the fees.  We’ve had our first rehearsal the program is called ‘A Feast of Baroque & 5 Modern Carols’ you can get tickets at www.thamesphilchoir.org.uk or at the door, should be a great start to the Season.

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I’ve also been working hard on my Handel ‘Messiah’ soloist preparations, the Messiah is an English-language oratorio from the Baroque era, composed in 1741 by George Frideric Handel, it premiered in Dublin in 1742 at Easter and has been performed by choirs across the United Kingdom every year since. Handel continued to work on the piece until 1754 when he arrived at the version we use today.  You can read more about it here http://www.classicfm.com/composers/handel/music/george-frideric-handel-messiah/

I’m excited to start the first of two performances at Blackburn in Lancashire with the Blackburn Music Society and the Lancashire Chamber Orchestra under the baton of conductor Tom Newall and with Chamber Organist Samuel Hudson.  My fellow soloists in Blackburn Cathedral are Helen Ann Gregory; Alexander Grainger and Matthew Mannion who I last performed with in Don Giovanni at Opera Britain last year.  Tickets: 01254 201978 or on the door.

Blackburn Concert

 

 

Mesmerising singing and acting that made me run home to get some sleep so that I could wake up early today and practice some of the ideas I have learned from watching the opera Monday evening.

The soprano Lisette Oropesa performed Lucia exquisitely and despite telling the story with determination and honesty kept the singing consistently beautiful at all times despite the deeply dramatic gothic libretto.

I didn’t know this opera very well and this evening was my first real encounter with it from start to end I felt transfixed by the story.

The direction was very interesting, I loved it and thought the concept of having two distinct rooms in which separate scenarios of the story were unveiled to us in real time was thoroughly enchanting and allowed me to really connect with the character Lucia as I watched her hatch the plan to meet Edgardo her true love and kill Arturo to whom she had been betrothed. To me, this enhanced the intricate detail of the intrigue and added to my enjoyment of the opera.

However, as a singer, I felt for some of the singers on the stage as at times it was difficult to know which of the rooms to watch on the split-screen set. Often, I was drawn to the scenes that were just acting and the performers didn’t sing, but always returning to the singers communicating the story.

For the majority of the story, I didn’t need to watch the subtitles the plot was strong and the acting really told the intricacies of Donizetti’s tragic masterpiece.

It was a brilliant production for anyone preparing the role of Lucia as you watched her live every moment and understand perhaps why she came to complete the actions that she did as a consequence of a forced marriage.

 

I have had a great Birthday weekend at home with my family.  As a treat my Mum and Dad arranged to take me, Matt, Tom and Alex into Liverpool to watch Judith Howarth, my singing teacher and good friend from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, performing the role of Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus.

I was thrilled to be able to watch her on stage, especially on my Birthday.  Judy was so encouraging and supportive to me whilst studying in Glasgow, and also during my time here in London, having the opportunity to support her from the stalls was a real treat.

We arrived in Liverpool and found the theatre quite quickly which was fortunate as it was quite chilly and the wind was picking up.  Mum and Dad had booked us into the Ambassador Lounge at the theatre as a birthday treat and for anyone attending a performance here I can thoroughly recommend it.  It was lovely and warm inside and the hostess brought us all a welcome drink and you could order nibbles or a snack if you wanted. It was great to be able to leave our bags and coats there and avoid the packed bars before the performance and during the two intervals.  The performance was a matinee which started at 4.00 pm which allowed us all to go out for a celebratory meal afterward.

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Tom, Dad, Alex, Matt, Me, Mum

Die Fledermaus is an operetta by Johann Strauss II with the original libretto in German.  However, for this production, the WNO ( Welsh National Opera ) used an English translation by David Pountney and Leonard Hancock.  The story is quite comedic with wonderful music and I can strongly recommend it to anyone and especially for those who want to see an opera for the first time.

WNO Programme

WNO :       “Rosalinde is looking forward to a few days carefree time with her lover, while her husband is facing time in prison. Her maid asks to be excused in order to care for a sick Aunt. In truth, all four characters are planning to spend the evening at a magnificent masquerade ball given by the Prince. As the characters are brought together in various guises, we set the scene for a hilarious story of mistaken identity full of splendour, posh frocks, and masks.”

Judy was amazing as Rosalinde with crystal clear coloratura and a legato line to die for.  She gave a very believable portrayal of the character as she drew in the audience and made us laugh and giggle as the story played out. Both Paul Charles Clarke who played the lover Alfred and Mark Stone who played the husband Gabriel Eisenstein brought power and energy to their roles which complemented Judy’s beautiful vocals and wonderful characterisation.  I must also mention Rhian Lois who played the role of Adele, the chambermaid, her comedic timing was excellent and she sang the role beautifully.

The orchestra under the baton of maestro James Southall brought the whole production to life and the ensemble players added a little sparkle to the party scenes in Act II.

The tour moves on to The Bristol Hippodrome on the 17th and 18th November 2017 and then finishes at the New Theatre, Oxford on 1st and 2nd December 2017.

 

Judy and Me After The Show

Me with Judith Howarth after the performance

 

 

BambinO, That’s A Wrap

November 5, 2017 — 54 Comments

As I sit on the train traveling down to London this evening looking through the window as we travel south watching people celebrate bonfire night with the most fabulous firework displays. It is great to reflect on our last two performances of BambinO today which like the displays I have witnessed tonight concluded in spectacular fashion.

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This has been a fantastic production to be involved with and I have enjoyed every second working on stage alongside Timothy Connor, Laura Sergeant, and Stuart Semple. With over 70 performances this year at venues around Manchester, Edinburgh and now Glasgow David Sneddon our brilliant Stage Manager has played a huge part in allowing us to bring a little music and magic to the wonderful audiences that came to join us.

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Back Line: Laura, Tim, Lliam, Rachel, Stuart Front Line: Me and Julie

With each show, our front of house colleagues have made sure everyone who comes to watch has an amazing experience and I can’t stress enough the importance they play in making each performance feel special.

From the fabulous and inspiring set and costume designed by Emma and Giuseppe Belli to the free-flowing and imaginative direction inspired by Phelim McDermott, this production has been a real joy to be a part of.

But for me the cherry on the top has been the music composed by Lliam Patterson which I have loved singing and which will stay with me forever.

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To those of you who came along to watch one of the performances this year I want to thank you for joining us, it has been fantastic to meet you all and I will take away with me some very special memories. The most amazing thing about performing in this production is that each and every audience has been unique. The babies and toddlers have brought with them their individuality, interacting with us in unpredictable ways and making every show just that little bit different.

Not forgetting Scottish Opera, The Manchester International Festival and Improbable who made all of this possible sincerely thank you very much.

On Saturday it was lovely to see one of my old teachers from the RCS Helen McVey and her son Charlie who came to join in with one of the BambinO performances. I am glad that they both enjoyed the show. I would like to give a big shout out to the toddlers who came in their Halloween costumes to watch today as they were just SO CUTE. Lastly a big thank you to the family who came over from Switzerland to watch as part of a family birthday treat, happy 72nd birthday from me and all the team at Scottish Opera, it was lovely to meet you all.

Then after the last of my two performances of BambinO today David Sneddon the stage manager made sure that I had just enough time to meet some of the toddlers and their families before having to dash off to catch a train down to London. Tonight is the 21st-anniversary party of Improbable hosted by Nick Sweeting and Phelim McDermott. I was thrilled to be invited and jumped at the chance to join in the festivities as I have a couple of days off before the final week of performances starts again in Glasgow. I expect it will be a great way to have a little fun and relax for the evening.

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After the performances end in Glasgow next Sunday I will be finalising my rehearsals for the three concerts that I have coming up in December. The first of which is with Blackburn Music Society, conducted by Tom Newall with Samuel Hudson on chamber organ. The concert takes place on Saturday 2nd December at Blackburn Cathedral where we are performing Handel’s Messiah accompanied by the Lancashire Chamber Orchestra.  The performance starts at 7pm and details of how tickets can be purchased are available online at:

http://blackburnmusicsociety.org.uk/tickets-booking/

For those that won’t know until the last minute if they can come tickets will be available on door.

Blackburn Concert

BambinO Opens In Glasgow

October 22, 2017 — 63 Comments

On Tuesday I returned to Glasgow to begin rehearsals for the third set of performances of BambinO! I have really been looking forward to performing again in this wonderful production and to catch up with my friends and colleagues.

Musical rehearsals took place on Wednesday. These rehearsals were lead by Lliam Patterson, the composer of BambinO. The aim of this style of rehearsal is to ensure that the music is in tip-top form and to ensure that the balance between the quartet in the new venue is at the optimum level. In order to achieve this result, we performed the entire piece and then dissected the score into sections and then worked on those that needed more attention and polishing, experimenting with dynamics and new ideas that we wanted to try out since the performances in Edinburgh.

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On Thursday we visited Scottish Opera’s fabulous costume department for fittings to check if any alterations were needed. The wonderful Ali and Lorna were at hand to refresh our look and make sure the costumes looked brand new. It was lovely to get into my Uccelina costume again, especially the feather-covered tutu! I do love that. In the afternoon we had stage rehearsals co-ordinated by Lissa, our Assistant Director. In this rehearsal, we performed the piece on the set and made any alterations necessary to move freely around the new venue. Another element of this style of rehearsal is to remind ourselves of the blocking and our interactions with props and other members on stage.

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Friday arrived with final rehearsals and brushing up. We began with a music rehearsal and then moved into combining this with staging to ensure that we were ready to open to audiences on Saturday morning.

It has been an absolute delight to have performed this show on Saturday and Sunday. I can never stop smiling after the interactions with the babies and their lovely families, each show brings new surprises from confident crawlers who giggle and gurgle.

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Thank you to Keith Bruce from The Herald for his lovely review in today’s paper. The performances run through to the 5th November and if you want to come down and join in the fun there are still a few tickets left but don’t leave it too long or you may miss out.

I hope that you have all had a wonderful week and if you have any exciting tales to share you must let me know. My week has been filled with music making and observing my talented peers, which I ended with a Saturday focused on Opera.

Every day when I walk to College I pass the iconic museums that are an important part of South Kensington and on occasion, I love to visit them to break up my busy timetable. I find wandering the great exhibition halls of the Victoria & Albert Museum ( V&A ) fills me with inspiration and provides context about society during the periods of history that have affected many pieces of music that I study. Across the road from the V&A is the grandeur of the Natural History Museum which I often drop in to see the butterflies.

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However, on Saturday I went with my friends to an exhibition at the V&A dedicated to Opera aptly named Opera: Passion, Power , and Politics which is a collaboration between the V&A and the Royal Opera House. This wonderful exhibition aims to map out the journey of opera from its creation in Italy to the worldwide platform that exists today. For my student priced ticket, I received a high-tech audio guided tour, (with pretty awesome headphones by Bower&Wilkins) that glided seamlessly between selected pieces of operatic music beautifully handpicked to frame the amazing layout of the exhibition. It was extra special for me to hear Sir Antonio Pappano, a fantastic world-renowned conductor who holds the position of Music Director of the Royal Opera House, relate his personal interpretation of Shostakovich’s Opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. It felt so personal and exciting that I hung on to his every word. It was an amazing exhibition with so many pieces of beautiful art, videos of performances, librettos and manuscripts, and a working baroque stage. If I am able to, I would like to go again to really soak it all in. Each item was accompanied with a informed explanation that would both interest a new comer to Opera or add to the knowledge of an Opera aficionado. The exhibition ends on February 25th 2018 and if you are in London whilst the exhibition is on I can highly recommend.

Then on Saturday evening, I went to the London Coliseum to watch a performance of Verdi’s Aida. A collaboration between Improbable and the ENO. It was an exciting event for me to attend as my delightful director from Bambino, Phelim McDermott, directed this spellbinding interpretation. The singing was outstanding from the principal cast and the chorus performed with a beautiful blend and incredible dynamic range that kept the intensity of the piece alive. I particularly enjoyed the visually stunning, smokey and dimly lit Sacred Rite scene from Act 1 scene 2, which created a world that was far more intimate. I really believed in the magic of the High Priestess.

In act three the relationship between Aida, Latonia Moore and her father Amonasro King of Ethiopia, Musa Nggungwana, was so raw and honest that it left me guessing as to what would happen in this iconic operatic tale even though I know the story so well. For the production to command your attention in this way was an incredible thing to achieve on stage, as the story develops it draws you in and feels so real that you are there with them for each and every moment.

I want to work on this element in my own singing with the intention to communicate my feelings to the audience as if I myself don’t know how the aria ends, so that I too am in the moment and finding fresh ideas to make each performance unique in its own way.

A truly beautiful interpretation of Aida that is a must see.