Archives For Britten

In The Dressing Room

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.

Marcella di Garbo and Charlotte Hoather

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.

Marcella di Garbo and Charlotte Hoather On Stage 02

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.

Marcella di Garbo and Charlotte Hoather On Stage 01

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!

Charlotte Hoather On Stage 02

( 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.

Charlotte Hoather Claire Swale and Barbara Job

Me, Claire Swale, and Barbara Job backstage

Charlotte Hoather and Pianist Luch Colquhoun

Me with the amazing piano accompanist Lucy Colquhoun

Summer Opera Scenes

May 13, 2018 — 50 Comments

IMG_6544_15_05_2018

On Friday 18th May 2018 at 17:30 pm I will be the Controller in a scene from ‘Flight’ at the Royal College of Music, the scene will be directed by William Relton and conducted by Peter Selwyn.  Flight is an English opera with music by Jonathan Dove, who also wrote ‘A Walk from the Garden’ that I performed for Scottish Opera Connect three years ago, playing the role of Eve. The libretto (text) for ‘Flight’ was written by April De Angelis.

‘Flight’ had its premiere mainstage performance at Glyndebourne Festival Opera in 1999.  The inspiration for the story was from the true-life story of an Iranian refugee Nasseri who lived at Charles de Gaulle Airport unable to exit the terminal.  Did you watch the 2004 Spielberg film with Tom Hanks called ‘The Terminal’ that was also based on Nasseri story stuck in terminal one in a Paris airport for 18 years, from 1988 to 2006, without any passport and documents?  It never ceases to amaze me how life is often stranger than fiction. I’ve spent quite a bit of time recently in airport lounges listening to Controllers and soaking in the atmosphere, watching and waiting, and worked on the score to try to get it off copy (learned off the score) ready for rehearsals this past week.

Dove said, “Some of the characters were based on personal experience”. For example, Dove once made a difficult journey to an airport during a rail strike to meet a “Significant Person” who never showed, a similar situation that happens to the Older Woman in the production.

He also made the mistake of thinking that a floundering relationship would be rectified by an overseas trip, like Bill and Tina. And he once sat with two people who were starting a new life in another country, which pops in with Minskman and Minskwoman.

“I think we had the feeling that the airport was potentially a kind of microcosm, with lighter elements.” He said.

turn-of-the-screw-01-instagram

Carly Owen As The Governess and Me as Flora, From January 2017

On Tuesday 22nd May 2018 at 17:30pm, I will play the Governess in a scene from ‘The Turn of the Screw’, this was the Britten opera that was my first opera scene at the Royal College of Music when I performed the role of the child ‘Flora’ in the Britten Theatre so it’s fitting that it will be my last scene.  I did quite comprehensive research last year so I got out all my old notes and references to get into the new character, this is a fabulous opportunity to expand my work on this great opera. The score is very tricky.  I’ve enjoyed working with Marcella Di Garbo, who plays Miss Jessel, since my return to London. The scene is being directed by Stuart Barker who directed my scene from the ‘Dialogue of the Carmelites’ so it’s lovely to work with him again and the ever-wonderful Michael Lloyd conducting, with Lucy Colquhoun on piano.  Tickets for both events are free but require booking ( Click Here )

I will try and get some photos of both casts this week to share with you all.