Last Wednesday I was asked to take over the Instagram Story for Waterperry Opera Festival on behalf of the Mansfield Park Cast and Creatives. This was all a little new to me as my experience of Instagram was limited to my once a week post linked to my blog.
But undaunted I roped in the help of my good friend Hanah Crerar who is a whiz with Instagram Stories and she explained how they worked and what works best. For those of you unfamiliar with Instagram and their Story feature it allows the user to post short video segments which are only available for 24 hours.
As the day progressed everyone on the team got involved and we managed to get several little snippets recorded. Here are some of the ones that I managed to save, a little bit of cheesy fun to share with you all. All in our very best Jane Austin accents of course.
We have sold out on the 25th and 28th August but there a still a few tickets left for the 26th and 27th August if you are able to join us
Today saw the start of rehearsals for Waterperry Opera Festival’s production of MansfieldPark which we will be performing between 25th and 28th July at 2:30 pm. The performances are to be held in the Waterperry Ballroom which provides an absolutely amazing backdrop to this wonderful immersive opera by Jonathan Dove.
This year we welcome two new members to the original cast, Eleanor Garside who plays the part of Aunt Norris, and Damian Arnold who will perform the role of Henry Crawford. I am looking forward to working alongside both of them, and all my old friend from last year’s production. The cast and creatives are an amazing group of people and I can’t wait to see how this year’s rehearsal develop.
The performance on the 25th July is already sold out but there are still a few tickets left for the remaining days if you want to come along I would recommend booking quickly to avoid disappointment. The Opera Festival is hosted in Waterperry House and Gardens, Waterperry, Oxford, OX33 1LA and you book tickets HERE.
The production will be directed again by Rebecca Meltzer with musical direction by Ashley Beauchamp, and Bradley Wood will be providing the additional piano accompaniment.
I’ve been working on my next opera projects, researching characters, storylines, learning the music and words. I have watched the movie version of the play ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ and bought a couple of books on how to interpret Shakespeare’s words correctly.
This year Northern Opera Group will host the Leeds Opera Festival from 23rd to 27th August 2019 at venues across the city. The Leeds Opera Festival will include A Feast of Falstaff, where the audience will be treated to a sumptuous feast accompanied by music from three Falstaff operas – by Verdi, Salieri and Balfe – followed by a screening of Orson Welles’ masterpiece, ‘Chimes at Midnight’.
Another new performance to be savoured at the Festival is the aptly titled Musical Confusion. This captivating performance will imaginatively weave together text and song to seamlessly bring together Shakespeare’s original plays with many of the operas inspired by his works.
Headlining this year’s Leeds Opera Festival will be a full production of Stanford’s comic gem, Much Ado About Nothing, transported to 1950s small-town America, where the makings of a cultural revolution are just getting started …
There will be two performances in the fabulous setting of Morley Townhall on the 23rd and 24th August at 7:30pm. I am thrilled to share with you that I will be performing the role of Hero in this wonderful production and I can’t wait to meet everyone involved. This will be the second production of the summer that I will take to the stage with the fabulous Phil Wilcox who plays the role of Benedick in this production and he will also be reprising the role of Sir Thomas Bertram when we both return to Waterperry Opera Festival in July to perform in Mansfield Park.
Much Ado About Nothing was a comedy by William Shakespeare, written in 1598 (the middle of Shakespeare’s career). In Shakespeare’s day, ‘Nothing’ or ‘Noting’ as he wrote meant gossip, rumour or overhearing and we all know how much misunderstanding and confusion can be created by a little gossip or Chinese whispers.
Largely unperformed since its premiere at the Royal Opera House in 1901, Stanford’s opera is a hilarious, moving and hugely entertaining adaptation of Shakespeare’s play.
In the story Benedick and Beatrice are tricked into confessing their love for each other, Claudio is tricked into rejecting Hero at the altar on the erroneous belief that she has been unfaithful. But in the end, Benedick and Beatrice join forces to set things right, and the others join in a dance celebrating the marriages of the two couples.
I’ve sung several songs that have used Shakespeare’s words before but this is my first full operatic adaptation of one of his plays. Do you have a favourite play, book or another Shakespeare play that you think would work well set to music?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
The meals were scrumptious and deliciously plated up. I felt
like I was on MasterChef
A family run Italian restaurant with well priced and delicious food. Plenty of variety and good quality food.
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.“
“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.“
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 🙂
On Saturday night I had the wonderful opportunity to join my singing teacher, Rosa Mannion, to watch my friend Gemma Summerfield debut as Pamina in the Magic Flute at Scottish Opera in Glasgow. It was a spectacular production and she particularly sang with poise and mellifluous tone just exquisite.
Scottish Opera – The Magic Flute – Photos By James Glossop
It was an extra special production for me as it was a revival of the original 2012 Sir Thomas Allen production, which I happened to see during the first year of my studies at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow. It was just as I remembered a magical production, I could vividly remember the steampunk costumes and set design which only improved with time.
The Three Ladies and the Queen of the Night’s costume were also inspiring – bejewelled with either hundreds of Swarovski or delicately placed LED lights – they truly looked like stars in the nights sky.
The fantastic detailing in all the props brought added flair to the mystical realm we, the audience, had been transported to. In particular I liked the clockwork birds, which glistened as Papageno unluckily missed them with his net.
Scottish Opera – The Magic Flute – Photos By James Glossop
Sir Thomas Allen, directed the opera full of wit and
joviality. The audience all around me were sniggering and laughing in perfect
timing with the singing actors due to their wonderful delivery of a
particularly humorous English Translation. However, the company were able to
balance these moments with seriousness for the suicide arias and lessons learnt
during the trials.
My rehearsals have started well here in Glasgow and I have
enjoyed meeting everyone involved in the Pop-Up Opera production. I hope that in some small way our abridged
version will whet the appetite of our audiences and encourage them to go and
watch the full production as it is a true delight to the senses.
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
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
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 ).
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.