After the first week of 2019, I feel energised, happy, and hungry to step closer towards my personal goals. After throwing myself at all my targets head on, I did feel a little tired today. But after eating a tasty homemade chicken, sausage, and vegetable casserole, to fight against any last germs and lingering colds that seem to be in the air. I still say, “Bring it On!”
This week I have updated my calendar and diary with work deadlines, events and fun outings with friends. I have treated myself to a weekly planner, that allows me to plot year goals and monthly goals that I can track the progress weekly and create focused to-do lists. So far it’s helped me to be prepared for my immediate goals whilst maintaining my focus on tasks for future projects. I really like it, it feels like an adult star chart that helps to keep me motivated and positive. How do you assess and manage your goals and productivity? Do you have any tips or suggestions that have helped you to achieve a personal goal?
Today I arranged to meet up with my friend Beth Taylor who I studied with at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Beth is a fabulous mezzo-soprano and as we live at opposite ends of the country this was a great opportunity for us to catch up and just chill out together.
One challenge I’m tackling head on this year is learning how to run. Of course, I know how to run, but previously I found no enjoyment in it. I would occasionally sprint for a bus but would be greeted with breathlessness and possibly catching it in time. Luckily for me, I love dancing and trying out new hobbies but I have been very resistant to running even though it can be a cheap hobby to participate in. I read an article about Lisette Oropesa, a soprano working in the industry who explained that she began running to help her lose weight so that she could be more appealing for casting. But as I read the article, I realised the overall benefits of being able to run were important to an opera singer. Often opera stages are very large and directors may want you to run on from the wings before a big aria. I would hate to work so hard and get an opportunity to perform in a big opera house and then begin an aria out of breath because of poor running technique. So I download the NHS/BBC app ‘Couch to 5K’. It’s is aimed at beginners and builds up to being able to run a 5K slowly. I chose the comedian Sarah Millican to narrate my run routines and so far I have enjoyed listening to her encouraging voice. The routine starts you off with baby steps, including both running and walking to help build up towards the 5K goal. I do still run like Phoebe Buffay with the occasional disco arm moves if inspired by my playlist. I’ll keep you posted with my progress. I don’t think I’ll ever be like Mo Farah but I’m glad I didn’t put it off.
I can now run for 8 minutes and I am getting my pose ready for the Olympics ( Ha Ha )
One other task that I have set myself this year is to attempt to re-write my biography to include some of my achievements from 2018. I find this difficult as it is a real skill to write a comprehensive yet concise biog, which can then be condensed even further for auditions and production companies who request biogs of 200, 150, or 100 words maximum. If any of you can offer any guidance or make suggestions on how best to achieve this I would be really grateful. Here is an example of a short one I wrote recently what do you think? How could I improve it to be interesting in a program?
Soprano Charlotte Hoather completed her Master’s in Performance (Voice) at the Royal College of Music in June 2018, under the tutelage of Rosa Mannion and Simon Lepper, previously gaining a First-Class Honours Degree in Music from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland studying under Judith Howarth.
Following five-star reviews in 2017 for her performance of ‘Uccelina’ in Scottish Opera’s production of BambinO in Manchester, Edinburgh, and Glasgow, Charlotte continued in the role for a tour of Paris for the Théâtre du Châtelet before the production moved to the Metropolitan Opera House, New York for a series of sell-out shows in 2018. In July 2018 Charlotte won first prize in the Pendine International Voice of the Future at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod.
Charlotte’s professional performances include the role of ‘Zerlina’ in Don Giovanni with Opera Britain, the role of ‘Maria Bertram’ in Waterperry Opera Festival’s production of Mansfield Park, and the role of ‘Cunegonde’ in Surrey Opera’s production of Candide. In 2019 Charlotte will be performing the role of ‘Pandora’ in Radius Opera’s production of Tim Benjamin’s new opera The Fire of Olympus which will be touring the North Of England in Autumn 2019.
This week I flew to New York City to participate in the live auditions for a Young Artist Program. I was elated to receive the invitation, during the application season I have to send out applications to Opera companies all over Europe and North America. This is a lengthy process requiring references, audition repertoire to […]
Tonight I wanted to write about the comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan as I will be performing the role of The Plaintiff in their one-act opera ‘Trial By Jury’ for Surrey Opera on the 16th December 2018. I will be joined by the talented Stephen Anthony Brown, the effervescent Giles Davis, and the amazing Tim Baldwin for what I hope will be a fun-filled evening.
Sir Arthur Sullivan
My first encounter with Gilbert and Sullivan was when I studied at the junior department of the Royal Northern College of Music when we performed in The Yeomen of the Guard. Gilbert and Sullivan were both born in Victorian England, Gilbert in 1836 and Sullivan in 1842. Their partnership produced fourteen comic operas which have been performed Internationally to appreciative audiences for over one hundred years. Gilbert wrote the Libretti, the text, and Sullivan composed the music.
Trial By Jury
The story pokes fun at the common law of Breach of Promise, it was considered that if a man made a promise of engagement to marry a woman and subsequently changed his mind then his fiancé could sue him for damages. The law was repealed in England in 1970, the last prominent case to be heard in the English courts was the case brought by Eva Haraldsted against the footballer George Best in 1969.
H. Friston’s engraving of the original production of Trial By Jury
In the opera, I play the role of The Plaintiff who is beseeching the court to award her substantial damages as she loves the man who has broken his promise of marriage. The Defendant pleads with the court to keep the award small as he is “such a very bad lot”. There is much argument between the parties with The Jurymen recalling their misspent youth but as they are all now respectable gentlemen, they can have no sympathy with the actions of the defendant.
The Defendant eventually offers to marry both The Plaintiff and his new love, but as The Judge points out that though this would appear to be an equitable arrangement it would be a serious crime in itself. The Defendant then goes on to explain to the court that he is, in fact, a smoker, a drunkard, and a bully (when drunk) and The Plaintiff would not have wanted to spend more than a day married to him. The Judge suggests that The Defendant should make himself drunk to prove his point. The rest of the court objects to this and fed up with the lack of progress the Judge offers to marry The Plaintiff himself. The Plaintiff finds this outcome much to her liking and as such the opera ends on a happier note.
Classical Gala With Rolando Villazón And Guests
I also wanted to share with you that I have been asked to perform at next year’s Llangollen International Eisteddfod as a guest of tenor Rolando Villazón who will be performing there for the first time. Also appearing with him will be the Welsh lyric soprano Rhian Lois. I am thrilled and honoured to have been asked to take part in the concert which takes place on the 2nd July 2019. Tickets will go on sale on the 12th December.
This week I found the inspiration for my blog post when reading back through some comments on previous blog posts. I came across a comment from my blog-friend Eric Christopher Jackson, a wonderful artist who tells stories through Photography it got me thinking. He wrote:
“When you say things like “bel canto phrasing” or “arpeggios progressing to coloratura exercises” I’m at a loss. However, as I continue to read your Blog, I’m learning how to speak “Opera.”
So I thought that I could perhaps create a little glossary, that I could expand upon over time, to help explain some of the details and vocabulary that I may use. Today we will be discussing Voice Types.
But first here are a couple of Buzz Words that you may be helpful:
Vocal Range: A measurement of the range of the notes/pitches that a human voice can phonate/sing.
Vocal Weight: The amount of volume the voice can naturally produce. This is important because it can dictate the size of orchestra that a soloist can comfortably perform with (without any artificial amplification )
Colour: This describes the particular sound of the singer, and is what allows a singer’s voice to be individual and unique. You can describe a voice as warm, bright, dark, light and much more. Preference depends upon the listener.
Vocal Runs: A fast succession of notes that can ascend and descend in pitch rapidly.
Coloratura: An elaborate ornamentation/decoration of a vocal melody, which will often involve runs.
The Voice Types
The initials SATB, which are often used in choirs, stand for the four main voice Types: Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass. These initials are to show that the choir uses the full range of the human voice, as opposed to an all-female or all-male choir. When singing as a soloist, you will also come across the terms Mezzo-Soprano, [usually the same range as an Alto], Contralto, [the lowest female voice], Counter-Tenor, [a male voice who has the equivalent range to a mezzo-soprano] and Baritone, [the male voice lying in between Tenor and Bass].
The Seven Main Voice Types [High to Low]
In the Opera World, these main Voice Types are further categorized to facilitate casting. This system was created in Germany and is called the Fach system. These sub-categories depend upon much of what we have discussed so far one’s vocal range, vocal weight, Colour, flexibility, characters and more.
Listen to the above youtube video created by the Royal Opera House, to hear the different voice types and excerpts of them singing Opera.
I will now explain a little more about my own vocal Fach. If you find it interesting and want to know more, please comment below and I will expand in later weeks.
The Soprano voice:
Full Lyric Soprano
At the moment, I am categorized as a Lyric Coloratura. This means that I have an extended upper range. Personally, I can sing up to an F#, which is needed for roles such as the Queen of the Night from Die Zauberflöte by Mozart and The Controller in Flight by Jonathan Dove. My voice is quite flexible and I can sing a variety of vocal runs. The characters that Lyric Coloraturas would sing are generally young women, who are charming, sometimes short-tempered, coquettish, cheeky and stubborn. In theory, audition songs I select should enable casting directors to see which roles I could be appropriate for and possibly be cast for within their operatic season. This is similar to typecasting for actors in the Movie and Theatre World.
Well known examples of my current voice type: Beverly Sills, Kathleen Battle, Diana Damrau and Natalie Dessay.
To end this evening I have included a link to my live recording of Danny Boy which I performed last week at the Tideswell Male Voice Choir’s Remembrance concert. I was asked if I could share the video of my performance but unfortunately, my Dad was a little too wobbly with the video camera so I hope you enjoy the audio recording instead.
I have had a wonderful weekend of song, gathering with friends to remember the lives of those lost during the conflicts of the last Century.
I sang alongside the terrific Tideswell Male Voice Choir in Tideswell’s Armistice Concert on Saturday 10th November. Malcolm Bennison, the choirs’ Chairman, created an interesting and thoughtful program dedicated to telling the stories of the young men and women who fought for their freedom and their country. The concert picked out the tales of six young men who volunteered to fight in the First World War from the Tideswell area. Sadly they were amongst the many men from this local area who perished in the Great War. Their letters, stories, and family history were shared by three members of the Tideswell living History Group, Gill Adams, Ruth Wilson, and Janyce Ashley. These readings were introduced by Charles Foster, a successful voice-over artist best known for being the voice in the courtroom for Judge Rinder. Charles Foster also provided a narration for the evening bringing the memories to life for everyone present.
The Choir Surprised Me With An Impromptu “Happy Birthday Song” At The End Of The Evening.
I performed a selection of songs suggested by Nick Montague, the Musical Director for the Tideswell Male Voice Choir, accompanied by the lovely Alison Wheeldon. These included: “We’ll Meet Again”, “Danny Boy”, “Roses of Picardy”, “We’ll Gather Lilacs” and “Jerusalem” and I have included links to two of the recordings from the evening.
Today’s Rachmaninov recital at Pushkin House in Bloomsbury, London was made extra special for me as my friends Hilary and Edwin journeyed into central London to come and support me. As this was my very first public performance of Russian song knowing that their friendly faces were in the audience gave me a huge boost. It was great to catch up with them during the event and I hope they had a safe journey home. It was lovely to meet up with Norman Cooley who has been a huge help to me with both his advice and support when he comes along to my performances in London.
The day went well and I was so pleased for Maya Soltan who has worked tirelessly putting these two recitals together and I wish her every success for next week’s recital. It was a joy to perform alongside such a talented group of performers in a fabulous setting.
Next week I have been invited to perform as part of a Remembrance Concert that the Tideswell Male Voice Choir are presenting at the ‘Cathedral of The Peak’ St John The Baptist Church, Tideswell, in Derbyshire on Saturday 10th November 2018 at 7:30 pm. The concert will be bringing together both the memories of Tideswell men who died in the Great War presented by Tideswell Living History Group and songs that became associated with great conflicts of the 20th Century. We hope that the concert will help remember those who gave up so much in an uplifting and celebratory way so their memories live on as we strive to work together to keep the peace made possible by their sacrifices.
I hope you don’t mind me finishing my post today by sharing this video with you that is a celebration of ten years of contemporary art creations by my good blog friend Eric Jackson, he set his pictures to the Scots Song by James MacMillan which is one of my favourites from my Studies in Scotland. Eric has been such a source of inspiration for me as he has followed his own dream, and I would encourage you to check out some of his amazing work.
Next Sunday 4th November 2018 I will be performing alongside a host of talented singers and musicians at Pushkin Housewhich is the oldest independent Russian Cultural centre in the United Kingdom. The concert is one of two which has been organised by the fabulous Maya Soltan, the other will be held on Sunday 11th November 2018. The two concerts aim to cover all of the songs by Sergey Rachmaninov in a rare opportunity to enjoy them all together through live performances. Maya has been instrumental in both the arranging of the two concerts and the coaching and language preparation for the singers involved.
The two concerts will feature in total 52 musicians from 12 different countries hand picked by Maya Soltan from the Royal Academy of Music, the Royal College of Music, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Trinity Laban Conservatoire, the Royal Northern College of Music and the Wales International Academy of Voice. The songs will be introduced by Russian concert pianist Dr. Alexander Karpeyev.
The two songs that I will be performing in Russian are The Answer, Op. 21 no.4, The Lilacs, Op. 21 no.5. I must personally thank Maya for her help whilst preparing these two songs as it will be my first performance in Russian and without her coaching, it would not have been possible.
More details about the two events and how to buy tickets can be found here.
Performers on the 4th November:
Tamsin Birch, Sofia Celenza, Charlotte Hoather, Mariya Irel, Joohyun Lee, Oxana Lepska, Laura Peresivana, Alice Usher, soprano
Our short stay in Shetland came to an end last Sunday, 23rd September and I wrote this whilst sat in Sumburgh Airport, with a hot cup of tea beside me and lots of sweet memories and photos to pass the time.
This beautiful island is home to many wonderful views and walks. The unspoiled countryside, dotted with herds of sheep and cows, the occasional Shetland pony, (who actually seem to come in pairs – ready for Noah’s ark perhaps) makes for a beautiful drive to the airport from Lerwick. I must admit one of the strangest differences in the landscape is that there were almost no trees, apart from ones grown lovingly on private property.
Fields were divided by walls of layered slate and grey rocks, it reminded me of one of my favourite films, Stardust where a dry-stone wall divided the real realm from the magical.
The air on the island is magnificently fresh, yet at times it can be quite ferocious if you get caught in between two winds on the beach that links to St. Ninian’s aisle. It was worth it though, as the team and I galloped across the sandy beach – with no plastic or human waste in sight! The crystal blue water kissed both sides of the shell-sand tombolo beach, creating a heavenly pathway to the quiet island.
Lerwick was a delightful town, decorated with bunting which reminded me of my childhood when Knutsford was decorated for the May Day parade. The cobbled streets were decorated with the quaint window displays of hairdressers, soap shops, restaurants, and an amazing Shetland Fudge Shop. One of their specialties is a candy called Puffin Poo, a tasty recipe of white Belgian chocolate with toasted rice and mallow, hand rolled in coconut. A local favourite.
As well as exploring the town, I performed in BambinO with Scottish Opera at the Mareel Theatre, who magnificently recreated the poster out of origami clouds that hung from the ceiling and a hand-drawn blackboard sign, which welcomed families in the foyer. The stage sat in a cosy wooden paneled venue and our four shows were welcomed by a friendly and very enthusiastic audience. I enjoy performing this show so much, because each performance is so different which in turns keeps the story-telling alive, and visiting places like this reminds me how important music and the arts are to local communities.
How Soprano Charlotte Hoather Took Her Singing — and Blogging — to New Heights
Whether you’re a writer, creator, or business owner, it can be challenging to pursue your passion while maintaining a consistent online presence. British opera singer Charlotte Hoather does just that. Charlotte’s blog celebrated its fifth anniversary earlier this year — so we recently chatted with her to learn how she manages a demanding, globe-trotting work schedule while posting and connecting with her readers.
How did your blogging journey begin?
As an undergraduate student at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS) I was criticized for not being able to write essays with enough academic authority and sensible structure. I had always struggled with mixing up words, incorrect spelling, and creating a flowing argument. It was very frustrating, and despite all my hard work and research, I wasn’t sure how to improve.
The RCS suggested that I get tested for Dyslexia. It was a relief to discover after all those years what had been causing me problems. I was encouraged to start an online journal to explore reflective thinking and critical writing. To fuel my posts, I participated in a creative-writing module where we would critique live theatre and discuss general topics. I hoped that by using WordPress, I could improve my English skills and develop my artistic confidence in communicating in words. I obviously still make mistakes, but that was how my journey into blogging began.
How would you define your blog’s niche?
I share my passion for opera with others, whether they are novices or keen Puccini lovers. When I was young, I hadn’t ever experienced classical music and opera. Auditioning for conservatoires was so alien, and I was the first person to do it at my sixth form. I genuinely wanted to get discussions going and to share my world with other people from mixed backgrounds, rather than just talk and interact — which I also love to do — with a small clique of musicians. I wanted people to see why we train for so long and how opera is like athletics and sports. It takes daily practice, patience for long-term goals, and incredible self-motivation, which I am continually testing!
Was earning money through your site a priority?
I haven’t monetized my blog, but I do use it and other social media to encourage people to listen to the songs I recorded on iTunes, Amazon, and any of the leading digital platforms like Spotify, Napster, and Deezer. I’m hoping to record a new CD now that my post-graduate training has finished at The Royal College of Music in London, and I hope that people can hear the progress I’ve made. Now, to find a recording studio and the time!
You currently maintain a Jetpack-powered, self-hosted website, as well as a bloghere on WordPress.com. How did you become a WordPress user?
I can’t remember the program the RCS suggested we use, but I didn’t like that the platform owned all the content — I could never delete anything if I wanted to and I had no control. I looked at Blogger and WordPress, but you can’t self-host Blogger. I liked the blogs I read on WordPress and felt the community was warm and welcoming, so I jumped in, initially with a free blogging theme, and have added in extras through the years to improve the functionality and style of the blog and make it more independent and unique.
It was super easy to set up, and came with lots of free themes and good support. I have gone for a mix of a self-hosted WordPress website and a blog hosted through WordPress.com.
If you could magically add a feature to your WordPress site, what would it be?
It would help if WordPress had a Grammarly plugin so that when you form your replies to comments, they are automatically checked for those people who need it. There are so many brilliant writers and storytellers on WordPress it wouldn’t need to be there all the time.
You’ve garnered a massive following on several social platforms. Do you have any advice for people who are still struggling to find an audience beyond their real-life circle of family and friends?
Of my social media platforms, my blog came first. WordPress community members recommended I set up a Facebook page and linked it, and then another blog friend was surprised I didn’t have Twitter and suggested that and also advised me on how to set it up. Google+ followed, and a couple of years ago Instagram — although I still need to get my head around hashtag use. I try to treat them all as individual platforms now, but I’m really no expert — I just muddle along getting tips from people.
WordPress used to be easier to attract readers, do follow-backs, and build communities, but as I got busier in my studies I found it hard to keep in touch with everyone. But I do my best. I would recommend that you visit, like, and comment on other blogs and build friendships even if you can only do this once each month. Just like friends in real life, if you ignore people for too long they drift away. Blogging is more about sharing and caring about others than just about you.
Training to become a professional soprano is — one would assume! — an often-grueling process. How do you find the time and energy to connect with fans and music lovers online (not to mention others from the blogging community)?
Training to become an opera singer is very taxing, but I adore it. I try to fit my blogging and connecting with my friends through social media around my tightly packed schedule. The way I blog and my expectations of myself have changed over the past five years. I used to post twice each week. I was able to use some of the posts toward my academic credits, and earlier in my training, I had a bit more free time as I was building up my vocal stamina — I could practice a lot less than I can now. As I progressed through my training, I decided to cut down my posts to one per week, preferring quality over quantity. This ensured that I could keep the conversations going and keep in touch with people enjoying my adventures.
I love knowing that on Sunday, I need to create a post! No ifs, no buts! It means that at some point in the week I need to have done something interesting or complete some research on an area of opera that I would love to share with people. It taught me to enjoy the little moments: if I have a quiet period in my career and visit family and make paper flowers, then that’s what I share.
I wish I had more time to answer everyone on my social media platforms individually. I hope that people understand; if they want a reply or a discussion, I ask that they comment on my blog — this platform easily allows for that.
Do you have any practical advice for aspiring bloggers on a busy schedule?
I wake up early and go to bed around 10:30-11:00. I have always had a full-structured, energetic day. I often dictate my thoughts into my iPhone and convert them into text. I think this allows for a conversational style of writing, which I can later edit grammatically. I answer comments as I go along on public transport, or if I have any downtime between appointments. I usually copy the comments into a word document and edit them over a few days. Once they are all complete, I put them all on at the same time. My Dad helps with videos and resizing photos, and my Mum checks my post for spelling and grammar.
On a more personal note, what are the next goals you’ve set for yourself?
After six years of training at Music Conservatoires in both Glasgow and London, I want to apply everything I’ve learned so far and put it into practice. During my studies, I managed to find my own small work projects. Now I want to develop my professional working portfolio while continuing to advance my language, singing, and dance skills, which take a lot of time and investment.
I hope that over the next five years, I can enter a Young Artist Program or Fest Contract at an opera house and maintain a career in opera. I would love to continue working internationally, as I have really enjoyed working abroad, trying new cuisines, conversing in different languages, and partaking in special customs.
But for the next few months, the hope is to keep my head above water, stay motivated, and earn enough to support my training and become an engaged member in this industry.
Do you have a dream role (or roles) you’d love to perform?
My dream roles change constantly, depending on my mood and personal development. At the moment I would love to perform Musetta from La Bohème (Puccini), Zerbinetta from Ariadne auf Naxos (R. Strauss) and The Controller from Flight (Dove). But one thing I have learned recently is that if you are surrounded by a wonderful cast, every role is enjoyable — even the smallest role has a big story to tell, full of personal hardships and glory.
Any other exciting plans for the near future?
I had some great experiences this past year performing in Manchester, London, Cornwall, Oxford, and even Paris and New York, and I’m currently on a tour with Scottish Opera in the Highlands of Scotland. After that, who knows? That is what makes life such an adventure, and hopefully gives me enough blog content to continue.
Last week, I invited my blog friends to ask me a question about my involvement in the world of opera that I could expand into an article for my weekly blog. I have set myself the challenge to try and answer these questions in the comments or allow them to inspire me to create a full article. So here it goes!
John W. Howell asked me: “How do I keep my voice in shape for a demanding performance schedule?”
My initial answer to John’s question was: “Years and years of the best vocal training by classically trained teachers, vocal warm-ups and cooldowns, lots of water to drink, honey and lemon and specialist teas. I don’t often drink alcohol, I’ve never smoked and I rest my voice when I need to.”
I would love to take the time today to expand on my answer and provide a more detailed response, so here goes!
As an opera singer, I can’t sing all day long. I seem to have been saying this on repeat recently to potential landlords and letting agents when they ask me about my job. I promise I am not noisy 24/7 and that I am conscious of my neighbours! I have to plan my practice and use of my voice in the rehearsal room, the amount that I can sing in a day does fluctuate but most days I actively sing for 2- 3 hours.
In order to sing operatic music, like an athlete, I need to warm up the muscles that become engaged when I am singing. I usually begin most days with a 20-30 minute warm up. This includes some gentle humming exercises, scales, and arpeggios progressing to coloratura exercises to maintain flexibility in my vocal range. This allows my voice to work at its best. However, sometimes my schedule doesn’t allow for a generous warm-up time, because of available space at the rehearsal venue or the time of the rehearsal/lesson. So, if I know in advance that I will have limited time to warm up my voice before I leave home I will try to do a simple yoga routine or gentle stretches so that my body is better prepared. I personally love using “Yoga with Adrienne” on youtube. She has had a channel for many years now and has built up a great selection of videos for beginners and regulars. In the rehearsal room, there may be occasions when you have to mark your vocal line, this can mean singing quieter, down the octave [the melody but an octave lower – closer to speaking pitch] or even speaking. The important thing is that you don’t lower your energy level or enunciation of the text as this can cause issues for your colleagues.
So what is my experience of a demanding performance schedule?
This summer I experienced a busy period working with professional companies. I performed in three Operas spreading over July, August, and September. Each brought with it its own individual challenges.
Candide involved a regular rehearsal period over four weeks. The positive outcome for this style of schedule allowed me to create the role of Cunegonde in great detail. I had time to learn and grow with the character, experiment with different reactions to the same series of unfortunate events, and her relationships towards the other characters in the Opera. [slipping in the title of one my favourite childhood book series there written by Lemony Snicket ]. However, my commute to the rehearsal venue was long and often I would return home very late in the evening. In order to maintain a healthy lifestyle and my vocal stamina, I would try to unwind on my commute home, listening to music or downloading a TV program on my phone for the journey, this enabled me to relax so that when I got home I could still manage to get straight off to sleep. I would always try to bring a packed lunch and a prepared dinner if I was away from home all day. I would try to eat this at a similar time each day so that my body kept up a digestive routine. I found that this resulted in me feeling less fatigue and my voice was still supple for evening rehearsals, I didn’t feel restless because I knew that I would have access to a balanced diet. I could use my rest time on my dinner break to actually relax, rather than use the limited time desperately trying to find a place to eat, which was close to the rehearsal venue, that wasn’t too expensive, and which offered healthy food.
After the performances of Candide were over I went straight onto working on Mansfield Park production. Thankfully before we traveled to the Minack Theatre in Cornwall, I had a week of rest, [with no rehearsals scheduled by Surrey Opera]. Knowing that once we finished the performances I would have only one week before the rehearsals begin for Mansfield Park. I decided to get a head start on learning quite a difficult score by using my week off before the Candide performances to start my preparations for Mansfield Park. I recorded the libretto with two friends, both fantastic Mezzo Sopranos, Brigette and Hannah on an app. The app was recommended to me by my wonderful friend Frances Thorburn, who I worked with on The Little White Town Of Never Weary and who now plays Kim Monroe on River City, a very popular Scottish Soap Opera.
Frances has to learn a huge amount of lines each day for filming, she encouraged me to try this method because you can practise the whole script by yourself. It provides you with options to listen to scenes on repeat, isolate your lines or provide timed gaps so that you can speak your lines in. This style of memorising is very useful to me as an artist as I can learn the text, without having to sing too much. This allows me to use my singing time on specific musical goals and technically tricky areas. What I didn’t expect to learn from this, was that because I broke up the learning and began it earlier, most of what I learned had settled and made the week revising it musically before rehearsals so much more relaxed. It was still stressful, and I needed to work hard to learn the whole score off copy, but I felt positive and that I could achieve it because of the groundwork I put in. This kind of positive mental attitude and a relaxed mindset allows me to stay in top physical condition. If I become too stressed I know that my body is more susceptible to picking up a virus or other illness. I now always try to plan in break times and aim to finish my work for the day no later than 9:00pm, unless a rehearsal schedule goes over this.
Once the performances for Mansfield Park came to a close, I was then able to move onto preparation for BambinO. The benefit of having this opera at the end of a busy run was that I knew the music and the staging inside out, although the new team had changes that I had to adjust to quickly. I had a recording from a previous performance that I would use to run through the staging and I practised my part musically at the piano. During the week I managed to squeeze in a coaching session with Christopher Middleton where we worked on my current aria package, he is so insightful and I appreciate all his help and advice. This meant that I had a little extra breathing space to begin planning my next projects as I also needed to move out of my room at Student Halls and find somewhere new to live in London. I was so grateful that I knew this opera because I found moving lodgings quite stressful. I like to plan ahead of time, but the rental market in London moves very fast and I didn’t sign a contract for a new place until the morning before my flight to Aberdeen! Knowing that I knew the music allowed me to feel calm and in control. I hope that in the future I will be able to bear this in mind when planning work and projects.
I have had a great summer and feel energised for the upcoming months. I have learned how to multi-task projects better and I am thankful that I have been able to maintain my vocal health and stamina. What I didn’t expect to learn from this, was that because I kept up my vocal practise, i.e. singing for 6 days a week that my recovery time after taking a long weekend off was much quicker which allowed me to perform challenging coloratura arias with the fast runs sounding smoother, in fewer practise days, allowing me to work on my personal targets sooner. Whilst touring Scotland I took the advantage of meeting up with Judith Howarth, my singing teacher from my time at the RCS. She helped me with my bel canto phrasing and floating and after my time with her, I left feeling re-energised and motivated for the months ahead.