Archives For Cunegonde

Candide in Cornwall

July 22, 2018 — 46 Comments

Bright and early Saturday morning on 14th July I met up with my friend and fellow cast member Rosie Clifford before embarking on a road trip down St Levan in Cornwall. The time flew by and after 5 hours we arrived at The Land’s End Vineries which was to become our home from home for the upcoming week. We shared our chalet with two orchestral members Lily Beatrice Cooper and Bjorn Kleiman, who were both delightful and charming housemates. The chalet that we stayed in took me back to a world without WiFi and little mobile signal, we even had to put a pound coin in the electricity meter. I quite enjoyed this weird aspect and will remember playfully working out how to use the meter with Rosie.

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Because we only had intermittent mobile service the four of us talked, laughed and bonded over great food, skilfully cooked for us by Bjorn who quickly became head chef of chalet 20. I was very happy to wash dishes, provide supplies and eat! It was during these periods of break (between and after the performances) that I learned that Bjorn organises a concert series in Sweden, Lidköping Music Festival which will have performances 5th-8th August. Lily will be playing cello and he will play violin there with other musicians. It sounded delightful and I wish I could be there to enjoy what I’m sure will be beautiful music.

The first day was long and tiring but the great atmosphere from the full cast, creative team and orchestra meant that we had a lot of fun. We began with a tech rehearsal in the morning at 10:00 then onto a dress rehearsal run at 2pm with me and then another dress rehearsal at 8pm with Lizzie. In the morning and afternoon, the sun was out and blazed during the rehearsals. This made the view of the Minack Theatre outstanding and rather breathtaking, with the crystal clear blue sea stretching as far as the eye could see behind the main stage. During the week we saw lots of wildlife such as seals enjoying the beautiful weather and even some fishermen and sun seekers.

However, this weather can cause a few issues to a performer, such as heat exhaustion and dehydration. Surrey Opera was at hand and offered wonderful advice throughout this process. We were encouraged to wear a lot of sun lotion, wear hats, shade bathe 😅 whenever off stage and drink plenty of water. It was quite tricky to get used to but by mid-week,  I started building up stamina for this style of weather.

We opened the show on Monday night which was a roaring success, and as the week progressed gags got lengthened and we crafted the action to suit the audience that we had in, for example, if they particularly enjoyed the slapstick comedy moments we would play these moments for longer and with greater enjoyment. Giles Davies was a real pro at this and taught me a lot about comic timing. I was so impressed that by the end of the run he could get two raucous rounds of applause for his comic death scene! I was really blessed to share the stage with such wonderful colleagues, everyone brought something extra special to the performance and it reminded me how important it is to treasure our individuality. Joanna Gamble, Tom Kennedy, Giles Davies, Brian Smith Walters, Rosie Clifford, Callum Speed, Tim Baldwin, and Lizzie Holmes.

With a special thank you to Stephen Anthony Brown who played the role of Candide so effortlessly, it was a sheer delight to perform alongside him.

Lastly, I must mention the amazing 18 strong chorus who put so much energy into each performance and huge respect to each of the 29 members of the orchestra who played with such emotion and skill.

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I enjoyed working with the fantastic Jonathan Butcher who directed the production as well as conducting it, a real multi-talented artist.

You can read a review of the opening night performance on the Minack Theatre website ( Link )

I was also very lucky to have my family travel down from Cheshire, Stoke On Trent, Glasgow, and London to come and support me. My parents, brothers, grandparents and future brother-in-law. Their support never ceases to amaze me and meant that my downtime felt like a holiday!

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Rehearsals for Candide by Surrey Opera are now well underway. The scenes are starting to slot together like jigsaw pieces, and I’m looking forward to the coming week to finalise the blocking, (the setting of movements, character’s intentions and gestures) for the last few scenes.

It has been a real joy to explore the arc of Cunegonde’s growth through this process. She begins the operetta as the adolescent school girl, who is the daughter of a Baron and Baroness, she lives in a grand home surrounded by love and the comfort provided by wealth. Cunegonde is taught by Dr. Pangloss that ‘this is the best of all possible worlds’. A philosophy that the play questions dramatically throughout.

After Pangloss’s lesson, Cunegonde experiences the instant chemistry between her and Candide, which begins to bud and blossom into a sweet first love. However, the first love duet is quite humorous as they both list their desires for the future, without really listening to the other. If they had paid attention, they would have realised their dreams were quite dissimilar. If this was a different story, perhaps they would have had a discussion, found a comprise and lived happily ever after.

But sadly, that is not the case, this love story is interrupted by the horrors of war with their lives turned upside down, Cunegonde, now orphaned and without the means to support herself, is taken to Paris where she is shared between two men. Her innocence is quickly stripped away and she must learn how to survive using only her instincts, clouding the emotional heartache with her blinding optimism. These chaotic occurrences are interspersed with moments of hope each time her path crosses again with Candide. Unfortunately, time and time again she has to fend for herself and use her womanly wiles in order to survive.

Jumping to the end, in order to not spoil the plot too much. Just before the finale, Candide finds Cunegonde in a Casino in Venice, attending to the needs of the Male visitors and is appalled by what he sees. He asks in his aria if this is what he’s been fighting for and if her soul is dead. It is a heart-wrenching moment as Cunegonde decides whether to interject or if it’s better to stay silent knowing the awful situations she has lived through in hope that they would meet again and reunite their relationship. It is her strength at this moment that helped me to understand her character more deeply and realise the sincerity of her love for Candide.

It is a very complex story with multiple twist and turns, I do hope that I bring her character to life and do her story justice.  I can’t wait to work alongside my brilliants colleagues in the coming weeks as we finally get to perform at the Minack Theatre, Cornwall

You can listen to my music on :

Waterperry Opera Festival

I would like to announce that the Box office for Waterperry Opera Festival, located a stone’s throw from Oxford, is now open. I will be participating in the company’s inaugural production of Mansfield Park, a chamber opera in two Acts by Jonathan Dove, based on the novel by Jane Austen. The performances will take place on the 18th and 19th August 2018 at 2pm. The ticket will also include access to the splendid Waterperry Gardens where you can explore the estate, with its Riverside walk, numerous gardens, Medieval Church, Museum and much more. I am looking forward to trying an afternoon tea and the homemade cakes in their Tea shop between rehearsals.

In the opera, I will perform the role of Maria Bertram, who is the eldest daughter of Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram. Fanny Price the novel’s protagonist, is Maria’s cousin, yet their relationship isn’t a close one.

Mansfield Park

During this snapshot of her life, Maria is engaged to Mr. Rushworth, an eligible match due to his wealth and property. However, Maria finds him tedious and his conversations dull. In contrast, she admires Henry Crawford, with whom after much flirtation, she falls in love. However, at times he is quite manipulative and uses her interest for his own gain and unfortunately, he does not love her back.

I’m looking forward to playing Maria Bertram as she is quite confident, at times arrogant, and her rebellious nature finds her in situations that cause a few scandals. Perhaps not always likable, but her involvement in the story allows us to glimpse the restrictions women dealt with during this period and how ‘ill’ choices can lead to a ruined reputation and being shunned by society.

I won’t continue to discuss the story in detail, in case you would like to read the novel that the opera is based on. I would certainly recommend it or perhaps listen to an audiobook. I particularly enjoyed BBC4’s dramatisation of the novel with David Tennant, Felicity Jones, and Benedict Cumberbatch performing.

I am on the lookout for a visual dramatisation of the novel at the moment so that I can study appropriate movements and gestures as well as fill my imagination with settings, costumes, and objects of the period. If you would like to share any personal insights I would be very interested to hear your voices.

UPDATE: Only 15 tickets left for the performance on Saturday 18th August.

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The first week of rehearsals for Candide with Surrey Opera has started with a bang! I am working alongside such talented colleagues and I look forward to sharing the rehearsal process with you over the coming weeks, I’d like to try to get some photographs but its always difficult if you’re in the middle of the lively action.

 

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You can listen to all my albums recorded in 2014 and 2016 on these popular streaming services, this will help me to keep up my singing and coaching training now I’m cut loose from the college environment, thanks in advance for any help you can give me by taking a listen:

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Glitter And Be Gay

June 5, 2018 — 59 Comments

Hello everyone wishing you all a happy June. I’d like to start this week by thanking the fantastically talented George Todica who unleashed his brilliance on piano during my final recital at the Royal College of Music and kept me calm and sane in the days before the performance on Monday morning, even suggesting using print shop when my trusty printer wouldn’t work on Sunday!

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Me and George Todica After My Recital

I had to dash off after the performance and a quick lunch with friends and family to Croydon on the other side of London to start rehearsals with Surrey Opera https://www.surreyopera.org/  for their production of Bernstein’s ‘Candide’ and my role as Cunegonde.  I’d spent some time getting the role ready before the rehearsals and with the agreement of my brilliant singing teacher Rosa Mannion and awesome coach Simon Lepper I put ‘Glitter and Be Gay’ as the final aria in my recital which after 40 minutes of near continuous singing was quite a high note to ask my voice to end on!

Bernstein was mentioned in the conductor Marin Alsop’s interview I’d read when I was reading up on Women in Music, he was her mentor and teacher. She credited him with this piece of advice ‘morality is very simple and based on human diversity, tolerance and about what we all strive to be. Be yourself, do not seek to be somebody else, but be the very best of who you are’ that’s all I sought to be in my recital.

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Rosa Mannion and Me

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Anyhow, a bit about Cunegonde and Candide for you if you’ve not heard of this Operetta.  The score was written by the American author, composer, conductor, lecturer in music and pianist Leonard Bernstein in 1956.  The story is based on the 1759 Voltaire novella of the same name, Cunegonde is the daughter of a Baron from the Country of Westphalia, a region in North West Germany.  When war breaks out Westphalia is destroyed and her family murdered.  Cunegonde is thought to be dead but she turns up in Paris, France with her duenna (chaperone).  She has fallen into the role of a demimonde (a woman supported or exploited by wealthy men) shared by a Grand Inquisitor and a wealthy Jew.

Candide is in love with Cunegonde, the daughter in the house where he is brought up.  Dr. Pangloss, their tutor, teaches them that everything in this world is for the best, part of God’s universal plan.  Candide is then tested in a knockabout series of unfortunate events to test this theory.  He is expelled from the Baron’s home, press-ganged into the army, is told Cunegonde is dead and meets Pangloss, together they survive an earthquake, are captured by the Holy Inquisition, and finally Pangloss is hanged.  When he is reunited with Cungonde, he kills her new lovers and they flee to South America where she is sold into slavery.  After many adventures, he returns to Venice where he finds Cunegonde in a completely fallen state, a whore in a gambling casino.  Finally disillusioned, he realizes that the world is neither good nor bad but what we make of it.

The cast is lovely, my role is dual cast and it’s going to be great getting to know Lizzie Holmes.  The direction is clear and very well organised. We will be performing this summer (praying for good weather) at the magnificent Minack Theatre on the clifftops of Porthcurno in Cornwall from 16th to 20th July 2018.  The tickets are £14/£10 Adults and £7/£5 for under 16’s great value for this crazy romantic comedy full of wonderful music.

Minack Theatre During The Day

Minack Theatre By Day

 

Minack Theatre At Night

Minack Theatre By Night

 

Surrey Opera receive no regular funding for their productions and are reliant on sponsors and fundraising to help finance the shows as ticket sales alone rarely cover the costs of putting on their lavish productions.  You can join their supporters club and take advantage of their packages starting with a Bronze membership with an annual fee of £30 giving you a newsletter, priority booking, programme listing and invitations to Surrey Opera’s fundraising events.

Sadly I missed a couple of my friend’s recitals on Monday but I’m hoping to watch a few of my colleagues at the RCM this afternoon and during breaks this week.

Every evening though for the next month I’ll have my head stuck in the score whilst developing my characterisation throughout the days, there is a lot of singing it’s a chunky role that I’m really looking forward to performing.