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.
What a fabulous week I have had at Waterperry House and Gardens, working with a great cast and creative team to bring Jonathan Dove’s Mansfield Park to life.
The company used the duck egg blue ballroom lit by natural sunlight and a twinkling chandelier to stage the production. The setting was inspirational, and once we got into our costumes we were taken back to a time of regency and romance. The audience enveloped the performance space in a way that felt quite intimate, enabling us to bring the story to life sharing close encounters and family squabbles.
On Saturday for our premiere, we were thrilled to see Jonathan Dove in the audience who said afterward that he thoroughly enjoyed the performance. I was interested to learn from him that he wrote the opera to be accompanied by a piano duet (also known as piano four hands), because Jane Austin was a keen piano player who loved to play piano duets with friends. He wanted to create a sound world that he could imagine her living within.
My family came to watch on Saturday too and my Grandad said how much he enjoyed the production. I remember trying to not break from my character and smile and laugh at his reactions as the story developed, I am slowly converting him to the world of opera as he now looks forward to each new piece that I introduce him to.
I had a wonderful time working with the company created by Rebecca Meltzer, Guy Withers, and Bertie Baigent, their other shows were great successes too! Don Giovanni, which was performed in the outdoor Amphitheatre was incredibly moving and the Peter Rabbit adaptation for narrator and string quartet that took place in the tranquil rose garden was exquisite and very humorous! Whilst on site, we lived in the house. I shared a room with some of my colleagues who were fabulous company, we told stories, shared sweets and movie nights. It was like the dormitory experience I had always wished for. The wonderful cooks Wendy and Kate provided delicious vegetarian meals throughout the day, I was astonished that I enjoyed my meat-free week so much! I think I may even copy a few of their recipes and add them to my own recipe bank.
Considering that this was the Inaugural year, Rebecca Meltzer, Guy Withers, and Bertie Baigent did an amazing job bringing everything together so smoothly, it was an enormous undertaking and I wish them every success in the future for their festival.
They have kindly allowed me to share some of their pictures from the production taken by Robert Workman.
LADY BERTRAM – Emily Gray
SIR THOMAS BERTRAM – Phil Wilcox
EDMUND BERTRAM – Milo Harries
JULIA BERTRAM – Sarah Anne Champion
MARIA BERTRAM – Charlotte Hoather
HENRY CRAWFORD – David Horton
MARY CRAWFORD – Eleanor Sanderson-Nash
AUNT NORRIS – Andrea Tweedale
FANNY PRICE – Flora Macdonald
MR RUSHWORTH – Lawrence Thackeray
DIRECTOR – Rebecca Meltzer
MUSICAL DIRECTOR – Ashley Beauchamp
RÉPÉTITEUR – Will Ford
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR – Margaret Ravalde
COSTUME MAKER – Jane Black
COSTUME ASSISTANT – Bronte Macfadyean
PUPPET MAKER – Jo Lakin
STAGE MANAGER – May Howard-Shigeno
PRODUCTION MANAGER – Guy Withers
Since graduating from the Royal College of Music at the beginning of July my summer has been full of new experiences.
This week rehearsals for Jonathan Dove’s Mansfield Park have started with gusto. The production for the Waterperry Opera Festival began rehearsals on Thursday 2nd August in London, led by our director Rebecca Meltzer. We began the process by exploring our characters, the social hierarchy, our character’s desires, and their relationships with the other characters throughout the opera. I found this exploration on the first day very useful because you learn how the others (characters) view your character and how each actor/actress has filled the gaps in their personal narrative. This then allowed me to build on my initial interpretation of Maria Bertram and inspired me to craft specific details to develop the character so that it becomes more sympathetic to the characters portrayed by the other cast members.
As a company, we began to plot out the staging for the opening scenes. Due to the complexity of the score, we began this by stepping away from the music and delivering our text like a play. This helped us to find the natural fluidity of the conversation which later influenced our musical interpretation. It also allowed me to develop layering to assist in my memory building. I learned where my positions were, my actions and movements, where the person I was talking to was positioned. Securing this level of information, meant that once the music was added I could comfortably concentrate on accuracy and interpretation of the score comfortable with the movement on stage.
I am very lucky (again) to be working with such delightful and talented colleagues, both within the cast and the production team. Everyone brings their own twist and flavour to the ensemble numbers which keeps the pieces fresh and interesting. This opera is unlike any others that I have done, in the sense that previously I have performed roles which have included the need to perform solo arias, duets, small ensemble and some large ensemble. However, for this opera, my role is far more ensemble-based. I sing alongside many different characters in passionate or scheming duets, melancholy trips and triumphant decreto (an ensemble of 10 people). There are odd moments of aria style singing but I am enjoying this new and exciting challenge being an integral part of these multi-layered harmonies and captivating storylines which beautifully portray the difficult and intertwined relationships of Mansfield Park.
We have two full weeks rehearsals together in Central London then a week in Oxford which I’m very much looking forward to as we’ll be staying at Waterperry Gardens which will be amazing I’m sure. I’m looking forward to watching the other productions Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit and Don Giovanni if time allows. If I get any rehearsal photographs I’ll share them with you. You can follow the run-up to the opening of the festival on Waterperry Opera Festival’s twitter here.
Here is a YouTube video by Viv Green which gives you the synopsis of Mansfield Park: