Laura Sergeant, Tim Connor, Ruth MacKenzie ( Théâtre du Châtelet ), Me, and Stuart Semple
The venue for our final week’s performances of BambinO is the CentQuatre, it is a huge exhibition and performance space owned and financed by the City of Paris. We are using one of the many smaller performances areas within this amazing building, which in total covers over 25,000 square metres and can accommodate over 5000 visitors per day.
Outside one of the great halls at the CentQuatre
I discovered that the building has over 200 artists in residence and provides a varied and intriguing mix of both live performances and static Art exhibitions. It is hard to visualise that this building originally housed the city undertakers for Paris, for over 120 years it employed over 1000 people who arranged over 150 funeral processions each day. In 1993 the municipal monopoly on the provision of funerals came to end and the building finally closed in 1998. Luckily the building was registered as a historical monument and with the backing of the people of Paris, the Mayor went about finding out the best way to both safeguard and reuse the space. In 2008 I think that they achieved both when it reopened in its current configuration, and I hope that it continues to provide Parisians with a place to socialise, a grand exhibition space, and somewhere to enjoy a wide variety of live performances.
Our run here at CentQuatre finishes on the Friday 20th April, which will also mark the end of our short tour here in Paris for the Théâtre du Châtelet. It has been a wonderful time with some amazing venues and I will be sad to say goodbye when we have to leave next Saturday, so instead, I’ll just say au revoir.
After One Of Our Performances Last Week at Bibliothèque Jacqueline de Romilly
As the Easter Holidays approach, I have some great news to share with you all, I have been asked by Scottish Opera and Improbable to join my friends Tim Connor, Stuart Semple and Laura Sergeant to perform ‘BambinO’ in Paris for the Théâtre du Châtelet this April.
Back Row: Laura Sergeant & Stuart Semple Front Row: Me & Timothy Connor
But before leaving London I had to make sure that I returned all the books that I borrowed from the RCM library for my recent project ‘Women In Music’, my backpack was a lot lighter on the way home 🙂
I arrived back in Glasgow late on Thursday night and it was great to team up with my friends again on Friday morning for rehearsals to refresh the show for the French audiences. It is amazing to see how this wonderful mini-opera, written by Lliam Patersonand directed by Phelim McDermott, has progressed since we first got together back in December 2016. I can remember seeing the set and the costumes for the first time, designed by Emma & Giuseppe Belli, trying to visualise how the babies would respond to their imaginative use of props and move around the fabulous space created for each performance.
Following our performances in Manchester, Edinburgh, and Glasgow last year I can’t believe that we will now get the opportunity to perform in several venues around Paris organised by the Théâtre du Châtelet, who have embraced the idea of making this production accessible to a wider audience. We will start the tour on 6th April performing twice a day in various locations until the 11th April. On the 13th April through to the 20th April, we will perform twice daily at Cent Quatre. The shows are free for babies with a small charge of four euros for each accompanying adult.
Inside Cent Quatre
It will be such fun to practice my French with the audiences after each show and I hope that the babies can cope with my pronunciation. I’ve already started revising my French conversation skills and I would love to hear of any recommendations for nice walks, places to visit, French meals I should try to cook over the course of my visit. (The perks of having a self-catered apartment). It is such a fantastic opportunity for me to spend some time in Paris and experience the French culture which will hopefully influence my interpretation of French song. I will let you know how it goes and hopefully get some pictures to share with you.
Following my blog anniversary, I said that I would select three people from those who commented or placed a like on the post and send them a signed copy of my ‘Haugtussa CD’. There were 139 people in total so I used a random number generator to select the winners.
I am pleased to announce that the three-people selected were John Howell, Peter Alexander, and Dora Buonfino. I managed to contact John and Peter and have posted their CDs to them which should arrive this week (fingers crossed). I have just received Dora’s forwarding address and will try and post it to her before I leave for Paris.
On Saturday it was lovely to see one of my old teachers from the RCS Helen McVey and her son Charlie who came to join in with one of the BambinO performances. I am glad that they both enjoyed the show. I would like to give a big shout out to the toddlers who came in their Halloween costumes to watch today as they were just SO CUTE. Lastly a big thank you to the family who came over from Switzerland to watch as part of a family birthday treat, happy 72nd birthday from me and all the team at Scottish Opera, it was lovely to meet you all.
Then after the last of my two performances of BambinO today David Sneddon the stage manager made sure that I had just enough time to meet some of the toddlers and their families before having to dash off to catch a train down to London. Tonight is the 21st-anniversary party of Improbable hosted by Nick Sweeting and Phelim McDermott. I was thrilled to be invited and jumped at the chance to join in the festivities as I have a couple of days off before the final week of performances starts again in Glasgow. I expect it will be a great way to have a little fun and relax for the evening.
After the performances end in Glasgow next Sunday I will be finalising my rehearsals for the three concerts that I have coming up in December. The first of which is with Blackburn Music Society, conducted by Tom Newall with Samuel Hudson on chamber organ. The concert takes place on Saturday 2nd December at Blackburn Cathedral where we are performing Handel’s Messiah accompanied by the Lancashire Chamber Orchestra. The performance starts at 7pm and details of how tickets can be purchased are available online at:
On Tuesday I returned to Glasgow to begin rehearsals for the third set of performances of BambinO! I have really been looking forward to performing again in this wonderful production and to catch up with my friends and colleagues.
Musical rehearsals took place on Wednesday. These rehearsals were lead by Lliam Patterson, the composer of BambinO. The aim of this style of rehearsal is to ensure that the music is in tip-top form and to ensure that the balance between the quartet in the new venue is at the optimum level. In order to achieve this result, we performed the entire piece and then dissected the score into sections and then worked on those that needed more attention and polishing, experimenting with dynamics and new ideas that we wanted to try out since the performances in Edinburgh.
On Thursday we visited Scottish Opera’s fabulous costume department for fittings to check if any alterations were needed. The wonderful Ali and Lorna were at hand to refresh our look and make sure the costumes looked brand new. It was lovely to get into my Uccelina costume again, especially the feather-covered tutu! I do love that. In the afternoon we had stage rehearsals co-ordinated by Lissa, our Assistant Director. In this rehearsal, we performed the piece on the set and made any alterations necessary to move freely around the new venue. Another element of this style of rehearsal is to remind ourselves of the blocking and our interactions with props and other members on stage.
Friday arrived with final rehearsals and brushing up. We began with a music rehearsal and then moved into combining this with staging to ensure that we were ready to open to audiences on Saturday morning.
It has been an absolute delight to have performed this show on Saturday and Sunday. I can never stop smiling after the interactions with the babies and their lovely families, each show brings new surprises from confident crawlers who giggle and gurgle.
Thank you to Keith Bruce from The Herald for his lovely review in today’s paper. The performances run through to the 5th November and if you want to come down and join in the fun there are still a few tickets left but don’t leave it too long or you may miss out.
I hope that you have all had a wonderful week and if you have any exciting tales to share you must let me know. My week has been filled with music making and observing my talented peers, which I ended with a Saturday focused on Opera.
Every day when I walk to College I pass the iconic museums that are an important part of South Kensington and on occasion, I love to visit them to break up my busy timetable. I find wandering the great exhibition halls of the Victoria & Albert Museum ( V&A ) fills me with inspiration and provides context about society during the periods of history that have affected many pieces of music that I study. Across the road from the V&A is the grandeur of the Natural History Museum which I often drop in to see the butterflies.
However, on Saturday I went with my friends to an exhibition at the V&A dedicated to Opera aptly named Opera: Passion, Power , and Politics which is a collaboration between the V&A and the Royal Opera House. This wonderful exhibition aims to map out the journey of opera from its creation in Italy to the worldwide platform that exists today. For my student priced ticket, I received a high-tech audio guided tour, (with pretty awesome headphones by Bower&Wilkins) that glided seamlessly between selected pieces of operatic music beautifully handpicked to frame the amazing layout of the exhibition. It was extra special for me to hear Sir Antonio Pappano, a fantastic world-renowned conductor who holds the position of Music Director of the Royal Opera House, relate his personal interpretation of Shostakovich’s Opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. It felt so personal and exciting that I hung on to his every word. It was an amazing exhibition with so many pieces of beautiful art, videos of performances, librettos and manuscripts, and a working baroque stage. If I am able to, I would like to go again to really soak it all in. Each item was accompanied with a informed explanation that would both interest a new comer to Opera or add to the knowledge of an Opera aficionado. The exhibition ends on February 25th 2018 and if you are in London whilst the exhibition is on I can highly recommend.
Then on Saturday evening, I went to the London Coliseum to watch a performance of Verdi’s Aida. A collaboration between Improbable and the ENO. It was an exciting event for me to attend as my delightful director from Bambino, Phelim McDermott, directed this spellbinding interpretation. The singing was outstanding from the principal cast and the chorus performed with a beautiful blend and incredible dynamic range that kept the intensity of the piece alive. I particularly enjoyed the visually stunning, smokey and dimly lit Sacred Rite scene from Act 1 scene 2, which created a world that was far more intimate. I really believed in the magic of the High Priestess.
In act three the relationship between Aida, Latonia Moore and her father Amonasro King of Ethiopia, Musa Nggungwana, was so raw and honest that it left me guessing as to what would happen in this iconic operatic tale even though I know the story so well. For the production to command your attention in this way was an incredible thing to achieve on stage, as the story develops it draws you in and feels so real that you are there with them for each and every moment.
I want to work on this element in my own singing with the intention to communicate my feelings to the audience as if I myself don’t know how the aria ends, so that I too am in the moment and finding fresh ideas to make each performance unique in its own way.
A truly beautiful interpretation of Aida that is a must see.
It’s been an absolute dream to be part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer. I took part as a member of the Scottish Opera team, who performed an opera specifically created for babies aged 6 to 18 months, called BambinO! After our successful run in the Manchester International Festival, I was excited to be part of the team to take BambinO to a new venue in Edinburgh, enabling different families to encounter the wonder of this beautiful Opera.
Back Row: Laura Sergeant & Stuart Semple Front Row: Me & Timothy Connor
My role in the production is Uccellina, a bird who discovers an egg. The egg grows and hatches revealing a baby bird, called Pulcino (Timothy Connor), he takes Uccellina for his mother and explores the world. I’m initially happy though a bit annoyed at his hyperactive behaviour, we reconcile quickly being pleased to have found each other. I tell Pulcino of the sky and its wonders and that it’s his destiny to fly from our nest, although also sad about the thought of being separated, we are caught up in our excitement of his first flight. When Pulcino is ready to fly we sing our final duet of farewell, he soars among the clouds and I ponder his journey.
The show kept the original music wonderfully performed by Laura Sergeant on Cello and Stuart Semple on Percussion, drama, set and costume and we continued to make babies gurgle, laugh, squeak, sing and occasional cry! I couldn’t believe that our show sold out within the first couple of days and that many who missed out wanted details of the dates for our performances in Glasgow in the Autumn.
We began on the 8th August 2017 and continued until our last performances today. Our shows took place at 10:00 am and 11:30 am each day. I loved every minute of each show, and though we had early morning calls it was definitely worth it. Joining us in Edinburgh to complete our gang were the delightful Lee Reynolds, Julie Burns and Paula Duncan. Their help was outstanding and enabled each show to go on without any troubles. It has been an absolute pleasure working with them. It was also wonderful to see the education team join us at the venue and share in the joy these performances have brought to their young audiences, and their parents, and grandparents, many of whom told me it was their first opera too.
Back Row: Me, Paula Duncan, Julie Burns Front Row: Lee Reynolds, David Sneddon, Audrey Blake
Lee Reynolds, Audrey Blake, Julie Burns, and David Sneddon
Julie Burns, Lee Reynolds, Me, and Laura Sergeant
Julie Burns, Me, and Lee Reynolds
I was also able to see some of the festival myself as an audience member as my super-duper family came up to support me and to celebrate my Mum and Brother Matt’s birthdays. We saw some fabulous shows and these were the ones that stood out.
Me and my Brother Matt
Ada Campe and the Psychic Duck
We fell upon this show by accident, having joined up with my Mum, Dad and brother Tom and his girlfriend Anna on Saturday 12th we decided to explore what the fringe had to offer. Walking along we were approached by a persuasive assistant outside the venue and as the show was due to start we decided to pop in. The show did not disappoint, Ada Campe was an entertaining and articulate performer whose act recounted stories of her life as a variety performer. She kept the audience enthralled for the 50 minutes she was on stage, delivered adlib lines with aplomb, drew belly laughs from the audience and when she interacted with the audience you laughed with them not at them which is a tremendous skill. We all enjoyed this little gem.
Meow Meow’s Little Mermaid
This was a late-night show which started at 10:30 pm so the only chance we had to watch it was on Sunday night as my day off was on the Monday. So, I booked tickets for my two brothers Matt and Tom who came along with me to watch. The show was an enticing cabaret full of laughter, aerial stunts, music and singing. We had a blast in ‘The Hub’ our seats were a fabulously situated in a fabulous purple booth in which we could truly relax and unwind after a busy day. It was an especially wonderful show for me as my fellow BambinO cast member Stuart Semple was playing! Goodness knows how he managed to juggle his late evening performances for this show with the early starts of our baby opera! He’s a true trooper!
Velvet Evening Seance
To sample some of the drama of the fringe we decided on my day off to check out some of the shows on offer. We liked the sound of this one man show, which was set in a Victorian court room. The monologue was delivered eloquently with sufficient depth to draw you in as the story developed. The script cleverly twisted in different directions providing enough misdirection to make you think about the guilt of the accused. Would you send him to the gallows?
Into The Woods
Though I missed out on this performance my Mum, Dad and brother Matt said they thoroughly enjoyed the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s Musical Theatre department production. Maybe I will get the chance to catch it again as they were singing about it for a couple of days.
It was lovely to combine my holiday with work and take some time to catch up with my family.
On our last performance day, today the cast and crew celebrated with lots of cake, homemade shortbread in the shape of birds (by the wonderful Paula), tarts, cups of tea and surprise party poppers from the marvelous Stuart Semple after our final bow.
I had such a blast and can’t wait to work with everyone again in October!
Please click on the above images to see a larger copy.
Timothy Connor, Laura Sergeant, Me, Martin Wooley, David Sneddon, Stuart Semple
It is hard to believe that our time here in Manchester has come to an end. We have performed in Manchester, Wigan, Hyde, Heywood, Oldham, finishing today in Salford. The staff and Volunteers from the Manchester International Festival have been fantastic and made us feel so welcome at each venue.
Me with Gwyneth, One Of The MIF Volunteers
Today we all said goodbye as we went our separate ways for a couple of weeks before we get back together again in Glasgow to prepare for the Edinburgh Festival. We start our first performances there on the 8th August and run through to 20th August 2017.
Sam Phillips, Laura Sergeant, Timothy Connor, Me, Stuart Semple, Sophie Skellern, David Sneddon
This is one of the duets from the opera that I sing with Timothy Connor
Here are some links to press reviews of the production:
‘The payoff for an initiative like this is incalculable…rarely has innocent pleasure felt more vital.’ Please read this review as it is an insightful article which delves into the accessibility of opera and pretty much sums up how I feel about it.