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.
As someone at the very start of my professional career with so much to learn it always surprises me from where I can draw inspiration. As with everything in life when faced with something that is new to us it is important to draw on the experience from those around us, from Parents, Teachers, Coaches, and our peers. But sometimes inspiration can come from the most unexpected places.
During an audition or when performing on stage getting my makeup just right can be a bit of a hit or miss affair and can have a huge impact on how I feel on stage. As singers, we spend hours and hours practicing the many technical aspects of our craft but often when it comes to our stage appearances the way we present our selves can be a little daunting without the help of the many talented makeup artists that help out with an Opera production. So, when faced with this challenge on my own I can sometimes lack the skills to make the best of my appearance when attending an audition.
Over Christmas whilst at home with my parents and brothers we watched some episodes of a programme called Ru Paul’s Drag Race. It is a competition in which Drag Queens take on a series of challenges to demonstrate a range of skills that will ultimately make them the winner of the competition and enhance their performing careers. I loved watching the way the competitors rose to each challenge, gaining self-confidence and improving their stage presence with each round. What I never expected to discover however were makeup tips for stage performances, but that was exactly what I found.
Many of the performers recorded their makeup routines on YouTube which I have found so helpful. Their make up tips are brilliant for my job, they spill their secrets for how to hide unwanted blemishes and how to make it last for a full performance which can often be a problem as I found out in the heat of the Summer performances of Candide at the Minack Theatre. So, fingers crossed this is another skill I can continue to develop and with it give myself the extra confidence that is sometimes needed for an audition or competition.
Have you ever found inspiration in an unexpected way? If so, I would love to hear about it 🙂
I have some other good news to share with you, following the success of Waterperry Opera’s ‘Mansfield Park’ last Summer, Jonathan Dove has agreed to become an Honorary Patron for the festival and I can’t wait to reprise the role again this July. Last year the tickets sold out within weeks of going on sale so this year there will be two extra days. Once the tickets go on sale I will let you know in case you want to come along to Waterperry House in Oxford and join in the spectacle.
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:
On Friday, I participated in an evening of opera scenes along with my fellow students at the Royal College of Music. I had a lot of fun taking on the character of the ‘Controller’ in Flight and it was very exciting – but nerve-wracking as I had to sing a top F in a public performance for the first time. It was a great challenge, but one that I enjoyed immensely.
Zachary Neal, Me, and Jessica Cale
Ready For My Scene
It was lovely to see so many friends, colleagues, and family in the audience. I was especially happy to see my dear friends Hilary, Edwin, and Norman and it was lovely to be able to see them after the performance and share this experience with them.
These productions would not be the same without all the help that we get from Costume, Wigs, Hair, Makeup, and all the technical staff, and of course not forgetting the fabulous musicians who play for each of the scenes.
Hannah Crerar and Me In The Changing Room ( Photo Julieth Lozano )
Julieth Lozano and Me
The Whole Cast ( Photo Julieth Lozano )
Our next set of scenes are on this coming Tuesday at 5:30 pm in the Britten Theatre at the RCM.
On Monday 4th June at 11:10, I will perform my final recital of my Masters of Performance. The recital will take place in the Recital Hall at Royal College of Music. It would be lovely to see as many friendly faces in the audience as possible, so if you are in the area please come along. Entrance to the performance will be free, but because it is an exam please arrive early. George Todica will be accompanying me and we will be performing pieces by Massenet, Gustav Mahler, Lliam Paterson, Grieg, and Bernstein.
On Friday 18th May 2018 at 17:30 pm I will be the Controller in a scene from ‘Flight’ at the Royal College of Music, the scene will be directed by William Relton and conducted by Peter Selwyn. Flight is an English opera with music by Jonathan Dove, who also wrote ‘A Walk from the Garden’ that I performed for Scottish Opera Connect three years ago, playing the role of Eve. The libretto (text) for ‘Flight’ was written by April De Angelis.
‘Flight’ had its premiere mainstage performance at Glyndebourne Festival Opera in 1999. The inspiration for the story was from the true-life story of an Iranian refugee Nasseri who lived at Charles de Gaulle Airport unable to exit the terminal. Did you watch the 2004 Spielberg film with Tom Hanks called ‘The Terminal’ that was also based on Nasseri story stuck in terminal one in a Paris airport for 18 years, from 1988 to 2006, without any passport and documents? It never ceases to amaze me how life is often stranger than fiction. I’ve spent quite a bit of time recently in airport lounges listening to Controllers and soaking in the atmosphere, watching and waiting, and worked on the score to try to get it off copy (learned off the score) ready for rehearsals this past week.
He also made the mistake of thinking that a floundering relationship would be rectified by an overseas trip, like Bill and Tina. And he once sat with two people who were starting a new life in another country, which pops in with Minskman and Minskwoman.
“I think we had the feeling that the airport was potentially a kind of microcosm, with lighter elements.” He said.
Carly Owen As The Governess and Me as Flora, From January 2017
On Tuesday 22nd May 2018 at 17:30pm, I will play the Governess in a scene from ‘The Turn of the Screw’, this was the Britten opera that was my first opera scene at the Royal College of Music when I performed the role of the child ‘Flora’ in the Britten Theatre so it’s fitting that it will be my last scene. I did quite comprehensive research last year so I got out all my old notes and references to get into the new character, this is a fabulous opportunity to expand my work on this great opera. The score is very tricky. I’ve enjoyed working with Marcella Di Garbo, who plays Miss Jessel, since my return to London. The scene is being directed by Stuart Barker who directed my scene from the ‘Dialogue of the Carmelites’ so it’s lovely to work with him again and the ever-wonderful Michael Lloyd conducting, with Lucy Colquhoun on piano. Tickets for both events are free but require booking ( Click Here )
I will try and get some photos of both casts this week to share with you all.
Wow what a whirlwind of a week, on Friday evening there was the performance at St Mary’s Cathedral of the RCS Choir from the BMus course. From Haydn’s ‘Little Organ Mass’, Michael Bawtree accompanied on the Cathedral’s Henry Willis organ and played C.P.E Bach’s Fantasia and Fugue in C minor, followed in the second half with John Rutter’s folk song suite ‘A Sprig of Thyme’ conducted by Frikki Walker.
On Saturday I had two shows and Sunday a final matinee performance with Scottish Opera Connect’s company at Webster’s Theatre, Glasgow. Our double bill ‘The Walk from the Garden/Dr Ferret’s Bad Medicine Roadshow’ had a lovely review in the Sunday Herald by Mary Brennan.
“Give the young singers and musicians in Scottish Opera’s Connect Company a cleverly balanced double bill, full of musical contrasts and intrinsic drama – like the one they presented across the weekend – then sit back and enjoy, as they deliver something special, sparked with a mix of keen energy and mature focus.
Stephen Deazley’s piece, Dr Ferret’s Bad Medicine Roadshow, was first aired by Connect in 2011 when they filled the Citizens main stage with a technicolour whing-ding reminiscent of the Land of Oz. At Webster’s – an altogether more intimate black box space – Deazley’s witty romp through some of Hilaire Belloc’s Cautionary Tales arrives in (mostly) black and white: the colour comes from the performances.
Our Dr Ferret is Andrew McTaggart, an avuncular presence whose baritone warmth promises that his elixir can make bad children good…
The Connect chorus (ages ranging from 14 to 21) revel in the mischief of Belloc and the jaunty, quirky humours of Deazley, while the Connect orchestra kept pace with the snap and rhythmic crackle of the score.
The opening piece, Jonathan Dove’s The Walk in the Garden, thrummed with a sombre intensity that demanded much, of the soloists especially. Inspired by Milton’s Paradise Lost, Dove uses the expulsion of Adam (Glen Cunningham) and Eve (Charlotte Hoather) from Eden into an earthly wasteland to echo our own self-inflicted loss of natural habitat through climate change.
The chorus, who bookend the piece in thundering volume (as God, then Milton) sit on-stage as Adam and Eve, garbed like jet-setting holiday-makers, scale Dove’s heights of remembered joys, despair and resignation.
A fierce, compelling work to which young voices gave a touching truth.”
It was fabulous for me to watch Scottish Opera’s emerging artist Andrew McTaggart as Dr Ferret, he is a graduate of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and attended the Alexander Gibson Opera School, the chorus sizzled through the entire production and didn’t let up in energy and colourful expression for the entire performance.
I also met the composer of the opera Jonathan Dove on Saturday, he enjoyed our first performance which was fantastic and he signed my score which I’m going to treasure.
It was great to see staff from the RCS vocal department who came along to watch including the head of vocal performance Professor Stephen Robertson, Judith Howarthand my singing teacher Kathleen McKellar Ferguson I would like to say a big thank you to my friends and family who came along to show their support, several of them travelling quite a distance which I really do appreciate and for the cards and messages of support from my friends who could not make it.
Just before I finished for Easter I thought that I would try my hand a little baking. Having seen so many lovely looking cakes on baking blogs I thought I would give it a go. Now I can cook two or three dishes really well, another four or five passably but baking has never been my strong point. I had a great time having a go but I don’t think Mary Berry has got anything to worry about. It didn’t quite come out how I envisaged but I was told that it tasted great, I baked it in a roasting tin because I don’t have a proper tin haha.
It Really Did Taste Good.
I travelled to my Parents for the Easter weekend and after a few days relaxing I spent the last week preparing my final essay of the year for submission when College opens again tomorrow. However it will be great to put my reference books away and immerse myself in the coming week of rehearsals.
Glen Cunningham ( Adam ) Me ( Eve ) and the fabulous Beth Jerem who accompanied us both on piano during our rehearsal.
It is going to be a packed seven days but so worthwhile, the culmination of several months preparation and practice. Throughout the week I will be taking part in the final rehearsals for Scottish Opera Connect’s production of “The Walk From The Garden”. It is so exciting to see all the individual elements come together like a giant jigsaw puzzle. Though I have a good idea of how Glen, who plays Adam and myself, playing Eve fit in to the production it’s not until everyone involved is in the same place at the same time that you get the full picture.
Paradise Lost – John Milton – Published 1667
The opera was composed by Jonathan Dove with the libretto written by Alasdair Middleton and runs for about 50 minutes and draws inspiration from “Paradise Lost” by the great English poet John Milton ( 1608 – 1674 ). The story follows Adam and Eve as they come to terms with the enormity of their actions after eating the apple from the “Tree Of Knowledge Of Good And Evil”, having being told by God that doing so would lead to their death.
Cole Thomas;s Depiction Of The Expulsion Of Adam & Eve From The Garden Of Eden – 1828
But to see what happens you have to wait as I am not giving away any spoilers before the opera opens on Saturday. But I can say that one of the great things about being involved with a live production is the way in which the Director interprets the opera and injects a little of their own personality in to the way we portray the story.
Jonathan Dove has written many wonderful operas and is a fabulous contemporary composer with over twenty works to his name. You can read his biography over on his website, it’s very impressive.
Last night ( Saturday 11th April ) I went to see Scottish Opera’s production of “Jenufa”. I thoroughly enjoyed the opera which was full of dramatic vocals, great performances and enough vocal colour to create a musical rainbow. It was wonderful to watch the opera sat next to Lesley, a lady I got chatting to who was there to experience live opera for the first time.
Jenufa – Scottish Opera
If you missed the production during it’s run in Glasgow you can catch it in Edinburgh from the 16th April to 18th April. The opera is sung in Czech with English surtitles. Scottish Opera: “Jenůfa, a young woman living in a remote rural village, is pregnant, though as yet unmarried. Her stern stepmother, worried for the family’s reputation and her own status as the leader of their village, hides Jenůfa away to bear her child. Months later, the river thaws and a gruesome secret is uncovered. Suspicion falls immediately on Jenůfa, but the truth will out”.
I have several evening rehearsals this week for the RCS production of Sir John In Love which opens on Saturday 8th May 2015. It is a privilege to be involved as a member of the chorus with all my friends and fellow students, it’s shaping up to be a fabulous production.
St Marys Cathedral – Glasgow
On Friday evening, 17th April as a member of the RCS Choir we will be performing at St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow conducted by Frikki Walker. A great way to start what I hope will be a memorable weekend for me as I have two performances of “The Walk From The Garden” on Saturday 18th and one matinee on Sunday 19th April.
The rehearsals for the Scottish Opera Connect production of “The Walk from the Garden” are gathering pace. Glen Cunningham (Adam) and I were there this afternoon.
Scottish Opera through their strong community links have developed a great education programme that sets out to introduce the beauty and artistry of opera to a wider and younger audience. These include visiting schools with touring productions aimed at primary aged children, their “Opera Unwrapped” events providing a sneaky peak into the world behind the scenes of an opera production and finally Scottish Opera’s Connect Company for aspiring 14 to 21 year olds helping through workshops and coaching sessions to improve performing skills and develop a love of this wonderful art form.
Scottish Opera Head Quaters
Our rehearsals today were in the impressive headquarters for the Scottish Opera in Glasgow which was originally owned by the Institute of Engineers and Shipbuilders and the beautiful stained glass windows around the building have a strong maritime theme.
The Lusitania Window In The Rankine Hall
The Rehearsal Room
I’m enjoying every minute of the preparation and as April approaches and the performance dates get closer my excitement surrounding the production grows. There are two operas being presented in the same program, “The Walk From The Garden” and “Dr Ferret’s Bad Medicine Roadshow”. This will be the third full production of Jonathan Dove’sopera “The Walk from the Garden” since it was first commissioned by Ageas Salisbury International Arts Festival.
To see the production listed in the Scottish Opera “What’s On” list is quite a thrill. There are to be three performances, two on Saturday 18th April at 15:30 pm and 19:00 pm and one on Sunday 19th April at 15:30 pm. Tickets are available through the Scottish Opera website.
I cannot believe that the auditions were back in September 2014 as the time has just flown by and there are ten weeks to go which seems like a long time away but I’m sure it will be here in a flash.
I’m excited to announce that in April 2015 I will be performing the role of ‘Eve’ in Jonathan Dove’s Opera “The Walk from the Garden” with Scottish Opera’s Connect Company.
Alongside me performing the role of ‘Adam’ will be the lovely tenor Glen Cunningham from Nairn in Scotland. After accepting the role in September, I have had the pleasure to work with him whilst learning the score.
TheScottish Opera Connect team have been wonderfully welcoming and it has been fabulous working with Chris Gray, (who is our conductor for the project), Laura Baxter, (who has been coaching us), Lliam Paterson, Iona Jack, Roseann Gross and Donna Macpherson. I am extremely excited to begin production rehearsals with Scottish Opera Connect Company and our director Julie Brown this month. I will tell you more about it as we progress.
The Scottish Opera Connect Chorus are a very talented bunch, last year I heard them preparing for Dr Ferret’s Bad Medicine Roadshow, which will be performed in the same billing. Both are ‘New productions’ and it’s exciting to be working on an Opera by a British Composer which hasn’t been performed regularly before.