Today marks the first day of December and soon I will begin rehearsals for the Christmas Elf with Northern Opera Group in Leeds. With this in mind I thought I would share with you how I prepare and learn a new role.
After receiving the music I try to read the libretto (sung text) to get an idea of the overall story. This helps me to understand my character’s arc, their basic relationships with others, how people discuss and describe them and their key moments in the production.
If I am working on a piece that is in a different language to my own. I will take time to translate the libretto. This can be quite a time-consuming task. I aim to source/create a word-for-word translation. I often consult Nico Castel’s libretti Series, which can be found in music libraries such as at the Royal College of Music. This series contains a word-for-word translation, a phonetic translation and a poetic translation.
This series often helps speed up the process but I try to cross-reference with a dictionary to make sure I really understand what is being said and how it progresses the action of the story.
For each role, I often have a different time scale as I have to juggle all the projects that I have on the go along with other personal tasks so I try to work out a schedule for my learning. I try to break up the role, so as opposed to one big task I have several smaller goals. I use post-it notes to show different Acts, Scenes, and dialogue. If I am working on an opera by Mozart or Handel I will use different colours to differentiate between Recitatives, Arias, Duets , small ensembles, and Finales. These sections then make the overall task more approachable and easier to schedule.
I will then highlight my text and the music. Whilst I am doing this I create a list of the pieces that I am in, I acknowledge if there are any moments of tricky coloratura and harmonies as I personally make them a priority when scheduling in time for memorising. I always like to learn the first entry at the start and then move on towards the more difficult areas as I like to have a small victory to keep my motivation simmering.
After some careful planning, I will work out when to
schedule singing lessons and coachings, so that I can work on the role with my
teachers who know my long term goals or coaches who have expertise in a particular
language or period of music.
I will then sit down with my score at the piano and note-bash, and learn the melody methodically. Sometimes I create learning tracks that I can use whilst travelling on the tube, or in between singing practise.
Then with my schedule set, I make sure that I keep to it and with my fingers crossed and hope that nothing unforeseen turns up. Once I have the music underway I then have to start work on learning the words. But I will save how I do that for another time 🙂
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.
I read that Kasper Holten the Danish Director of Opera at the Royal Opera House, who left Covent Garden, London last month, claimed that the British are prejudiced against opera, perceiving it as elitist and not for them. The new Director Oliver Mears agrees that the perception exists. So how does my generation change and challenge this?
Lots of people I went to school and college with would never think to go to an opera, the State schools that my family attended never arranged trips to see an opera although there were trips to watch drama, dance performances, and musical theatre. It’s as though the State schools are keeping this perception going and not trying to make high art accessible to a wider audience if only to make a once in five year visit to the dress rehearsal of an opera performance so that each child has the opportunity to attend once in Primary school and once in Secondary education.
Although I’ve never been invited back to my High School to discuss training in a conservatoire, perform or undertake a demonstration with the music students I would be happy to, the classical singing teacher that taught me at the school is no longer available to the students. Jayne led to several people in her short time teaching extra-curricular singing at the school to undertake classical training, and several of her students are now either working in the crossover industry or undertaking training at prestigious Conservatoires. If she gave just ten of us this transformative experience that opened our minds and expanded our knowledge, then that’s a good thing, isn’t it? Together we are all introducing new families to classical music, people whom prior to our involvement may have had no knowledge of this beautiful music other than the occasional advertisement on the TV, or when they are used in a film score they like.
Everyone talks about wanting social mobility for all, the chance to progress on merit and talent yet so many doors are kept firmly closed that I feel need to be opened. Last summer in Scotland, Scottish Opera put on ‘The Little White Town of Never Weary’ for primary school children on a tour of Scotland, I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to see the children’s excitement and the smiles on their faces as they interacted with the performers. The Scottish Opera Education team also regularly put on Tours throughout Scotland, bringing pop-up operas to even the most remote areas, they are getting this right. I’m excited to be part of a creative team on a new project with them again this summer.
In England, we read that music lessons are being cut out of the school curriculum in too many State schools thanks to the new requirements and testing to the EBacc formula that the schools are judged against, there was a controversial piece that I read, written by Charlotte C Gill in the Guardian “Music education is now only for the white and the wealthy”
I saw this at my own High School, they had too few students wanting to take A level Music at the start of my sixth form preferring to take the easier BTEC Music which wouldn’t have given me the skills I required for my next step of training and would have ended my progression were it not for the Head of Music and Music teacher agreeing to allow me to undertake it by self-study within the BTEC class with some extra support from Mr. Leigh. However, I found the breadth of the course really challenging to do on my own and I was so lucky to come into contact with a music teacher outside of school, Suzanne Harvey, a graduate of the Birmingham Conservatoire, who lived close to me and helped me so much. With her help, I improved my understanding and appreciation of music plus the theory which gave me the foundation I needed to move on to a conservatoire. So, I don’t agree with the premise that the teaching of music should be dumbed down and made easier in every instance.
I would be interested to hear how the teaching of music is organised in different countries and if it encourages children to explore classical music and have a more open mind towards the beauty of opera and classical music.
It was great to catch up with one of my friends today, Katie Oswell, from my time at the RCS, Glasgow. We had a lovely afternoon together and I enjoyed finding out about what she has been up to since I finished at the RCS last summer.
This weekend I decided quite on the spur of the moment to pack up a weekend bag and travel home to see my parents. I had quite a bit of work to complete on my website, and I knew that my Mum and Dad could help me with it, so Friday night after lessons I virtually ran down to the underground station and then fought my way through the rush hour commuters, wheelie bag in hand. The train that I had booked was due to leave at 17:07 and I arrived on the platform at 17:05, just enough time to jump on the nearest carriage before the train moved off from the platform, that was too close a call even for me. I found my seat and settled down for the journey home.
It was great to see my parents at the station, and we had a lovely evening relaxing and sorting out images, text and setting the links for my website update. Having talked it through with my Dad, he suggested rather than moving my blog over to my website that I should just change the links in the menu. Which gives the impression that the site is all in one place but saves me possibly losing all my page links and archives. When I get the time to check out the process a little more, I may eventually move the blog but for now, let me know what you think. You can get through to my website using the Home Button on the menu on my blog as the page selections have been re-mapped 🙂
Anyway, enough of the technical stuff and on to the rest of my weekend. My younger Brother, Thomas was competing in a National Inter-Varsity dance competition in Blackpool. It is probably the biggest event in his competition calendar, and as my Mum and Dad were traveling up to watch him, it was a great opportunity for me to tag along, show my support for him and have a little catch-up.
We all jumped in the car and made the hour and a half journey North from my parent’s house to Blackpool on the Fylde coast in Lancashire. When we were small we used to travel up to Blackpool quite often, whether it was to visit relatives, go for a walk along the promenade, make sand castles on the beach, fly our kites or go to the Pleasure Beach, we always had a very good time. I felt a little nostalgic as we drove into the Town and I could see Blackpool Tower up ahead. The Town has changed from what I remember, the number of families taking holidays there has dropped with the advent of cheap air travel and guaranteed sunshine which has led to an unfortunate decline for the town. But the friendliness of the people is still there in abundance, and once you are in Blackpool, you don’t let a little thing like strong winds and a bit of rain stop your enjoyment.
We parked up and made our way over to The Winter Gardens, in its heyday this was the entertainment hub of the North West with many West End shows making their way there. The building is just as grand now as it ever was and the Theatre looked amazing. The Ballroom where Tom was dancing was huge, and after we had wished him luck, we made our way to the viewing gallery and settled in for the end of the morning session. In the morning, Tom was competing in the Ballroom novice two-dance and out of 170 couples who entered he came 19th which was an excellent achievement.
Tom and his partner Natalie
During the lunch time break, we walked down to the seafront to buy some chunky chips with salt and vinegar, an absolute must as you walk along the windy promenade. It would have been perfect, but a cheeky little seagull decided to air bomb us and left a lovely little present in our chip tray boohoo 🙁 I then went and bought some Blackpool rock (a hard candy dentists hate if you overdo it) for my friends at College, another tradition that you just have to share while you are visiting the Town.
Feeling windblown and refreshed in the sea air we made our way back to watch Tom in the afternoon session. He was competing in the Latin novice two-dance but unfortunately this time he only got as far as the second round, but I thought he was amazing and it made me want to take up my Latin and Ballroom again. There are just not enough hours in the day 🙂 The Glasgow University team that he dances for all danced fabulously. Saulius and his partner Heather came 3rd in the ex-student advanced 5 dance ballroom and 5th in the Latin ex-student advanced 5 dance.
Saulius, Thomas, Heather, Natalie, Hana, Antonio, Ryan and Anna
Anna, Ryan, Antonio, Hana, Natalie, Thomas, Heather and Saulius
This morning I spent some time in my Mum’s craft room making some Thank You and Birthday cards to replenish my stock, and after a lovely weekend visit I traveled back down to London and feel energized for the week ahead.
It is good to be back home for a few weeks whilst I prepare for Opera Britain’s production of ‘Don Giovanni’ in Bowdon, Cheshire. Especially as its Father’s Day and I got to spend some time today in the middle of a very busy schedule with my parents. There will be two performances of the opera as it is double cast, I will be performing the role of Zerlina on Saturday the 25th June in Bowdon alongside Matthew Mannion as Masetto and Niamh St John and Jakob Mahase will perform the same roles in Withington, Manchester on Sunday the 26th June.
Jakob Mahase, Matthew Mannion, Me and Niamh St John
The rehearsals are well underway and it has been great to meet up with old friends and make some new ones. Many of the cast are from DIT ( the Dublin Conservatoire ) and rehearsing with them is great fun .
It is wonderful to see the staging coming together under the watchful eye of Conleth Stanley and get a fabulous sense of the musicality of the production carefully conducted by Tom Newall.
As usual a big thank you to Jayne who is busy organising everything for us all.
Last night along with many other willing performers we took part in a Gala Evening of song to help raise money for the Company so that they can continue with the amazing work they do.
The Performers From The Opera Gala 18th June 2016
If any of you are in the area and can come along to support us we would love to see you there 🙂
If you want to check out the story of Don Giovanni you can get a flavour of it HERE
I’ve been friends with Karen Gadient on our blogs for several years now and it was wonderful to meet up with Karen and her husband David during their touring holiday of Scotland whilst they were in Glasgow. She is just as lovely in real life as she is on her fabulous art blog check it out HERE.
David and Karen Gadient with Me In The Willow Tea Rooms, Glasgow
This week we have celebrated some wonderful anniversaries. On Thursday 21st, celebrations took place for the Queen’s 90th Birthday and on St. George’s Day (Saturday 23rd) I had the pleasure to celebrate the anniversary of the 100th Alderley Edge Music Festival by performing in their fabulous gala concert.
It was a wonderful event and celebrated the hard work and the success of the festival over the years and took place in the newly renovated Festival Hall. The hall was fantastically decorated with red, white and blue balloons and the stage had a star-lit back curtain which provided a beautiful setting for the concert and helped create a fabulous atmosphere! The full-house audience were neatly sat in lines of long tables that reached the length of the hall, ornamented with tremendous hors d’oeuvres and little British flags for everyone. The event was organised by the very talented Anna Meadmore who also compared the evening with her witty and reminiscent introductions. It was quite a party atmosphere!
Natasha Agarwal and Me
The performers were from across the disciplines of music, speech and drama and showcased some of the talented individuals that participated in the festivals over the years and who have gone on to study or work professionally in their chosen fields. It was wonderful to see people that I watched when I was younger grow into very talented young men and women. It was lovely be reunited with the fabulous volunteers without whom the festival couldn’t take place and who were still so enthusiastic about the event, not forgetting the wonderful accompanists who were able to take centre stage for a change with two pieces for eight hands. I was also able meet some new faces who’s careers are beginning to take off. I wish everyone the best of luck with their future successes.
Matthew Thistleton and Me
I had the pleasure of performing with Matthew Thistleton “La Ci Darem La Mano” from Mozart’s “Don Giovanni”. We both arrived at the event without previously ever meeting and we only had a 20 minute slot to spontaneously create the romantic and cheeky staging that we devised between us in a short rehearsal. It was wonderful to perform alongside him as he was so easy to work with and gave me lots of actions to react to, especially when he dropped to one knee and grabbed me at my waist! I hope we can share the stage again in the future.
The whole evening went tremendously well and I wish the festival another 100 successful years as I have many fond memories of entering numerous classes, photocopying and sellotaping reams of music scores for the accompanists, running from room to room (and even building to building!) singing my heart out and enjoying picnics in the middle of it all. But mostly I will be thankful for the musical lessons it taught me like how to pick yourself up after mistakes, gave advice on what to work on and how to deal with losses, how to work with accompanists and give your tempi and most importantly the friendships made along the way!
I would definitely recommend anyone interested in singing, instrumental playing or acting to look at the federation of music festivals and consider applying!
Adam Slater – Clarinet
Sophie Roberts – Special Composition
Oliver Rushton – Speech and Drama
Rosie Lomas – Soprano
Simeon Evans – Saxophone
Charlotte Deams – Speech and Drama
Charlotte Heaven – Cornet
Natasha Agarwal – Soprano
David Schofield – Piano
Marie Dixon – Music Hall
Dan Parr – Speech and Drama
Paul Exton McGuiness – Trombone
Helen Meadmore – Speech and Drama
Laurence Jeffcoate – Tenor
Emma Rushworth – Violin
Charlotte Hoather – Soprano
Matthew Thistleton – Bass
William Jeys – Trumpet
Catherine Hall Smith
Me, Matt and Tom with our Pepa and Mema
Me with my Mema
Sadly this week I also lost my Mema (Grandma), a loving woman whose life we will continue to celebrate through the memories that we have of her. Last night I dedicated my performance to her and I chose to sing in red dress as it was her favourite colour and though she will be missed it is comforting to know that I have another angel in heaven watching over me. God Bless Mema.
On Thursday alongside my fellow 4th year undergraduate students we performed in a scene from “Cosi fan Tutte”. It was the finale from Act 1 and I performed the part of Fiordiligi with Inkeri Kallio as Doribella. The other performers were :
Don Alfonso – Jack Sandison
Ferrando – Robert Forrest
Guglielmo – Timothy Edmundson
Despina – Xinhui Lai
In the opera Don Alfonso makes bet with two younger men, Ferrando and Guglielmo that all women are fickle and are easily tempted. As the two men believe their fiancés, Fiordiligi and Doribella, are loyal and faithful they see this as an easy bet to win and decide to play along. Pretending to have been called up to go to war the two men agree to return in disguise and attempt to tempt the others fiancé. Will the deception work? Will the two sisters succumb to the advances of their new suitors?
In the scene that we performed Despina the maid had been persuaded by Don Alfonso to help him win his bet. She works with the two men who are now disguised as two Albanians to tempt the two sisters to stray. As part of the deception the two men threaten to poison themselves if Fiordiligi and Doribella do not accept their amorous advances. After refusing their efforts Ferrando and Guglielmo pretend to take the poison and Despina (now disguised as a doctor) saves them from dying.
Pretending to be under the effects of the poison the two men demand a kiss form the sisters who adamantly refuse. Fearing the bet will be lost both Don Alfonso and the disguised Despina encourage the two sisters to agree to the amorous demands as the Act draws to a close.
I had a great time with everyone 🙂
Then after school I packed up for the weekend as we had to travel to Reading in Berkshire for a concert which was on Friday, 18th March.
George Todica was both accompanying me in the concert and also playing three piano pieces by Franz Liszt, Maurice Ravel and George Enescu. We arrived in the afternoon and after being shown the recital room we warmed up before getting changed for the performance. During the afternoon we had a look around the beautiful arts centre which was buzzing with life and a fantastic credit to the community.
During our performance we were made to feel so welcome by the enthusiastic audience and the evening just flew by. We met so many lovely people and enjoyed chatting with them after the concert about the music that we performed. I would like to say a special thank you to Penny and Brian for their hospitality.
On Friday I went to the lunchtime concert at the RCS which featured ‘Mr McFalls Chamber’ group performing ‘All of the Above’. The programme was an energetic and innovative collection from jazz to rock and tango to contemporary classical. The ensemble performed a commissioned piece by Paul Harrison who works in the RCS teaching jazz piano. They also performed arrangements of Frank Zappa’s songs and a piece by Tim Garland, Martin Kershaw, Joe Zawinul and Raymond Scott. A little extra fairy dust was created by a very colourful lighting design that really lifted my Friday to new exciting heights. It was a real treat as often this isn’t paired with classical concert scene. Providing lots of food for thought!
Maximiliano Martín, clarinet
Cyril Garac and Robert McFall, violins
Brian Schiele, viola
Su-a Lee, cello
Rick Standley, double bass
Paul Harrison, keys
Iain Sandilands, percussion
Stuart Brown, drums
Mr McFalls Chamber’
In the same evening, I went to the RCS symphony concert conducted by Alpesh Chauhan. It was lovely to see and support my friends as they continue through their training especially with graduation exams looming. The ensemble did a great job of performing this top tier concert repertoire, creating beautiful images and persuasive colours with sound.
The orchestra performed:
Hector Berlioz ‘Grande Overture du Roi Lear, Op. 4.
This composition was created after a dramatic moment in Berlioz’s life. Whilst living in Rome, Berlioz heard that his fiancée had married someone else. In a reaction of fury he purchased two revolvers and a measure of laudanum and strychnine and vowed revenge as he began his journey back to France. (Perhaps this story needs to be evolved into an opera libretto!) However he got as far as Nice, and then abandoned his plans. Berlioz then spent three weeks in the Mediterranean to recover and was enraptured by Shakespeare’s King Lear and decided to compose in his bout of enthusiasm.
Claude Debussy, La Mer
These symphonic sketches were inspired by Debussy’s vivid memories from his childhood summers spent overlooking the Mediterranean Sea at Cannes. He wrote ‘I love the sea and I have listened to it passionately’ and he thought that music provided the ability to evoke the constant mutability of the sea that painters could not but often strived for. This work was stunning and if you like paintings by Turner well worth a listen!
Berlioz, Symphonie Fantastique
In my first year I wrote about this piece and it was wonderful to hear it performed in my final year of my degree. The piece itself is programmatic and depicts an artist who is heartbroken from unrequited love, (Berlioz himself), who then tries to end their suffering by taking an opium overdose. However the drug sends him into a hallucinatory dream that creates a series of episodes.
Then yesterday, Saturday 20th February I was thrilled to go and watch Scottish Opera’s ‘Ariodante’ by Handel. This was a superb production and possibly one of the best I have seen them put on. It was set in modern Scotland, depicted successfully through the stage design which reminded me of a contemporary home design featuring a wall of glass, metal spiral stairs and Edison style light bulbs in triangle cages. The singing was very classy and often sounded effortless. The cast did a wonderful job of sustaining my attention through the 3 hour performance by their romantic and expressively dramatic performance.
Each character went on a clear journey ending with a happy ending, (except for Polinesso who fell at the strike of a sword).
It was personally wonderful to see Jennifer France sing “Dalinda” because in my first year I saw her perform in a very sparkly long dress some Benjamin Britten in a cross Conservatoire competition held at the RCS. She still sounds amazing and her performance was particularly inspiring.
To finish off what has been a fabulous weekend I was able to enjoy some more Opera at the “Ye Cronies Opera Award” at the RCS. Where 16 students from the postgraduate Opera course competed for the annual prize. Everyone performed really well and the pianists were all supportive and brilliant too!
Ye Cronies Opera Award at the RCS
Each performance was of a high standard and I did not envy Neal Davies (who performed the role of The King in Ariodante) job of coming to a decision. Charlie Drummond came second and Euros Campbell came first. Congrats to all who competed and a big thank you to the audience for their support.
On Wednesday it was my friend Les Hughes’s landmark 50th birthday. He is a keen Liverpool FC fan so I recorded this song for him as part of his celebrations, I hope that he enjoyed it 🙂
To close I hope that you all have a fabulous week 🙂
This weekend I’ve had the chance to sit down with a cup of tea and reflect on my first performance of Grieg’s ‘Haugtussa’ as a complete song cycle. My Dad was able to come to watch when I performed in Edinburgh and I was so grateful to him as he stood at the back of the room and held his video camera over his head for the entirety of the evening so that I could listen back. Hopefully, next time he’ll bring a stand so he can relax and enjoy it. (Perhaps Santa will leave him one under the Christmas tree 🙂 )
Normally I struggle to watch myself as often I can be very critical. However, I read a book recently whilst I was preparing for my auditions and it recommended to list what you did well first and then rather than say “I did that terribly”, immediately start thinking how you can improve it.
For example in this video one of the things I would like to improve is my ability to keep my vibrato spinning at the ends of phrases to create a better line.
But for this blog post I am sharing this video with you as a work in progress as I would love to continue with my research into these pieces and work hard to improve my performance of them.
The song I have chosen is “Veslemoy”, it appears second in the cycle of the eight songs. Veslemoy is the real name of the young girl, and Haugtussa is her nickname meaning ‘mountain maid’. The text in this song describes her physical appearance as being thin and slender with brown pure features. It also mentions how she appears to be touched by magic allowing her to see into other realms. The second verse goes on to explain that despite her appearing calm she is still a young beautiful girl trembling and frail.
This description in some way prepares us for what is to come, as the story develops over the remaining six songs Haugtussa meets a boy and she feels her emotions blossom into a first love but sadly she is left waiting for him in the cold. He never returns.
Me with George Todica in Troldhaugen where we performed in Grieg’s house during our stay in Bergen, Norway.
I’m very excited to work on this cycle as it is rarely performed in the UK in its original Norwegian and yet the music and poetry are so touching and beautiful. I hope to record the whole cycle next year and would love to share them with you. George and I have been working with these songs for over six months now and they’re still a work in progress, I hope that you enjoy them on first listening and that they can grow on you to become favourites as they have done with me. This gives me an opportunity to really listen and appreciate George’s sensitive interpretation and emotional connection to these beautiful songs.
She is thin, dark and slender with brown, pure features and her eyes are deep and grey and she has a soft dreamy manner. It is as if it, half and half, lay a spell over the whole of her. In movement, speech and everything she has a muted calm. She has a muted calm. Beneath her lovely forehead, Her eyes shine as if behind a mist, It is as if they staring, saw far into another world. Only her breast goes tight and heavy And her pale mouth quivers. She is trembling, frail and weak At the same time she is beautiful and young. She is beautiful and young.
Here are some links to the posts that I wrote about my time in Bergen 🙂
What a wonderful weekend! On Saturday I had the privilege to perform alongside George Todica for the Edinburgh Society of Musicians. It was a very welcoming society and a relaxing atmosphere to perform my first hour long solo evening recital that I had organised, designed and performed alone with piano accompaniment without any other soloists in the programme.
Pascal Barnier Sent Me This Beautiful Image That He Created For Our Recital
The evening’s programme comprised of:
“Haugtussa” the full cycle by Grieg
Four of Aaron Copland’s American Folk Songs
Four Scottish Folk Songs
‘Quando M’en Vo’ – Puccini
‘Wo Bin Ich?’ – Humperdink
‘Song To The Moon’ – Dvorak
The Edinburgh Society Of Musicians – The Performance Area
Before starting the concert I was a bit nervous as it was the longest I was going to sing by myself. This brings challenges of vocal stamina as the voice is produced by muscles activating and relaxing. Similarly to a long distance athlete you need endurance, fuel and energy to last the entire event.
Leading up to the concert I was practising my words regularly and I think in the future I will keep working on this so that I can relax a little more mentally in the concert, but I think that because my attention was highly activated I could create and spontaneously react to ideas George created on the piano.
I am excited to be performing the Haugtussa again in March 2016 and can’t wait to see the progression the piece will make over time.
The program was well received and we were commended for a professional performance.
For me the highlight of the evening was meeting everyone after the event including fellow musicians along with a pianist who knew the ‘Haugtussa’ cycle as he had performed it before, and we received some great advice and feedback.