Archives For Opera

Getting it done!

September 6, 2020 — 74 Comments

After creating a homemade vocal booth, it was now time to get to work and make a plan of action. George and I sat down and thought about what repertoire we would like to include. We wanted the songs to be a mix of pieces we performed in the Balcony Concerts as well as a couple of new songs to keep your listening ears entertained and refreshed. We asked neighbours and friends for their favourites and re-visited the videos, which have now become fond memories until we collected a posy of songs.

Under ordinary circumstances, we would visit a recording studio and perform the pieces in the same room and capture the result. However, this time I was surrounded by walls of hot pink, satin throws and connected to George’s piano playing through a pair of headphones. At times our combined sound felt a little contrived as we were unable to see each other. Our thoughts were slightly delayed and we found that we were both trying to follow each other rather than share who is leading the dance of the music. I hadn’t quite considered how integral the peripheral vision that I use on stage and in rehearsal is for telling a story with natural quirks and emotions. So, to connect with George in a spontaneous manner we decided to use Facetime! We were able to do this, as we both use iPads for score reading. I personally use an app called ‘forScore’, as it is really easy to use and has a lot of score editing features. (And as someone who adores an organised bookshelf, it removes the need to have endless photocopies of music filling draws and cupboards in our home – haha). I would dial George’s number and once our call was connected, we would both mute ourselves and do the necessary finger swipes across the glass so that we could see the music and a little video of the other person in the corner. The result was marvelous. We could see each other breathing, gestures of intent to begin phrases or change the pace of the music, facial expressions that captured the emotions of the text, and much more. It was also comforting to see George on the screen, and know that he was there to support me as I took musical risks inspired by my instinctual whimsy.

The advantage of using the Presonus 44VSL when recording (see last week’s post), is that it comes with a virtual mixer. This software allows me to add temporary reverb to my voice that I would hear immediately in my headphones whilst recording.  This means that I can sing with the freedom and the instincts that I would have in a larger space, such as a concert hall. When performing in these circumstances, your singing and how you produce the sound is directly influenced by how much sound you hear back, due to it bouncing from the walls. This gives you an idea of how the sound is perceived in the space around you by your listeners. Without this added reverb during the recording process, the blankets would soak up all my sound and to my ear, the voice would feel like it was lacking resonance and the spinning quality that leads to good projection. As a result, my mind would primarily focus on how to make them sound more resonant rather than being in the moment and able to sing driven by instincts and imagination. Therefore, this virtual mixer was a happy perk provided by the Audio-box, and it improved my experience during the recording process.

Next week I will discuss how we edited and reviewed the tracks that we recorded. I would love to hear how you have used Facetime and Video calling at the moment, whether it is for its intended purpose of staying in touch with your loved ones or for an activity that you would usually do in person.

Microphone … MicroNoNo

August 23, 2020 — 84 Comments

After turning our balcony into a stage, George and I began thinking about turning our music room into a home recording studio, with the aspiration to record an album during the lockdown.

We wanted the repertoire to be inspired by the balcony concerts so that we can have a keepsake of the experience. We also hoped that it might be a way to generate some income.

I want to share with you our experience as it feels like a family CD that you are all part of. So this week we can take you through how we turned our music room into a pop-up recording studio.

We first began experimenting with recording at home when I was asked to collaborate with Waterperry Opera Festival. The task was to record Maria Bertram’s vocal line for ‘Landscape Gardening’, a scene from Dove’s Mansfield Park. At first, I tried recording it on my phone, and the standard of the recording was.. ok.. but the voice sounded a bit brittle, so to restore the warmth in the voice we experimented with using an external microphone connected to the phone through a Zoom H4n acting as a sounds interface. Both the microphone and Zoom were borrowed from our friends Robert Hodes and Maya Brandenberger who run the Johanna Stifftung (Foundation), and who have supported George throughout his musical career.

The results were great because the recording quality was much better and we didn’t have to worry about aligning the sound in post-production. The voice sounded warmer and richer.

Here is the piece that I recorded
And here is the finished compilation video created by Waterperry Opera Festival as part of their online Opera Gala

This is when I was struck with the idea of trying to record a CD from home.

Our next step was to record the piano and the voice at the same time using the same method but this proposed new challenges as the more sensitive microphone was picking up clicking sounds from the keys being pressed and the quality of the piano playing through the inbuilt speakers didn’t match the sound of the acoustic voice in the room.

So we investigated whether we could record the two instruments separately but simultaneously perform. This would allow the voice to be recorded through the microphone and the piano to be recorded electronically through a direct connection to our zoom interface and then in the computer. Despite this providing a better sound recording of the piano, this setup doesn’t allow for recording both voice and piano at the same time, as we needed three input channels and our zoom interface only had 2. Think of it like trying to charge three phones but your travel plug has only two USB ports.

So we decided to invest in a second-hand sound interface – an AudioBox 44VSL, which solved our input problem, Horray!! So now we had the equipment to record. But we had to think about how to combine this with being conscientious neighbours under lockdown circumstances. Haha. Tune in next week to learn about the next stage and how we conquered the challenge of soundproofing our room.

This week George and I transported our courtyard into an Italian Piazza with an assortment of Italian songs and arias.

We performed:

Vaga Luna che inargenti (Bellini)
Me voglio fa’na casa (Donizetti)
O mio Babbino Caro (Puccini)
Danza, Danza fanciulla (Durante)
Libiamo ne’lieti calici (Verdi)
And a cheeky Encore!

We had a lot of fun preparing the repertoire for this week’s concert, as we revisited a couple of songs from 5 years ago as well as a couple of completely new pieces  😊

This week we also transformed our home into a recording studio with the help of a few pieces of kit, kindly lent to us from our friends Bob and Maya.

This allowed me to collaborate with Jenny Martins and Roger Paterson. Two wonderful colleagues, who I worked alongside last summer at Northern Opera Group in their production of Much Ado About Nothing. We decided to get creative during lockdown and challenge ourselves to record a duet from Act 2. Jenny kindly edited the piece together and I’m thrilled to be able to share it with you.

Much Ado About Nothing Duet:

Jenny Martins (Piano)
Roger Paterson (Tenor – Claudio)
Charlotte Hoather (Soprano – Hero)

Following our short performance last week George and I performed our second balcony concert on Friday 3rd April for our neighbours as we all continue to come to terms with staying at home here in the U.K.

Our song selection this week included a mix of styles to try and please a wide audience of tastes. The pieces that George and I performed were:

      I Feel Pretty, from West Side Story, by Bernstein

      I Could Have Danced All Night, from My Fair Lady, by Loewe

      A Piper, by Head

      O Waly, Waly (folk song) – for my blog friend Hilary, who suggested it.

      O Luce Di Quest’anima, from Linda Di Chamounix, by Donizetti – for a sprinkling of Opera

However, after feedback from last week, we decided to trial live streaming on YouTube. The idea was suggested as our neighbours in our development, who do not face into our courtyard, got in touch and asked if there was a chance, we could share it with them online. So we researched how we could do this and decided to experiment with YouTube Live as I already had an account with them which I use on my blog from time to time.

We set up my phone to capture our performance in the corner of our balcony using a stand with a phone adapter screwed into the top – a little bit of repurposing with pieces that we already had at home. For this our first attempt at live streaming we decided to film live using the unlisted feature, which means people can only watch with a link. We copied and pasted this into our Neighbourhood Facebook page and then let rip.

Moving forwards we hope to share our third balcony concert with you all publicly via my YouTube Chanel. It will take place between 18:00-18:30, weather permitting (UK time) on Friday 10th April. We would love for you to tune in and celebrate music and people coming together during this difficult time.

I want to thank my YouTube subscribers as I wouldn’t have been able to live stream without their support. If you have a YouTube account you can find my channel by clicking on the link : https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjMXKEEZ0Iu32vdQ_GyQXcQ

This is George’s YouTube channel:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClNHb_M4FDh1gwl7h2oiuLw

Hope you can join us, stay at home and stay safe 🙂

Preparing For A New Role

December 1, 2019 — 61 Comments

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 is an example of a Nico Castel transition for Zerlina’s aria from Don Giovanni by Mozart

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.

An example from the score for The Christmas Elf

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 🙂

First Year out of Education

November 24, 2019 — 70 Comments

This week I have had some time to reflect on my near year and a half since I left six years of conservatoire education. I also set some goals for the future and caught up with some household chores! It reminded me that I was recently asked, by my friend Ruth Hallows, to participate in a graduate interview for her blog. Ruth is a cellist, who also studied at the Royal College of Music. We met at a Freshers event which I recall as being a Wine and Cheese night, we both lived in the student halls and quickly became great friends.

The main focus of the interview was to give insight to newly graduating students on how I have navigated through my first year after achieving my master’s degree. I wanted to be honest, but I didn’t want to discourage people. It has been a challenging year but I try to look for the positives and for solutions to problems. In my profession, one encounters a considerable amount of rejection and like all musicians, I am constantly working on my craft and identifying areas for improvement. It takes a lot of personal strength and the support of family and close friends. A quote that motivates me and which is attributed to Winston Churchill:

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

I think this would be my main advice to anybody transitioning to a new phase in life, or in fact just working hard on your chosen path.  As Dory said in the Disney Film Finding Nemo: “Just keep swimming.” Stay focused on your goal and work hard. Acknowledge your weaknesses and practice with scrutiny to better them.

I have included below what I sent to Ruth in response to her questions. I hope that you find it helpful or interesting to read. If it sparks any questions please don’t hesitate to comment and ask.

My first year after graduating with a Master of Performance (Voice) from the Royal College of Music in July 2018 has been a bit of a whirlwind. I have sung in nine operatic productions, performed recitals alongside my duo partner George Todica and entered competitions within the UK, Ireland and South Korea.

The first week after graduating I was thrilled when I won the ‘Pendine International Voice of the Future’ at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod. This prize gave me some breathing space for a couple of months and the opportunity to travel to competitions. Following this achievement as part of my prize I was asked to sing alongside Rolando Villazon and Rhian Lois in Llangollen International Eisteddfod’s Opera Gala in July 2019.

What did you find particularly challenging?

After finishing studies, I found a few things challenging. Whilst studying I lived in the Halls of Residence and I missed the daily close and regular contact with other musicians that this provided and the availability of soundproofed practice spaces with pianos. Living with non-musicians in a shared home (so that I could afford to stay in London) doesn’t work when you have a 09:00 audition on a Saturday morning and you need to warm-up. My coaching and singing lessons became less frequent than I like and the opportunities to create video recordings when you need them disappear.

Was there anything you found you were particularly strong at?

Picking myself up and remaining positive. I try to blog weekly which helps me to remember that even the smallest achievement or recalling how I have relaxed with friends and family in my downtime is worth celebrating. I have a great support network; who I know I can turn to when I need advice and encouragement, including my very generous blog friends. For this, I will be continually grateful. I just haven’t had enough time to read blogs that I like as the professional work takes up such a lot of time to prepare to be ready for short rehearsals, so I hope that you forgive me if I’ve not been able to visit you all as often as I like.

 “There is more honour in defeat than in unused potential.”

What is your top tip for people in their first year out who may be hitting a wall?

There are lots of occasions where your confidence will be knocked and lots of rejections. You may question your dreams and whether you are talented enough to achieve your hopes. The best advice I received was not to measure my current success on my ambitions but on smaller goals that I could control. Such as learning a particular aria or role. I found this far more motivating and it kept me positive during quieter months. Also, don’t feel like you are failing if you have to take on other work to cover your bills. A forward diary of empty spaces is simply opportunities that have not yet been fulfilled.

A Musical Snippet

November 3, 2019 — 44 Comments

Next Saturday, 9th November I will be performing the role of Pandora in Radius Opera’s final production of The Fire of Olympus.  We will be taking the opera to the Hippodrome Theatre, Halifax Road, Todmorden, OL14 5BB, the performance starts at 7:30 pm. 

I have really enjoyed taking on this role which allowed me to explore the character and bring Pandora to life.

Here are a couple of reviews of the production:

THALIA TERPSICHORE – NUMBER 9 REVIEWS 28TH SEPTEMBER 2019

The Fire of Olympus – Manchester

Charlotte Hoather shone as Pandora, here presented as the Presidential Aide who resigns and joins Epimetheus’ gang of rebels. Her clear soprano was especially suited to the nature of the score, and her dramatic performance was strong yet subtle.

ROB BARNETT – SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL 16TH SEPTEMBER 2019

The Fire of Olympus – Burnley

Pandora (a very impressive Charlotte Hoather), clad in statuesque white, is Zeus’s much put upon ‘chef du cabinet’:

There are many poignant moments. I will mention a ‘Queen of the Night’ moment for Pandora.

As The Fire of Olympus draws to a close George and I are looking forward to returning to the North West of England to perform a lunchtime recital at Bamford Chapel and Norden United Reformed Church, Norden Road, Bamford (near Rochdale), OL11 5PQ. If you missed our recital in Warrington then this is a great opportunity to hear our program of music inspired by English texts.

We originally designed the program to celebrate English and American composers and how the music is affected by the different styles and cultures vary. We begin with songs inspired by the English Countryside, local folklore, and Poetry that focuses on Nature‘s connection to love and human emotion. We then decided to throw in a wild card by including the two arias from Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet, sung in English translation. This meant our musical cruise could take a detour to France. Since we were stopping in Paris, George decided to include a piece by one of Paris’s favourite salon players, Frederick Chopin. The piece is called ‘Rondo a la Mazur’ and is one of Chopin’s earliest piano works that showcase his talent of making the piano sparkle. The journey continues as we embark to the New World with musical flourishes of Copland and how his music drew inspiration from American folk songs and finishing off with more glitter with a sprinkling of Bernstein’s.

We really hope you can come along and board our transatlantic musical adventure.

Here is a couple of clips from our performance in Warrington last week:

Romeo & Juliet

October 13, 2019 — 64 Comments

Saturday 19th October at 19:30 pm, opening night, Sunday 20th October 15:00 pm matinee performance sees the culmination of three weeks of intensive but ever so enjoyable rehearsals for Arcadian Opera’s production of Gounod’s Romeo & Juliet.  We are in the fabulous Roxburgh Hall Theatre, Stowe School, MK18 5EH a beautiful location mid-way between Banbury off the M40 J10 motorway and Milton Keynes M1 J14. (Tickets)

During the rehearsals, I have learnt so much working under the watchful ears and eyes of Justin Lavender and Alison Marshall and I can’t wait to take to the stage next Saturday to help bring this opera to life.

Some Pictures From One Of Our Rehearsals

The story is such a sad story. I remember as a teenager, about the age of Juliet in the story, traveling to Verona on a family holiday and visiting the site of Juliet’s balcony.  At the time I just could not have imagined being in her position, a forbidden love with an impossible decision that brought with it unintended consequences.

Juliet’s Balcony – Verona

The music is so beautiful and, in this production, we will be singing in English accompanied by the Arcadian Opera Chorus and Orchestra. Although current productions of Romeo and Juliet are more often than not updated, the set and costumes designed by Stage Director Ali Marshall, put the action back in the wild and dangerous times of fifteenth-century Italy, when gang warfare was also a fact of life.

James Hutchings (Tybalt) practicing swordplay
with William Branston (Romeo)

Justin Lavender, Musical Director

Our Music Director is Justin Lavender, he was originally persuaded by Peter Pears and Benjamin Britten to abandon nuclear engineering for music. His international debut was as Nadir in Les Pêcheurs de Perles at Sydney Opera House. This success led to engagements with opera companies and orchestras throughout the world at the very highest levels. In 1990 he made debuts at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, singing the leading role of Arnold in Rossini’s spectacular masterpiece, Guillaume Tell, as well as at the Wiener Staatsoper as Tamino in Die Zauberflöte. His debut at La Scala, Milan, in the title role of Rossini’s Le Comte Ory came the following year, along with Demodokos in Dallapiccola’s Ulisse at the Salzburg Festival. (MORE)

Alison Marshall, Artistic Director

Alison Marshall initially trained for five years at the prestigious Tring Park School for the Performing Arts after which she studied for a further three years at the Royal Academy of Dancing.   She then became a professional ballet dancer in Germany, rising to be a solo dancer, appearing in many of the favourite classical roles as well as several roles that were created especially for her.  While there, ballet roles permitting, she would occasionally sing in the extra-chorus of the opera company resident in the same theatre. (MORE)

I do hope that if some of you are in the area you can come along to watch, I’ve advised my parents and grandparents to bring along their tissues. Yesterday I introduced my old friends and previous neighbours to come to watch the Fire of Olympus opera in York and they really enjoyed it, especially that for their first experience of opera it was sung in English and they could understand everything. So if you’ve never tried opera and always wanted to know what it is like I recommend Romeo and Juliet, a story you probably know, again sung in English. We’d love you to come along and support us. All my best wishes, Charlotte x

Pictures From Today’s Sitzprobe Rehearsal

My Autumn Tour Of England

October 6, 2019 — 47 Comments

My Autumn will be spent touring around England and you will be able to hear me sing in York, Stowe, Warrington, Stoke On Trent, Todmorden, Bamford, and Leeds.

Next up I will be performing the role of Pandora in ‘The Fire of Olympus’ in York with Radius Opera. We will be appearing at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre on the 12th of October at 7:30 pm. ( Tickets Here )

Then the following weekend I will be appearing as Juliet alongside William Branston as Romeo in Arcadian Opera’s production of Gounod’s Romeo & Juliet at the Roxburgh Theatre, Stowe. ( Tickets Here ) Performances are at 7:30 pm 19th October and 3:00 pm 20th October.

Me with William Branston

The cast members in this production are :
Romeo – William Branston
Juliet – Charlotte Hoather
Stephano- Elouise Waterhouse
Gertrude – Gemma Morsley
Mercutio – James Gribble
Tybalt – James Hutchings
Paris – Matthew Clark
Capulet – Richard Woodall
Friar Lawrence – Tobias Odenwald
and a guest appearance by Adrian Clarke as The Duke

George Todica and Me

Following Romeo & Juliet, I will be performing with pianist George Todica in a lunchtime recital at the Bold Street Methodist Church, 4 Palmyra Square N, Warrington on 26th October.

One of the highlights for me will be performing the role of Pandora in Stoke on Trent at 7:30 pm on Wednesday 30th October at the Repertory Theatre as my Grand Parents and their friends will be in the audience to watch. ( Tickets Here )

My last performance in the role of Pandora for Radius Opera will be at 7:30 pm on Saturday 9th November at the Todmorden Hippodrome, Todmorden. ( Tickets Here ) Although there will be a screening of the film of the opera that Tim Benjamin produced and directed that was so much fun to be a part of. The premiere will be at the Leeds International Film Festival at 7:30 pm on 16th November 2019 ( Tickets Here )

Behind The Scenes During The Filming Of The Fire Of Olympus

I have another lunchtime recital with pianist George Todica at the Bamford Chapel and Norden United Reformed Church at 1:00 pm on the 12th of November.

Then rest…hopefully for just a short spell 😊.

Last night, Saturday 14th September, was the premiere of Tim Benjamin’s The Fire Of Olympus at the Burnley Mechanics Theatre.  It was a lovely venue with a fabulous stage and a wonderful audience.

Michael Vincent Jones as Hephaestus and me as Pandora

After all the hard work put in by everyone involved over the past few months it was such a thrill to finally bring the piece to the stage. It was a wonderful experience to perform such a different character role alongside the rest of the cast and the orchestra to bring Tim’s music to life.

As the tour is still ongoing, I don’t want to give too much away about the production and what we have in store for the audience.  But if you can attend one of the shows I do encourage you to come along and witness the spectacle first hand.

Next Saturday, 21st September, we travel to Huddersfield for a performance at the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Queen’s Square, Queen Street, Huddersfield, HD1 2SP.

Then on to Manchester on the 28th September at the RNCM, 124 Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9RD.

With further performances in York on the 12th October at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, Haxby Road, York, YO31 8TA.

Finally, we bring the tour to a conclusion with two performances one at The Repertory Theatre, Leek Road, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, ST4 2TR on the 30th October and your last chance to catch the production on the 9th November at the Todmorden Hippodrome, 83 Halifax Rd, Todmorden OL14 5BB.

Backstage and ready for the evening’s performance