Archives For Opera

Happy Saint George’s day to everyone 😊. It has been a lovely sunny weekend and my last week’s holiday at home for a while as I travel back to London today for the start of the Summer term at the Royal College of Music.

My Nana came to visit so we decided to make the most of the good weather and have a trip out into the countryside. Over the St George’s Day weekend there are usually several activities organised so we headed out to Beeston Castle to see if they were hosting their usual medieval celebrations.

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The Entrance To Beeston Castle

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Medieval Celebrations

There is always plenty to do at this English Heritage site and it brought back many memories from my childhood.

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Me And My Nana

 

We then had a walk around the area surrounding the castle as it provides some beautiful views of the Cheshire countryside.  Slowly making our way down to the Shropshire Union canal which passes close by the castle and has some great little Inns to stop and have a drink or enjoy afternoon tea.

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Beeston Castle

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Taking a Break At The Shady Oak

 

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It was a lovely afternoon and it reminded me of the many trips that we used to go on growing up in Cheshire, a beautiful part of the English countryside.

I will get to return to Cheshire on the 5th May though as I have a recital in Chester organised by my friend Anna Cooper.  We will be performing in an evening of song accompanied by Prajna Indrawati at St Werburgh’s RC Church at 7:30 pm.

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A Cracking Good Easter

April 16, 2017 — 46 Comments

This Easter Sunday we decided to get creative as the weather was too drizzly to go for a family walk.  We checked in the cupboard and the fridge to see what we had in and decided to make some Easter biscuits ( cookies ).  In the morning Matthew and I went down to one of the shops that were open, in order to treat ourselves to some fun cutters and extra food colouring.  We had a brilliant afternoon, the hardest part was waiting around:

Waiting for the dough to prove
Waiting for the biscuits to bake
Waiting for the icing to set to add layers

But in between, we managed to distract ourselves by playing board games with our parents.

Whatever you did today  I hope that you all had as much fun as we did.

 

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Should we play catch ?

 

 

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Matt disapproving of my juggling  

 

 

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My first bunny

 

 

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On to the tray and ready for the oven

 

 

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Out of the oven and too hot to handle !

 

 

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Art attack

 

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Guilty as charged ( caught in the act )

 

 

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Our finished biscuits

 

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.

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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.

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Katie Oswell and Me

Spring Term Exams

March 19, 2017 — 66 Comments

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I have had a fabulous day today, both productive and entertaining.  It is Spring term exams next week and everyone is busy preparing repertoire for assessment.  I was up early to get some rehearsal time in with my very talented friend, Prajna Indrawati. Prajna is from Indonesia and is currently studying for her Masters in Piano at the RCM and kindly agreed to accompany me in my exam.

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Prajna and Me

It was a lovely bright spring morning and the RCM looked very majestic in the sunshine.  I enjoyed the rehearsal and it helped me to get a feel for how the pieces are developing. My exam slot is 10:00 am on Wednesday but on Tuesday I will be singing an aria with Prajna as part of her assessment, and also singing two Lieder with another student Laura Ayoub as part of her accompaniment assessment. It is going to be a busy couple of days.

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The Royal College Of Music

This afternoon we were offered the opportunity to watch the dress rehearsal of ‘Faramondo’ which the RCM is staging in conjunction with the London Handel Festival. The Festival runs from March 18th through to April 24th and also hosts a number of amazing concerts and recitals.  You can watch  ‘Faramondo’ on Monday 20th March, Tuesday 21 March, Thursday 23 March and Saturday 25 March, in the Britten Theatre at the RCM.

It was wonderful to watch the dress rehearsal and see my fellow students from the RCM and the RCM International Opera School perform this fabulous opera.  They brought the story to life in a dynamic interpretation under the watchful eye of the conductor Laurence Cummings and accompanied by the London Handel Orchestra. What a way to spend a Sunday afternoon 🙂

 

My New Website Is Ready

February 26, 2017 — 69 Comments

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.

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Blackpool Tower

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.

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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.

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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.

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Saulius, Thomas, Heather, Natalie, Hana, Antonio, Ryan and Anna

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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.

After several weeks of rehearsals and performances, it was nice to have a little time this week to recharge and become inspired by new repertoire and watch other performers on stage including supporting my friends watching their scenes.

Also last week I had the pleasure of going to watch “Adriana Lecouvreur” at the Royal Opera House. Whilst I’m living in London, I’m trying to see and hear as much as I can and make the most of the student deals that are available. The production was breathtaking and I was able to see one of my singing inspirations, Angela Gheorghiu, who gave an exciting and thrilling performance, but I must say the whole cast was phenomenal. Everybody had such beautiful voices with incredible projection.

roh-friday-17-02-17As a student of Opera, I was interested in how much the set design of this production shaped and aided the story. On stage, there was a working baroque theatre, which allowed for multiple scenes to be portrayed such as a backstage area with dressing rooms, the wings of the theatre, a palace, the actual performing stage and many others. As the story unfolded on stage, our imaginations were entranced by these transformations as the characters glided from one setting to another seamlessly and very naturally.

There was a particularly beautiful moment when there was a ballet depicting a performance of ‘The Judgment of Paris’ within the opera during the palace scene. It created so many dimensions, and it was interesting as the dancers had comedic moments when they made mistakes due to the ‘onstage audience’ diverting their attention as the love rivalry between the Princess and Adriana created a frosty atmosphere. As a performer, I couldn’t help but want to watch the ballerinas while at the same time trying desperately to take it all in. It was such detailed direction I wish I could afford to go and see it all over again.

I have tried to write a brief synopsis of the story which I hope gives you an idea of what was happening on stage:

This tragic story centers around an actress, Adriana Lecouvreur and the men who fall in love with her. Michonnet, the stage manager of the company that she performs for, is one of her admirers. He tells Adriana of his feelings for her, but she tells him that her heart belongs to a soldier, Maurizio, who is in the service of the Count of Saxony. But like all good operas Maurizio is no soldier; instead, we find out that he is actually the Count of Saxony.

Maurizio has another, more important admirer, the Princess of Bouillon. During a party thrown by the Prince de Bouillon, the plot thickens as the Princess tells Maurizio that her heart belongs to him, but he tells her that he does not feel the same way. She guesses that he has taken a lover and though he will not reveal her name the Princess is desperate to find out who her rival is. As the Prince arrives at the party, the Princess is left having to escape so as not to be found out. In the darkness, she is helped to escape by Adriana, and the Princess grows ever more suspicious of her.

The Princess is even more determined to find out the truth, and her suspicions deepen as the story continues to unfold. Adriana is told by the Princess that Maurizio has been injured in a duel and Adriana gives away her true feelings for him when he later joins the group uninjured. The Princess concludes that Adriana is her love rival and decides to have her revenge.

As the story comes to its tragic end, Adriana receives what she believes is an unwanted gift returned by her lover, Maurizio. She kisses the flowers, hurt by the thought that Maurizio no longer loves her and throws them away. But Maurizio finds her and tells her that she is the one for him and asks her to marry him. As the couple embrace, Maurizio fears for her as she trembles in his arms. The flowers had been poisoned by the Princess who gets her revenge as Adriana dies in the arms of her lover.

Here are some of the pictures from the Royal Opera House Flickr website.

Angela Gheorghiu and Brian Jagde in Adriana Lecouvreur, The Royal Opera © ROH 2017. Photo by Catherine Ashmore

Gerald Finley and Angela Gheorghiu in Adriana Lecouvreur, The Royal Opera © ROH 2017. Photo by Catherine Ashmore

Gerald Finley, Angela Gheorghiu and Bálint Szabó in Adriana Lecouvreur, The Royal Opera © ROH 2017. Photo by Catherine Ashmore

Production Photo of Adriana Lecouvreur, The Royal Opera © ROH 2017. Photo by Catherine Ashmore

Angela Gheorghiu in Adriana Lecouvreur, The Royal Opera © ROH 2017. Photo by Catherine Ashmore

Ksenia Dudnikova, Angela Gheorghiu and Brian Jagde in Adriana Lecouvreur, The Royal Opera © ROH 2017. Photo by Catherine Ashmore

Angela Gheorghiu in Adriana Lecouvreur, The Royal Opera © ROH 2017. Photo by Catherine Ashmore

Angela Gheorghiu in Adriana Lecouvreur, The Royal Opera © ROH 2017. Photo by Catherine Ashmore

Angela Gheorghiu and Brian Jagde in Adriana Lecouvreur, The Royal Opera © ROH 2017. Photo by Catherine Ashmore

Britten Opera Scenes

January 29, 2017 — 51 Comments

On Friday I had the pleasure to share the stage with my wonderful colleagues in a set of Opera Scenes produced by the Royal College of Music. The scenes were all from the works of Benjamin Britten to mark the 30th anniversary of the building of the Benjamin Britten Theatre at the College and included:

The Rape of Lucretia
Albert Herring
Turn Of The Screw
Owen Wingrave
Billy Budd
A Middummer Night’s Dream
Paul Bunyan

The week leading up to the performance was well organised and very slick. Each scene had its own separate rehearsal on Monday to iron out any wrinkles and make any final corrections. Then on Wednesday and Thursday we began running the scenes together to get a sense of timings and a feel for the overall production.

It was brilliant to be able to support and watch my colleagues as we began bringing the show together. We then added curtain calls, lighting and special effects. Then on Friday we came in early to do our make up and hair. After that we finally got to wear our costumes and worked out any last-minute niggles and the timings for the quick changes. Then after these two rehearsals we performed the show at 5:30.

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Carly Owen and Me

I performed as Flora from “Turn Of The Screw”, alongside Ashlyn Tymms as ‘Mrs Grouse’, Carly Owen as ‘The Governess’ and Josephine Goddard as ‘Miss Jessel’. I had a great time preparing for the scene alongside these fantastic singers and I hope we can work together again in the future.

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Eleanor Sanderson-Nash, Carly Owen, Harry Thatcher, Me and Amy Manford

I also took on the part of one of the fairies in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” with Amy Manford as ‘Tytania’, Feargal Mostyn-Williams as ‘Oberon’, Stephen Mills as ‘Lysander’, Beth Moxon as ‘Hermia’, Eleanor Sanderson-Nash as ‘Helana’, Harry Thatcher as Demetrius, Rory Carver as ‘Puck’. Eleanor Sanderson-Nash, Carly Owen, and Ida Ranzlov were the other Fairies. It was so much fun to be part of such an enthusiastic group of performers and I had an amazing time.

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The Whole Cast

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Timothy Edlin, Eleanor Sanderson-Nash, Carly Owen, Me, and Amy Manford

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Me with Ida Ranzlov

 

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Rory Carver, Me and Amy Manford

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Me and Director, Lorenzo Mariani

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Timothy Edlin and Richard Pinkstone

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Beth Moxon and Me

To end my post tonight I would like to wish you all a happy and prosperous Chinese New Year as we enter the year of the Rooster.

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