Last Tuesday Night as I walked on to the main Pavilion stage at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod I had to pinch myself to make sure that it wasn’t all just a wonderful dream.
To be opening the evening’s Opera Gala was a huge honour for me and knowing that I would be sharing the stage with Rolando Villazón and Rhian Lois brought a tingle to my spine.
first two arias of the evening were O Luce Di Quest’anima from Linda
di Chamounix, by Gaetano Donizetti followed by Je Veux Vivre from Romeo
et Juliette, by Charles Gounod.
Rhian Lois then performed Quando M’en Vo from La Boheme, and O Mio Babbino Caro from Gianni Schicchi, both by Giacomo Puccini
Rolando Villazón then treated us to a lovely rendition of L’esule by Giuseppe Verdi .
I then sang my first duet with Rolando Villazón to close the first half of the Gala, Non Ti Scordar Di Me by Ernesto di Curtis & Domenico Furnò. This was so special for me, especially when he produced a rose from inside his jacket and gave it to me during the performance after our little waltz.
For the second half of the evening, I again sang two arias, the first was Qui La Voce Sua Soave from I Puritani, by Vincenzo Bellini followed by Glitter and Be Gay from Candide, by Bernstein. The Gala was brought to an end with the three of us performing Brindisi from La Traviata, by Giuseppe Verdi which was so much fun.
I had a wonderful evening and was thrilled to have so many
people in the audience to support my first Opera Gala including my parents, my
Nana and Grandad, Gill and Terry, and my wonderful blog friends Hilary and
Edwin, and I feel blessed to have shared this experience with them.
I also want to thank James Hendry, the Conductor and the British Sinfonietta for their amazing performances throughout the Opera Gala and for making my evening so special.
I’ve been working on my next opera projects, researching characters, storylines, learning the music and words. I have watched the movie version of the play ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ and bought a couple of books on how to interpret Shakespeare’s words correctly.
This year Northern Opera Group will host the Leeds Opera Festival from 23rd to 27th August 2019 at venues across the city. The Leeds Opera Festival will include A Feast of Falstaff, where the audience will be treated to a sumptuous feast accompanied by music from three Falstaff operas – by Verdi, Salieri and Balfe – followed by a screening of Orson Welles’ masterpiece, ‘Chimes at Midnight’.
Another new performance to be savoured at the Festival is the aptly titled Musical Confusion. This captivating performance will imaginatively weave together text and song to seamlessly bring together Shakespeare’s original plays with many of the operas inspired by his works.
Headlining this year’s Leeds Opera Festival will be a full production of Stanford’s comic gem, Much Ado About Nothing, transported to 1950s small-town America, where the makings of a cultural revolution are just getting started …
There will be two performances in the fabulous setting of Morley Townhall on the 23rd and 24th August at 7:30pm. I am thrilled to share with you that I will be performing the role of Hero in this wonderful production and I can’t wait to meet everyone involved. This will be the second production of the summer that I will take to the stage with the fabulous Phil Wilcox who plays the role of Benedick in this production and he will also be reprising the role of Sir Thomas Bertram when we both return to Waterperry Opera Festival in July to perform in Mansfield Park.
Much Ado About Nothing was a comedy by William Shakespeare, written in 1598 (the middle of Shakespeare’s career). In Shakespeare’s day, ‘Nothing’ or ‘Noting’ as he wrote meant gossip, rumour or overhearing and we all know how much misunderstanding and confusion can be created by a little gossip or Chinese whispers.
Largely unperformed since its premiere at the Royal Opera House in 1901, Stanford’s opera is a hilarious, moving and hugely entertaining adaptation of Shakespeare’s play.
In the story Benedick and Beatrice are tricked into confessing their love for each other, Claudio is tricked into rejecting Hero at the altar on the erroneous belief that she has been unfaithful. But in the end, Benedick and Beatrice join forces to set things right, and the others join in a dance celebrating the marriages of the two couples.
I’ve sung several songs that have used Shakespeare’s words before but this is my first full operatic adaptation of one of his plays. Do you have a favourite play, book or another Shakespeare play that you think would work well set to music?
On Friday I joined the Pop-Up Opera team to participate in the Borders Book Festival, which took place in the heart of Melrose, which is south of Edinburgh.
Just off St Mary’s road, Harmony Garden was home to marquees
filled with events for both adults and children, a pop-up bookshop with some
authors present to sign the books bought by visitors to the festival, and the
We were parked in a great spot between Harmony Garden and
the Orchard where a delightful collection of Food and Drink trucks were
situated decorated in bunting and festive twinkly lights. As well as delicious
and artisanal food to nibble on, there were stretch tents and tipis for shaded
cover – on what turned out to be a miraculously sunny day!
I thoroughly enjoyed being part of the festival and between shows, I took time to explore the stands and enjoying hunting for treats and oddities.
Then on Saturday and Sunday, we set up the trailer at the tranquil Archerfield Walled Garden in North Berwick. The beautiful grounds host a Garden Cafe where the chefs in the kitchen use local produce to create scrumptious dishes for all tastes. Not only was there a soup of the day, but also a scone of the day.
On Sunday it was Father’s Day (Love you Dad) and the cafe celebrated by offering a deal to Dad’s, a burger and a locally brewed beer! Yum! On-site there is also a farm shop, Knops microbrewery, and amazing trails to walk peacefully alone or with your friends, family, and dogs.
One walk that enticed the company, in particular, was the fairy walk! So we decided to treat our stage management and instrumental crew to fairy wings from the shop and prance around the grounds in our Iolanthe costumes. The setting was so beautiful and we had a great time.
On the train back to our London home via Paddington this evening after performing my first concert of 2019 with George Todica. What a thrilling way to start our musical performances for the year.
We performed as part of the Stonevale Recital series, near Swindon an intimate venue where we were warmly welcomed by the concert organiser Lynette and later by the generous and kind-hearted audience of the local village. The audience was made up of all ages and it was lovely to see everyone engage with our performance as we traveled throughout Europe with our musical program.
At the venue, we had the luxury of picking between two pianos for the concert, and George was in a little torment as both pianos were exquisite to the touch and being mindful of the repertoire we were performing he decided to play the Steinway because of its crisp colours and position within the room. Although the Yamaha was a very strong contender with its vibrancy of sound.
It was lovely to travel outside of London bringing our practice to performance level and having fun in the joy of creating live music. We performed a few new pieces and took lots of risks and shaped the stories told by our music based on the reactions of our audience. I also sang a great number of arias which put my stamina to the test! We were really happy and can’t wait to perform more concerts and recitals in this new year!
Earlier in the week, we took inspiration from Diana Damrau and Helmut Deutsch’s Lieder concert at the Barbican this week. The duo looked like they had so much fun on stage seamlessly crafting the music and the poetry. We both thoroughly enjoyed their interpretation along with the rest of the audience who encouraged Damrau and Deutsch’s to perform three encores! Which in turn left George and me with two sets of very red yet enthusiastic hands!
We both wanted to take this joy and energy and try to share it with those who came this afternoon and we hope that in some small way we were able to achieve this.
Recently I met up with my friend Victoria Thomasch who was over from New York to audition in London. We had a great time afterward as I showed her some of the sites around London. Of course, we had to call in at the Opera House and as she is a keen Harry Potter fan we managed to get a few pictures for her scrapbook at Platform 9 ¾, Kings Cross station. I finished the week with a performance for Surrey Opera in their Gala Christmas Fund Raiser which I believe was a great success for them.
Tonight, I will be sat in the living room of my family home, the winter fire dancing, and flickering whilst I’m snuggled under my blanket ready for some cosy restful days ahead over the Christmas break. We have always loved to celebrate Christmas as a time for family in our home, my parents go to such a lot of trouble to dress the house and plan fun activities for the whole family to enjoy. I love this time of year, as I get to see my family and friends, play games, and create crafty designs with my Mum.
My older brother Matt has brought home some of his favourite board games to play. A family favourite is Telestrations, a drawing game that is similar to Chinese whispers, each player has a booklet, you have to draw a miscellaneous object from a mystery card, then pass it on around the other players, the next player has to say what they think the object is from your image. This pattern continues around the group and you have to hope that by the end of the game, the object is the same as the beginning. It’s always funny to see how a word can evolve into something entirely different, and in our family, the drawings can be quite hilarious! I really recommend it!
This afternoon my Mum and I played some Christmas songs to set a festive atmosphere. Then we created some Christmas cards ready to send to our friends next year. I love this activity as you can always use glitter and sparkle this time of year!
How do you spend your Christmas holiday?
I want to wish everyone a fabulous festive break where ever you are in the world and I hope that you have a fantastic time, filled with love, relaxation, and delicious food.
This week I flew to New York City to participate in the live auditions for a Young Artist Program. I was elated to receive the invitation, during the application season I have to send out applications to Opera companies all over Europe and North America. This is a lengthy process requiring references, audition repertoire to […]
Tonight I wanted to write about the comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan as I will be performing the role of The Plaintiff in their one-act opera ‘Trial By Jury’ for Surrey Opera on the 16th December 2018. I will be joined by the talented Stephen Anthony Brown, the effervescent Giles Davis, and the amazing Tim Baldwin for what I hope will be a fun-filled evening.
Sir Arthur Sullivan
My first encounter with Gilbert and Sullivan was when I studied at the junior department of the Royal Northern College of Music when we performed in The Yeomen of the Guard. Gilbert and Sullivan were both born in Victorian England, Gilbert in 1836 and Sullivan in 1842. Their partnership produced fourteen comic operas which have been performed Internationally to appreciative audiences for over one hundred years. Gilbert wrote the Libretti, the text, and Sullivan composed the music.
Trial By Jury
The story pokes fun at the common law of Breach of Promise, it was considered that if a man made a promise of engagement to marry a woman and subsequently changed his mind then his fiancé could sue him for damages. The law was repealed in England in 1970, the last prominent case to be heard in the English courts was the case brought by Eva Haraldsted against the footballer George Best in 1969.
H. Friston’s engraving of the original production of Trial By Jury
In the opera, I play the role of The Plaintiff who is beseeching the court to award her substantial damages as she loves the man who has broken his promise of marriage. The Defendant pleads with the court to keep the award small as he is “such a very bad lot”. There is much argument between the parties with The Jurymen recalling their misspent youth but as they are all now respectable gentlemen, they can have no sympathy with the actions of the defendant.
The Defendant eventually offers to marry both The Plaintiff and his new love, but as The Judge points out that though this would appear to be an equitable arrangement it would be a serious crime in itself. The Defendant then goes on to explain to the court that he is, in fact, a smoker, a drunkard, and a bully (when drunk) and The Plaintiff would not have wanted to spend more than a day married to him. The Judge suggests that The Defendant should make himself drunk to prove his point. The rest of the court objects to this and fed up with the lack of progress the Judge offers to marry The Plaintiff himself. The Plaintiff finds this outcome much to her liking and as such the opera ends on a happier note.
Classical Gala With Rolando Villazón And Guests
I also wanted to share with you that I have been asked to perform at next year’s Llangollen International Eisteddfod as a guest of tenor Rolando Villazón who will be performing there for the first time. Also appearing with him will be the Welsh lyric soprano Rhian Lois. I am thrilled and honoured to have been asked to take part in the concert which takes place on the 2nd July 2019. Tickets will go on sale on the 12th December.
This week I found the inspiration for my blog post when reading back through some comments on previous blog posts. I came across a comment from my blog-friend Eric Christopher Jackson, a wonderful artist who tells stories through Photography it got me thinking. He wrote:
“When you say things like “bel canto phrasing” or “arpeggios progressing to coloratura exercises” I’m at a loss. However, as I continue to read your Blog, I’m learning how to speak “Opera.”
So I thought that I could perhaps create a little glossary, that I could expand upon over time, to help explain some of the details and vocabulary that I may use. Today we will be discussing Voice Types.
But first here are a couple of Buzz Words that you may be helpful:
Vocal Range: A measurement of the range of the notes/pitches that a human voice can phonate/sing.
Vocal Weight: The amount of volume the voice can naturally produce. This is important because it can dictate the size of orchestra that a soloist can comfortably perform with (without any artificial amplification )
Colour: This describes the particular sound of the singer, and is what allows a singer’s voice to be individual and unique. You can describe a voice as warm, bright, dark, light and much more. Preference depends upon the listener.
Vocal Runs: A fast succession of notes that can ascend and descend in pitch rapidly.
Coloratura: An elaborate ornamentation/decoration of a vocal melody, which will often involve runs.
The Voice Types
The initials SATB, which are often used in choirs, stand for the four main voice Types: Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass. These initials are to show that the choir uses the full range of the human voice, as opposed to an all-female or all-male choir. When singing as a soloist, you will also come across the terms Mezzo-Soprano, [usually the same range as an Alto], Contralto, [the lowest female voice], Counter-Tenor, [a male voice who has the equivalent range to a mezzo-soprano] and Baritone, [the male voice lying in between Tenor and Bass].
The Seven Main Voice Types [High to Low]
In the Opera World, these main Voice Types are further categorized to facilitate casting. This system was created in Germany and is called the Fach system. These sub-categories depend upon much of what we have discussed so far one’s vocal range, vocal weight, Colour, flexibility, characters and more.
Listen to the above youtube video created by the Royal Opera House, to hear the different voice types and excerpts of them singing Opera.
I will now explain a little more about my own vocal Fach. If you find it interesting and want to know more, please comment below and I will expand in later weeks.
The Soprano voice:
Full Lyric Soprano
At the moment, I am categorized as a Lyric Coloratura. This means that I have an extended upper range. Personally, I can sing up to an F#, which is needed for roles such as the Queen of the Night from Die Zauberflöte by Mozart and The Controller in Flight by Jonathan Dove. My voice is quite flexible and I can sing a variety of vocal runs. The characters that Lyric Coloraturas would sing are generally young women, who are charming, sometimes short-tempered, coquettish, cheeky and stubborn. In theory, audition songs I select should enable casting directors to see which roles I could be appropriate for and possibly be cast for within their operatic season. This is similar to typecasting for actors in the Movie and Theatre World.
Well known examples of my current voice type: Beverly Sills, Kathleen Battle, Diana Damrau and Natalie Dessay.
To end this evening I have included a link to my live recording of Danny Boy which I performed last week at the Tideswell Male Voice Choir’s Remembrance concert. I was asked if I could share the video of my performance but unfortunately, my Dad was a little too wobbly with the video camera so I hope you enjoy the audio recording instead.
Our short stay in Shetland came to an end last Sunday, 23rd September and I wrote this whilst sat in Sumburgh Airport, with a hot cup of tea beside me and lots of sweet memories and photos to pass the time.
This beautiful island is home to many wonderful views and walks. The unspoiled countryside, dotted with herds of sheep and cows, the occasional Shetland pony, (who actually seem to come in pairs – ready for Noah’s ark perhaps) makes for a beautiful drive to the airport from Lerwick. I must admit one of the strangest differences in the landscape is that there were almost no trees, apart from ones grown lovingly on private property.
Fields were divided by walls of layered slate and grey rocks, it reminded me of one of my favourite films, Stardust where a dry-stone wall divided the real realm from the magical.
The air on the island is magnificently fresh, yet at times it can be quite ferocious if you get caught in between two winds on the beach that links to St. Ninian’s aisle. It was worth it though, as the team and I galloped across the sandy beach – with no plastic or human waste in sight! The crystal blue water kissed both sides of the shell-sand tombolo beach, creating a heavenly pathway to the quiet island.
Lerwick was a delightful town, decorated with bunting which reminded me of my childhood when Knutsford was decorated for the May Day parade. The cobbled streets were decorated with the quaint window displays of hairdressers, soap shops, restaurants, and an amazing Shetland Fudge Shop. One of their specialties is a candy called Puffin Poo, a tasty recipe of white Belgian chocolate with toasted rice and mallow, hand rolled in coconut. A local favourite.
As well as exploring the town, I performed in BambinO with Scottish Opera at the Mareel Theatre, who magnificently recreated the poster out of origami clouds that hung from the ceiling and a hand-drawn blackboard sign, which welcomed families in the foyer. The stage sat in a cosy wooden paneled venue and our four shows were welcomed by a friendly and very enthusiastic audience. I enjoy performing this show so much, because each performance is so different which in turns keeps the story-telling alive, and visiting places like this reminds me how important music and the arts are to local communities.
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.