Mesmerising singing and acting that made me run home to get some sleep so that I could wake up early today and practice some of the ideas I have learned from watching the opera Monday evening.
The soprano Lisette Oropesa performed Lucia exquisitely and despite telling the story with determination and honesty kept the singing consistently beautiful at all times despite the deeply dramatic gothic libretto.
I didn’t know this opera very well and this evening was my first real encounter with it from start to end I felt transfixed by the story.
The direction was very interesting, I loved it and thought the concept of having two distinct rooms in which separate scenarios of the story were unveiled to us in real time was thoroughly enchanting and allowed me to really connect with the character Lucia as I watched her hatch the plan to meet Edgardo her true love and kill Arturo to whom she had been betrothed. To me, this enhanced the intricate detail of the intrigue and added to my enjoyment of the opera.
However, as a singer, I felt for some of the singers on the stage as at times it was difficult to know which of the rooms to watch on the split-screen set. Often, I was drawn to the scenes that were just acting and the performers didn’t sing, but always returning to the singers communicating the story.
For the majority of the story, I didn’t need to watch the subtitles the plot was strong and the acting really told the intricacies of Donizetti’s tragic masterpiece.
It was a brilliant production for anyone preparing the role of Lucia as you watched her live every moment and understand perhaps why she came to complete the actions that she did as a consequence of a forced marriage.
In my last week of September, I experienced some performances of beautiful music.
On Monday I went to the Royal Opera House to watch a performance of La Boheme by Puccini. It was very special to me as I have never seen the production live before and the music is just stunning. I was lucky enough, in August, to purchase a student ticket for the performance. These special student tickets were greatly subsidised and ranged from £1-25. The seats were generously donated by the Bunting Family and Sir Simon Robey and I’m so grateful to them to be able to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity as watching these fabulous operas is so important to our development as students. The production was vivacious and the singers had great chemistry on stage and sublime voices. The set design by Stewart Lang was divine and I remember sitting with my mouth open during the transition of scenery from act 1 (the annex) to act 2 (boutique streets of Paris), which was visible to the audience.
Then on Friday evening after a busy week of making music at the RCM, I went to see Sarah Connelly perform at the Wigmore Hall. The concert was very moving and her beautiful velvety tone was consistent from the first song to the last. It was wonderful as a student of Opera to watch and admire her stamina and artistry guiding the music of the evening. Connelly also wore a fantastic sparkly dress which I particularly enjoyed. After all sparkles on Friday is definitely a must especially now the nights are drawing in.
Then today to bring in the new month, I celebrated my parent’s wedding anniversary with them over FaceTime and then I went to an Escape Room with my brother Matt and our friends Alex and Sarah. We arrived at clueQuest just before 13:00 and there we were ‘locked’ (safely) in a room, that expands as you successfully find more clues. Whilst in the Room you have to solve all the puzzles in a 60-minute countdown. I was able to live out my Nancy Drew fantasy of solving a detective crime story. It was a wonderful experience and very mentally stimulating, perhaps not the most restful Sunday activity. All in all, it was terrifically entertaining and I would definitely go again.
This week I had the pleasure to attend two musical events both of which allowed me to watch some outstanding singers.
On Wednesday I attended the semi-final for the 62nd competition for the Kathleen Ferrier Awards. It was held at the Wigmore Hall in London and the atmosphere felt full of energy and bursting with life thanks to the wonderful supportive audience. I attended the event with my dear friend Harvey, in which we were serenaded by 11 performances from young professional singers. They each had to prepare a varied program lasting up to 20 minutes, which included works from different periods of music. These 11 singers had been selected by audition following the preliminary round. From the 11 singers, the judges had to shortlist 6 for the final that was to take place on Friday 28th April. It was interesting to be able to observe these fine singers as I could relax and enjoy as they created beautiful music. I was thankful for the opportunity to show my support for these amazing young professionals as I know first-hand how important it is for the performers to have an enthusiastic audience in a competition such as this.
The singers selected for the final were: Eduard Mas Bacardit, tenor accompanied by Dylan Perez, piano Julien Van Mellaerts, baritone accompanied by Gamal Khamis, piano Patrick Terry, counter-tenor accompanied by Somi Kim, piano Francesca Chiejina, soprano accompanied by Dylan Perez, piano James Way, tenor accompanied by Natalie Burch, piano Daniel Shelvey, baritone accompanied by Dylan Perez, piano
Following the final on Friday the winners were announced as:
First Prize – Julien Van Mellaerts, baritone
Second Prize – James Way, tenor
Song Prize – Patrick Terry, counter-tenor
Accompanist’s Prize – Gamal Khamis, piano
Congratulations to them on their achievements and special thank you to all of this year’s performers
Then on Thursday, I was able to get a student ticket for the performance of “The Exterminating Angel” at the Royal Opera House. This performance was part of the UK premiere of the opera written by Thomas Adès. It was especially electrifying, as Adès conducted the music himself. The piece was written and sung in English which allowed me to understand the chilling story more easily. The house was very full of excited observers and before a note was played I was bewildered and amazed to see *SPOILER ALERT* real live sheep on the stage! I have no idea why this excited me so, especially after my recent trip home to the English countryside. I was intrigued to see if they would be used whilst the live music was blaring full thrust but just before the conductor took to the podium they were guided off stage.
The opera took place in a mansion in which sophisticated guests are expected for dinner. The large star-studded cast performed the dramatic music and remained on stage for the majority of the performance. Which was wonderful for a student of opera as I could watch the singers acting and analyse their performance throughout. This helped me to see all aspects of the on-stage skills of the performers, from how to draw focus in a busy scene, prepare an audience for a solo, to providing support and ambiance to another character. It was skilfully played throughout and very enjoyable. As the run is still taking place I will not discuss the plot too thoroughly in detail just in case any of you get to see it, but I just want to say that the technical singing of the performers was outstanding. The composer had written huge dynamic and pitch variety which was demanding even for these experienced professional singers. For example, one soprano was singing all of her lines at the extreme of her range – very very high! It was such a feat and I can’t wait to work technically in the practice room so that I may one day be flexible enough to performance pieces like this in the future.
All in all, it has been a fabulous week 😊
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.
As 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.
As British Summer time draws to a close here in London and the prospect of darker evenings and shorter days looms closer I have some good news that I would like to share with you, I was selected as one of several students from the Royal College of Music to audition for the prestigious “Josephine Baker Trust”. For the audition, I had to select three pieces of contrasting repertoire, an aria, an oratorio, and a Lied. Each year they audition prospective candidates from both the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal College of Music in order to produce a list of singers which they can then promote to venues and organisations around the Capital. These performance opportunities help the students on the list obtain much-needed funding towards their education in a very proactive way. So I was thrilled to hear that I had been selected and will become one of the singers on the “Josephine Baker Trust List”.
My “Haugtussa” CDs have finally arrived from the manufacturers. I have had several people ask me over the last few weeks when they would be available to purchase as they prefer to listen to a CD. So if anyone is interested in ordering one here is the link to my shop page 🙂
I had a great start to the week as there was a student evening on Monday at the Royal Opera House, so I went to watch a performance of Shostakovich’s opera “The Nose” It was a piece that I was not familiar with so the opportunity to go along and watch was too good to pass up.
The Royal Opera House provided a little background about the opera which can be seen below:
“Shostakovich was only 20 when he began writing The Nose, his operatic debut. He turned to a tiny short story by Gogol: an absurdist satire, where a civil servant’s errant nose launches its owner on a ludicrous battle against both nose and the authorities, as bureaucratic processes break down in the face of so unusual a problem. Gogol’s surrealist fable fired Shostakovich’s imagination, and he responded with a work of exuberant energy, full of musical jokes and grotesque parody – from the famed Act I entr’acte for percussion ensemble to plaintive laments, careening counterpoint, folksong (accompanied by balalaika) and rambunctious polkas.
Shostakovich finished the work in about a year, and in the following months gave successful performances of extracts from the opera. But it was to be another two years, in 1930, before The Nose was staged in full, by which time Soviet cultural climate had turned sternly against works of such perceived frivolity. The opera was quickly dropped from the repertory; but since its rediscovery in the 1960s it has steadily gained recognition for Shostakovich’s baffling, brilliant wit. This new production is The Royal Opera’s first. Artistic Director of Berlin’s Komische Oper Barrie Kosky directs, fresh from his triumphant production of Saul for Glyndebourne Festival.”
The story was very surreal and for once I was glad of the excellent translation provided by David Pountney, as this production was performed in English. The enthusiasm and energy brought to the production by the cast who were fully invested in their characters brought the bizarre story to life.
Last Wednesday, 12th October, at the Royal College of Music, London, the vocal department organised a Masterclass with Brindley Sherratt that took place at the Britten Theatre. It was fabulous to see the auditorium packed with an audience of students of all ages. I use the word student as I am often reminded during my studies that we never stop learning so perhaps even those members of the public who attended the event for entertainment, a little diversity or just plain curiosity will all have taken something away from the presentation that they probably had not thought about before.
For me, the main points of interest that stood out and that I can’t wait to explore further were:
To gain a beautiful legato line, one should carry the voice so that all the vowels are given enough time to sound.
Try not to push the voice and demand it to project. Simply let the voice out of the body.
To relax and sing into your whole voice whether at pianissimo (very quiet) and at forte (loud).
I particularly found these points interesting because they were not necessarily strict rules but ideas from which I could build my foundations, on which I can strive to improve my vocal technique. Learning how to sing in an operatic style can be very challenging as you often have to unpick someone else’s interpretation of how they achieve proper singing technique. The process can often seem frustrating when all you want to do is to try to fix a mistake or bad habit. But patience in itself is a skill that you need to develop and which enables you to become a better problem solver, allowing you to try out different methods inspired by what you observe. By experimenting and applying these various techniques, it is possible to find a solution which allows you to progress and ultimately become a better singer and performer. Often it can feel like swings and roundabouts, but when you are successful it is very fulfilling, you get an immense sense of satisfaction and personal understanding that perhaps you can pass on to someone else for them to explore.
It is always thought provoking to listen to other Artists and having moved to London I have found that there are many opportunities to learn from those professionals who live and perform in this vast and diverse City. On Friday evening I went to a talk at the Royal Opera House called SILENCED! Art against Authority. It was the first ever Student Insight event held at the Royal Opera House which is an event open strictly for students (of any academic focus). The evening took on the form of a debate chaired by John Hutnyk who along with a panel of six artists discussed their personal perspectives around the suppression and censorship of art around the world.
They began by using videos and a recitation from one of the artist’s works, then flowing seamlessly into discussions and then questions from the audience. Each member of the panel relayed their experiences of how they had used their art to highlight what to them were problematic areas of modern society. It was enlightening to see so much individualism and self-expression, I found the evening stimulating and it encouraged me to be true to myself and to present the stories and poetry that are important to me.