Archives For Scottish Opera

All Systems Go

July 31, 2016 — 70 Comments

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All systems go this week as we launch into an exciting project that will span over the next few weeks.

Earlier in the year I successfully auditioned for the part of Frasquita in the Berlin Opera Academy production of Carmen, and today, I’m travelling to the fabulous city of Berlin in Germany to join the rest of the cast for the rehearsals. I must thank the Hope Scott Trust for generously agreeing to cover the costs of my flights so that I could take up this opportunity. The Director has been inspired by choreographer and dancer Bob Fosse so I’m very excited to be part of the production because I get the chance to incorporate dance movement with emotive arias while wearing fringe, mesh, and velvet costumes.

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Some Of The Buildings Here In Berlin Are So Colourful

But before getting stuck in I was invited to work with Scottish Opera Connect on the role of ‘Serpina’ in “La Serva Padrona” by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi. I enjoyed preparing this role, with a character that packs a punch with a lot of cheeky smiles.  On my arrival back in Glasgow, I was thrilled to be asked by Scottish Opera Connect to take on the role of guest vocal coach and teacher.  It felt strange at first for me to be the person leading the lesson but I quickly settled into it and taught one-to-one lessons with Ruth Wilkinson a wonderful experienced pianist accompanying and I worked with a team of fabulous musicians to coach the ensembles.

Participating in the project was a great experience for me as it provided me with my first official teaching job after completing my degree and it was so exciting to work with young voices and use exercises and games to help improve and create what I hope were positive results for the students.

On Friday morning, alongside Andy McTaggart the former Scottish Opera Emerging Artist, I performed for the Connect Company and Andy and I held a “Question & Answer” session about music in higher education and the possibilities available to graduates moving onwards into the business. This experience was very surreal for me as it made me realise that I am now considered a professional singer, and over the last four years I have accomplished some exciting things. When answering I tried to be as honest and helpful with my answers as I could be, then afterwards I thought to myself that I would have loved an opportunity like this at the age of the group (14-17), who were all on a summer residency a training week for young singers auditioning to become members of the Connect Chorus.

Last night ( Saturday ) I went to support my friend Keanon Kyles from Chicago, America. He was performing his first UK appearance in the role ‘Colline’ from “La Boheme” by Puccini with Clyde Opera. The performance was thrilling and full of dramatic character and beautifully set. It was so wonderful to see the result of the hard work he had put in, as he told me all about the build up to the performance during his visit to Glasgow.

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Keanon Kyles and Me

On Wednesday this week I traveled back up to Glasgow so that I could start rehearsals on Friday 22nd July as a soloist for the Scottish Opera Connect Company. It was wonderful to meet up with the current members of the Company at the rehearsal space at Elmbank Crescent and start the preparations for Sunday’s performance.

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This year they have been asked to showcase their work during the opening ceremony of the 32nd World Conference of the International Society for Music Education.  The event is taking place at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall tonight ( Sunday 24th July 2016 ) at 18:30 pm.  It is a fabulous venue, and I am thrilled to performing here again as part of such a fabulous occasion.

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Scottish Opera Connect Company comprises of the Connect Chorus, the Connect Orchestra, and Connect Stage management, which all provide valuable experience for young people between the ages of 14 and 21 in all aspects of Opera.  It is a fantastic program and one that I have been proud to be associated with.  For this event, they are showcasing the work that they do by performing a 15-minute excerpt from Scottish Opera’s “Cabinet of Doctor Caligari”.

The production was commissioned by Scottish Opera for the Connect Company and composed by Karen MacIver and librettist Allan Dunn.  The story, based on the 1920’s German silent horror movie “Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari”, relates a tale of murder, intrigue, and mayhem.

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The Poster From The 1920’s Film “Das Cabinet Des Dr. Caligari”

In this adaptation, we find the story set in Scotland and unfolds in Glasgow Green and within the Gartloch Asylum. Doctor Gallagher travels around the fairs and festivals using his somnambulist ( a great word for someone under a hypnotic trance ) called Cesare to commit evil murderous deeds.  At one of these fairs, my character ‘Jane’ is told by Cesare while he is in a hypnotic trance that her friend Ellen will die.  Following Ellen’s death Jane and her boyfriend Francis ( played by Glen Cunningham ) decide to investigate further but the whole experience tips Jane over the edge and with her sanity failing she is recommended to attend a doctor Caligari at the Gartloch Asylum. The story concludes as Doctor Caligari and his alter ego Doctor Gallagher are exposed as being one and the same person, and his murderous deeds are finally uncovered.

 

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Leah Duncan, Me, Glen Cunningham and Erin Spence

The whole production brought enthusiastically to life by the conductor, Chris Gray, and the director Julie Brown has been a wonderful experience to be a part of, and it has been a pleasure to work with them again.  The professionalism that they bring to these productions provides the members of the Connect Company a real taste of what it would be like to take to the stage as a professional performer.  Being asked to perform as a professional soloist alongside so many talented and enthusiastic young performers from the Connect Company has been an experience that I will cherish forever, and I will always be grateful to Scottish Opera for allowing me to be a small part of this empowering educational project.

Here are some pictures with the members of the Connect Company.

With the staff backstage, Rose Ann, Laura McIntosh and in the bottom picture Jodie Mitchell with me and Sophie Holloway

Here a couple of pictures whilst we were on stage performing this evening taken by Ankna Arokiam 🙂

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I found out today that Nicky Spence, a patron of the Connect Company, set out from Glasgow on a sponsored cycle ride to London in aid of Help Musicians UK who carry out such tremendous work in helping to provide much-needed funding to selected musicians to assist in their studies and professional development.

That’s A Wrap

June 12, 2016 — 49 Comments
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Packing Away The Set For The Last Time

What a wonderful experience! Over 20 shows completed across various venues in Scotland, reaching out to different primary schools and families from even further afield. It has really been a joy.

I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the company and all the team at Scottish Opera Education. I have learnt so many wonderful things that I can take with me and use throughout my training and in any future productions that I participate in.

Performing for children aged 5-8 has been a real treat, even though it feels like I have exhausted all my smiling muscles, and yet the experience has left me with my batteries feeling fully recharged and I now feel so full of life.

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Every Time a new group came to watch we had to tell the story as if it was our first performance, to keep the magic alive and our energies high. It was interesting to see how each group interacted with the story and it was so rewarding to see their reactions, gleeful laughter and imaginative ideas on how to help us fix up the town. I have smelt shoes, broken baguettes, folded paper fortune tellers, banged sweeties and eventually solved the problem with my trusty glue stick.

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This experience has also helped me to think on my feet and answer questions from the audience very fast. It reinforced how much I love performing and how important it is to make opera and classical music accessible and enjoyable for children and hopefully foster a love of these beautiful works. I think this is so important because we need to keep the art form fresh and inviting to new audiences and encourage them to become regular visitors to opera productions in the future.

I do hope that I can work more on opera for children and collaborate with other talented performers in order to tell these imaginative stories through spoken word, music, singing and actions.

I am looking forward to starting the rehearsals next week for Opera Britain’s production of Don Giovanni and I get to explore my vampish side for the role of Zerlina.  This is such a contrast to the last few weeks and should also prove to be great fun. Next Saturday the 18th June the whole cast is putting on a fund raiser and we all get to perform some of our favourite songs, it should prove to be a fun evening.

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My Final Week

June 6, 2016 — 69 Comments

This is my final week at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and performing in ‘The Little White Town of Never Weary’. I have six days; three days in Aberdeen and three in Glenrothes up to and including Saturday 11th June 2016 where we have two public performances.

It’s been an amazing experience, the work is very collaborative which I love and relies on us working closely together and engaging with the audience of very enthusiastic young children. Whilst at the Royal Conservative of Scotland I’ve had access to working with a cross-discipline network of people and this was excellent preparation for me. The company is made up of myself, two very multi-talented actors John Kielty and Frances Thorburn and a brilliant percussionist/drummer Stuart Semple. We are so lucky to be supported by a great team from Scottish Opera who have made this all possible.

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The production has had some lovely reviews and at one of the performances I was assessed as part of my performance portfolio for my degree so fingers crossed 🙂

Reviews:
http://www.southsideadvertiser.biz/scottish-opera-the-little-white-town-of-never-weary.htm

https://mumbletheatre.net/2016/06/02/the-little-white-town-of-never-weary/

Last night ( Sunday 5th June ) we travelled together to Aberdeen and I am looking forward to our dates in this beautiful city.

Then on to Glenrothes culminating with our final public performances on Saturday 11th June at Auchmuty High School, Dovecot Road, Glenrothes KY7 5JL.

Coming up next is Don Giovanni on 25th June 2016 and I get to perform the role of Zerlina whose costumes are inspired by the film “Grease” so I get to dress up like Olivia Newton-John’s character Sandy 🙂

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This week I have had such a wonderful time! Continuous blue skies with a sprinkling of sun rays and the opportunity to perform for a variety of audiences.

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On Monday morning, before taking ‘The Little White Town of Never Weary’ on tour we performed the show at the Scottish Opera Studios in Glasgow, for staff of the institution and a local primary school. My lovely teacher Judith Howarth also came along to support me and gave me some great pointers to aid my singing.

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Francis Thorburn, Me, Stuart Semple and John Kielty ( copyright Tim Morozzo )

This was very exciting as it was our first public practise in costume to iron out any wrinkles, but more importantly to make sure it was entertaining for the target audience of 5-8 year old children. To add to the nerves, it was recorded for Scottish Opera records and the wonderful photographer Tim Morozzo took some snaps of it for promotion. The piece ran smoothly and the children were really enthusiastic and enjoyed the jokes which was very exciting ahead of our first public performances. As a company we were able to relax into the characters and take more risks during the later run. After the performance we stayed in costume and created this short video to advertise the show. It was fun to work with camera! A new experience for me.

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Iain Piercy ( one of the set designers )

On Wednesday morning at 10:00 I performed my final recital of my undergraduate degree at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. It took place in the Stephenson Hall and some of my family were able to come and watch, along with some friends and staff from the school. Who all gave me lovely feedback afterwards. I performed alongside George Todica, who did an amazing job of the accompaniment. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and I will always remember the lessons I have learnt during my time at the RCS.

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After this I got changed quickly and made a mad dash to the Scottish Opera Building and I travelled to Kirkcudbright with Jane and Ian who very kindly took me with them so I didn’t have to drive after my adrenaline filled morning. We had a lovely trip in the most beautiful countryside. After lunch I went straight into a rehearsal in the new performance space so that the company and I were ready for our opening performance on Thursday morning.

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In between performances we were able to relax in the beautiful town, everyone was wonderful company. We took some lovely walks around the town and I visited the toll booth clock and Jessie M King’s house which both inspired the stage design for the opera.

By Saturday lunchtime we had performed five shows and then my family and George and Alex came and watched the public show in the afternoon. It was such a treat to perform for them and they got stuck in and helped the young children with the art workshop that takes place during the performance. After that the company and I took down the stage and started to pack it all into the van like a huge game of Tetris! Once completed we hit the road ready for a restful Sunday today.

This coming week we are performing two shows in Musselburgh and three in Falkirk.

I’m really excited to announce that I am working with Scottish Opera’s Education Department on their touring production of ‘The Little White Town of Never Weary’.

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It is an interactive show for 5-8 year olds and their families. The tale is inspired by the illustrated story of the same name by “Glasgow Girl” and artist, Jessie M King; next year will be the 100th anniversary of the publication of the book.

In the interactive music adventure I play Jessie Junior who meets some fabulous characters; Gilbert; Dame Lucky; Sweetie Meg; and Boofoo the Talking Cat together we repair the town made from ‘cardboard’. The story will challenge and encourage the children to think about the area around them and how the buildings were they all live help to create a wonderful place to grow up.

It ties in nicely with 2016 being Scotland’s year of innovation, architecture and design. It has been a pleasure to work with the whole team over the past two weeks and I’m looking forward to our last week of production next week.

We will be going on tour to Kirkcudbright, Musselburgh, Falkirk, Aberdeen & Glenrothes from 26 May to 10 June. It will be a wonderful way to celebrate the end of my undergraduate degree and get some experience working in a company. I’m very grateful to Scottish Opera for the Experience.

Here are some pictures from rehearsal with my fellow performers, Francis Thorburn, John Kielty and Stuart Semple, learning so much from these guys, as well as my wonderful director Julie Brown and Music Director and Composer the fabulous Karen McIver. To help make our rehearsals run smoothly we have worked with Katy Nicolson, Paul Nobel and Dougal Gudim our talented technical stage management team. I wish I could show you a photo of the set its exciting and will intrigue the children, but you don’t need to be seven to watch it! It has been such a treat to work with such lovely people. I can’t wait to start again on Monday.

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Stuart Semple, Me, Francis Thorburn and John Kielty

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Karen McIver, Me, Julie Brown, Stuart Semple, Francis Thorburn and John Kielty

After a busy full week, as I’m also keeping on top of my preparations for my final recital, I was able to watch Scottish Opera’s ‘Mikado’ by Gilbert and Sullivan on Saturday night at the Theatre Royal. This brilliant comic opera by the British duo was incredibly humorous and fun to watch from curtain up to the bows.

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On my way in to the Theatre Royal to watch ‘The Mikado’

The comic timing between the company seemed effortless and was very effective in producing lots of tummy tickling moments. The set was fantastic and looked like a colourful Chinese pop-up book on super large scale. I particularly liked the giant skeleton and the male chorus of decapitated heads! Special congrats to cast and the Scottish Opera team for pulling the show together despite the unexpected and superbly executed fire alarm evacuation.

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Outside during the evacuation

It made the night even more memorable and unique especially when Pooh-Bah warns Ko-Ko of the imminent arrival of the Mikado by exclaiming ‘This isn’t a false alarm!’ causing rapturous laughter from all of the audience. This show is now on tour around Scotland and is going to Newcastle upon Tyne, Bristol and Southampton if you need cheering up or just a good laugh go to see this show 🙂

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A Very Musical Weekend

February 21, 2016 — 49 Comments

I’ve had a very musical end to my week.

On Friday I went to the lunchtime concert at the RCS which featured ‘Mr McFalls Chamber’ group performing ‘All of the Above’. The programme was an energetic and innovative collection from jazz to rock and tango to contemporary classical.  The ensemble performed a commissioned piece by Paul Harrison who works in the RCS teaching jazz piano. They also performed arrangements of Frank Zappa’s songs and a piece by Tim Garland, Martin Kershaw, Joe Zawinul and Raymond Scott.  A little extra fairy dust was created by a very colourful lighting design that really lifted my Friday to new exciting heights. It was a real treat as often this isn’t paired with classical concert scene. Providing lots of food for thought!

Maximiliano Martín, clarinet
Cyril Garac and Robert McFall, violins
Brian Schiele, viola
Su-a Lee, cello
Rick Standley, double bass
Paul Harrison, keys
Iain Sandilands, percussion
Stuart Brown, drums

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Mr McFalls Chamber’


In the same evening, I went to the RCS symphony concert conducted by Alpesh Chauhan. It was lovely to see and support my friends as they continue through their training especially with graduation exams looming. The ensemble did a great job of performing this top tier concert repertoire, creating beautiful images and persuasive colours with sound.

The orchestra performed: 

Hector Berlioz ‘Grande Overture du Roi Lear, Op. 4. 

This composition was created after a dramatic moment in Berlioz’s life. Whilst living in Rome, Berlioz heard that his fiancée had married someone else. In a reaction of fury he purchased two revolvers and a measure of laudanum and strychnine and vowed revenge as he began his journey back to France. (Perhaps this story needs to be evolved into an opera libretto!) However he got as far as Nice, and then abandoned his plans. Berlioz then spent three weeks in the Mediterranean to recover and was enraptured by Shakespeare’s King Lear and decided to compose in his bout of enthusiasm.

Claude Debussy, La Mer 

These symphonic sketches were inspired by Debussy’s vivid memories from his childhood summers spent overlooking the Mediterranean Sea at Cannes. He wrote ‘I love the sea and I have listened to it passionately’ and he thought that music provided the ability to evoke the constant mutability of the sea that painters could not but often strived for.  This work was stunning and if you like paintings by Turner well worth a listen!

Berlioz,  Symphonie Fantastique 

In my first year I wrote about this piece and it was wonderful to hear it performed in my final year of my degree. The piece itself is programmatic and depicts an artist who is heartbroken from unrequited love, (Berlioz himself), who then tries to end their suffering by taking an opium overdose. However the drug sends him into a hallucinatory dream that creates a series of episodes.

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Then yesterday, Saturday 20th February I was thrilled to go and watch Scottish Opera’s ‘Ariodante’ by Handel. This was a superb production and possibly one of the best I have seen them put on. It was set in modern Scotland, depicted successfully through the stage design which reminded me of a contemporary home design featuring a wall of glass, metal spiral stairs and Edison style light bulbs in triangle cages. The singing was very classy and often sounded effortless. The cast did a wonderful job of sustaining my attention through the 3 hour performance by their romantic and expressively dramatic performance.

Each character went on a clear journey ending with a happy ending, (except for Polinesso who fell at the strike of a sword).

It was personally wonderful to see Jennifer France sing “Dalinda” because in my first year I saw her perform in a very sparkly long dress some Benjamin Britten in a cross Conservatoire competition held at the RCS. She still sounds amazing and her performance was particularly inspiring.

To finish off what has been a fabulous weekend I was able to enjoy some more Opera at the “Ye Cronies Opera Award” at the RCS. Where 16 students from the postgraduate Opera course competed for the annual prize. Everyone performed really well and the pianists were all supportive and brilliant too!

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Ye Cronies Opera Award at the RCS

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Each performance was of a high standard and I did not envy Neal Davies (who performed the role of The King in Ariodante) job of coming to a decision. Charlie Drummond came second and Euros Campbell came first. Congrats to all who competed and a big thank you to the audience for their support.

On Wednesday it was my friend Les Hughes’s landmark 50th birthday. He is a keen Liverpool FC fan so I recorded this song for him as part of his celebrations, I hope that he enjoyed it 🙂

To close I hope that  you all have a fabulous week 🙂