After weeks of anticipation, Saturday finally arrived and team BambinO set off to New York for a week of performances at the Metropolitan Opera House. If you would have told me twelve months ago that working with this amazing team of creatives would lead me here I would never have believed it.
I was up bright and early, packed, and excited for the day ahead, eight hours after leaving Edinburgh we landed in Newark, collected our luggage, and met the drivers who were to take us to our hotel. The drive in from Newark Airport was a great way to see some of the City and I couldn’t wait to check in and explore the area around the hotel.
The Metropolitan Opera House
With a five-hour time difference, I was keen to stay awake as long as possible and not let the jet lag take hold. After a quick freshen up I arranged to meet up with Lliam Paterson, and together we set off walking to explore the area around where we were staying. It wasn’t long before we found the Lincoln Centre Plaza and I found it hard to contain my excitement as we approached the Metropolitan Opera House. It was only just sinking in that we would be here on Monday for the first of our performances.
Lliam Paterson, the Composer of BambinO and Me
This morning after a great nights sleep I met up with David Sneddon and Laura Sergeant and we set off to enjoy our free day in the City. Amongst some of the things we managed to do today were walking across Brooklyn Bridge, catching The Staten Island Ferry, and we walked through Times Square. I wanted to finish off tonight’s post by sharing some of the pictures we took.
I Can’t Believe That I Am Here On Brooklyn Bridge, New York.
Laura Sergeant, David Sneddon, and Me On The Brooklyn Bridge
Laura Sergeant and Me On The Brooklyn Bridge With The New York Skyline Behind Us
Statue Of Liberty
New York County Court House
New York City Fire Station
Madison Square Park Looking Down 5th Avenue Towards The Empire State Building
Check out the trailer for BambinO on the Metropolitan Opera’s YouTube Channel:
Laura Sergeant, Tim Connor, Ruth MacKenzie ( Théâtre du Châtelet ), Me, and Stuart Semple
The venue for our final week’s performances of BambinO is the CentQuatre, it is a huge exhibition and performance space owned and financed by the City of Paris. We are using one of the many smaller performances areas within this amazing building, which in total covers over 25,000 square metres and can accommodate over 5000 visitors per day.
Outside one of the great halls at the CentQuatre
I discovered that the building has over 200 artists in residence and provides a varied and intriguing mix of both live performances and static Art exhibitions. It is hard to visualise that this building originally housed the city undertakers for Paris, for over 120 years it employed over 1000 people who arranged over 150 funeral processions each day. In 1993 the municipal monopoly on the provision of funerals came to end and the building finally closed in 1998. Luckily the building was registered as a historical monument and with the backing of the people of Paris, the Mayor went about finding out the best way to both safeguard and reuse the space. In 2008 I think that they achieved both when it reopened in its current configuration, and I hope that it continues to provide Parisians with a place to socialise, a grand exhibition space, and somewhere to enjoy a wide variety of live performances.
Our run here at CentQuatre finishes on the Friday 20th April, which will also mark the end of our short tour here in Paris for the Théâtre du Châtelet. It has been a wonderful time with some amazing venues and I will be sad to say goodbye when we have to leave next Saturday, so instead, I’ll just say au revoir.
After One Of Our Performances Last Week at Bibliothèque Jacqueline de Romilly
I arrived in Paris with the rest of Team BambinO and we were immediately welcomed by everyone at the Théâtre du Châtelet. The French audiences have been amazing and with the first few shows successfully completed I can’t wait to continue the run. It is crazy to look out across the city skyline from each of the venues and see so many iconic landmarks.
I have managed to practice speaking French and more importantly understanding replies and been happy to walk around Paris in the Spring sunshine. Here are a few photographs that I have taken for my scrapbook that I wanted to share with you all.
Tim Connor, Alison Reid, David Sneddon, Stuart Semple, Lissa Lorenzo, Me, and Laura Sergeant on the balcony of our changing room at the British Consul, Paris.
The set laid out ready for our performance at the Conservatoire Municipal, Les Halles, Paris
The three pictures above are from the Flower Market on the Île de la Cité, Paris.
Stravinsky Fountain, 2 Rue Brisemiche, near the Pompidou Centre, Paris.
This stunning iron-work sculpture is on the wall of the building next to the Le théâtre de la Tour Eiffel, Paris.
The view of the Eifel Tower across from the British Consul, Paris
Basilique Sainte-Clotilde, 23B Rue las Cases, Paris
At the bottom of the Rue des Dechargeurs as the Paris marathon passes on the Rue de Rivoli
The Metro at Place Colette, close to the Musée du Louvre, Paris
In the Jardin Nelson Mandela near to the Chatelet Les Halles, Paris
Inside the In the Chatelet Les Halles, Paris
Inside Galeries Lafayette,Paris.
The view from the roof of the Galeries Lafayette Paris
As the Easter Holidays approach, I have some great news to share with you all, I have been asked by Scottish Opera and Improbable to join my friends Tim Connor, Stuart Semple and Laura Sergeant to perform ‘BambinO’ in Paris for the Théâtre du Châtelet this April.
Back Row: Laura Sergeant & Stuart Semple Front Row: Me & Timothy Connor
But before leaving London I had to make sure that I returned all the books that I borrowed from the RCM library for my recent project ‘Women In Music’, my backpack was a lot lighter on the way home 🙂
I arrived back in Glasgow late on Thursday night and it was great to team up with my friends again on Friday morning for rehearsals to refresh the show for the French audiences. It is amazing to see how this wonderful mini-opera, written by Lliam Patersonand directed by Phelim McDermott, has progressed since we first got together back in December 2016. I can remember seeing the set and the costumes for the first time, designed by Emma & Giuseppe Belli, trying to visualise how the babies would respond to their imaginative use of props and move around the fabulous space created for each performance.
Following our performances in Manchester, Edinburgh, and Glasgow last year I can’t believe that we will now get the opportunity to perform in several venues around Paris organised by the Théâtre du Châtelet, who have embraced the idea of making this production accessible to a wider audience. We will start the tour on 6th April performing twice a day in various locations until the 11th April. On the 13th April through to the 20th April, we will perform twice daily at Cent Quatre. The shows are free for babies with a small charge of four euros for each accompanying adult.
Inside Cent Quatre
It will be such fun to practice my French with the audiences after each show and I hope that the babies can cope with my pronunciation. I’ve already started revising my French conversation skills and I would love to hear of any recommendations for nice walks, places to visit, French meals I should try to cook over the course of my visit. (The perks of having a self-catered apartment). It is such a fantastic opportunity for me to spend some time in Paris and experience the French culture which will hopefully influence my interpretation of French song. I will let you know how it goes and hopefully get some pictures to share with you.
Following my blog anniversary, I said that I would select three people from those who commented or placed a like on the post and send them a signed copy of my ‘Haugtussa CD’. There were 139 people in total so I used a random number generator to select the winners.
I am pleased to announce that the three-people selected were John Howell, Peter Alexander, and Dora Buonfino. I managed to contact John and Peter and have posted their CDs to them which should arrive this week (fingers crossed). I have just received Dora’s forwarding address and will try and post it to her before I leave for Paris.
As I sit on the train traveling down to London this evening looking through the window as we travel south watching people celebrate bonfire night with the most fabulous firework displays. It is great to reflect on our last two performances of BambinO today which like the displays I have witnessed tonight concluded in spectacular fashion.
This has been a fantastic production to be involved with and I have enjoyed every second working on stage alongside Timothy Connor, Laura Sergeant, and Stuart Semple. With over 70 performances this year at venues around Manchester, Edinburgh and now Glasgow David Sneddon our brilliant Stage Manager has played a huge part in allowing us to bring a little music and magic to the wonderful audiences that came to join us.
Back Line: Laura, Tim, Lliam, Rachel, Stuart Front Line: Me and Julie
With each show, our front of house colleagues have made sure everyone who comes to watch has an amazing experience and I can’t stress enough the importance they play in making each performance feel special.
From the fabulous and inspiring set and costume designed by Emma and Giuseppe Belli to the free-flowing and imaginative direction inspired by Phelim McDermott, this production has been a real joy to be a part of.
But for me the cherry on the top has been the music composed by Lliam Patterson which I have loved singing and which will stay with me forever.
To those of you who came along to watch one of the performances this year I want to thank you for joining us, it has been fantastic to meet you all and I will take away with me some very special memories. The most amazing thing about performing in this production is that each and every audience has been unique. The babies and toddlers have brought with them their individuality, interacting with us in unpredictable ways and making every show just that little bit different.
Not forgetting Scottish Opera, The Manchester International Festival and Improbable who made all of this possible sincerely thank you very much.
On Tuesday I returned to Glasgow to begin rehearsals for the third set of performances of BambinO! I have really been looking forward to performing again in this wonderful production and to catch up with my friends and colleagues.
Musical rehearsals took place on Wednesday. These rehearsals were lead by Lliam Patterson, the composer of BambinO. The aim of this style of rehearsal is to ensure that the music is in tip-top form and to ensure that the balance between the quartet in the new venue is at the optimum level. In order to achieve this result, we performed the entire piece and then dissected the score into sections and then worked on those that needed more attention and polishing, experimenting with dynamics and new ideas that we wanted to try out since the performances in Edinburgh.
On Thursday we visited Scottish Opera’s fabulous costume department for fittings to check if any alterations were needed. The wonderful Ali and Lorna were at hand to refresh our look and make sure the costumes looked brand new. It was lovely to get into my Uccelina costume again, especially the feather-covered tutu! I do love that. In the afternoon we had stage rehearsals co-ordinated by Lissa, our Assistant Director. In this rehearsal, we performed the piece on the set and made any alterations necessary to move freely around the new venue. Another element of this style of rehearsal is to remind ourselves of the blocking and our interactions with props and other members on stage.
Friday arrived with final rehearsals and brushing up. We began with a music rehearsal and then moved into combining this with staging to ensure that we were ready to open to audiences on Saturday morning.
It has been an absolute delight to have performed this show on Saturday and Sunday. I can never stop smiling after the interactions with the babies and their lovely families, each show brings new surprises from confident crawlers who giggle and gurgle.
Thank you to Keith Bruce from The Herald for his lovely review in today’s paper. The performances run through to the 5th November and if you want to come down and join in the fun there are still a few tickets left but don’t leave it too long or you may miss out.
It’s been an absolute dream to be part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer. I took part as a member of the Scottish Opera team, who performed an opera specifically created for babies aged 6 to 18 months, called BambinO! After our successful run in the Manchester International Festival, I was excited to be part of the team to take BambinO to a new venue in Edinburgh, enabling different families to encounter the wonder of this beautiful Opera.
Back Row: Laura Sergeant & Stuart Semple Front Row: Me & Timothy Connor
My role in the production is Uccellina, a bird who discovers an egg. The egg grows and hatches revealing a baby bird, called Pulcino (Timothy Connor), he takes Uccellina for his mother and explores the world. I’m initially happy though a bit annoyed at his hyperactive behaviour, we reconcile quickly being pleased to have found each other. I tell Pulcino of the sky and its wonders and that it’s his destiny to fly from our nest, although also sad about the thought of being separated, we are caught up in our excitement of his first flight. When Pulcino is ready to fly we sing our final duet of farewell, he soars among the clouds and I ponder his journey.
The show kept the original music wonderfully performed by Laura Sergeant on Cello and Stuart Semple on Percussion, drama, set and costume and we continued to make babies gurgle, laugh, squeak, sing and occasional cry! I couldn’t believe that our show sold out within the first couple of days and that many who missed out wanted details of the dates for our performances in Glasgow in the Autumn.
We began on the 8th August 2017 and continued until our last performances today. Our shows took place at 10:00 am and 11:30 am each day. I loved every minute of each show, and though we had early morning calls it was definitely worth it. Joining us in Edinburgh to complete our gang were the delightful Lee Reynolds, Julie Burns and Paula Duncan. Their help was outstanding and enabled each show to go on without any troubles. It has been an absolute pleasure working with them. It was also wonderful to see the education team join us at the venue and share in the joy these performances have brought to their young audiences, and their parents, and grandparents, many of whom told me it was their first opera too.
Back Row: Me, Paula Duncan, Julie Burns Front Row: Lee Reynolds, David Sneddon, Audrey Blake
Lee Reynolds, Audrey Blake, Julie Burns, and David Sneddon
Julie Burns, Lee Reynolds, Me, and Laura Sergeant
Julie Burns, Me, and Lee Reynolds
I was also able to see some of the festival myself as an audience member as my super-duper family came up to support me and to celebrate my Mum and Brother Matt’s birthdays. We saw some fabulous shows and these were the ones that stood out.
Me and my Brother Matt
Ada Campe and the Psychic Duck
We fell upon this show by accident, having joined up with my Mum, Dad and brother Tom and his girlfriend Anna on Saturday 12th we decided to explore what the fringe had to offer. Walking along we were approached by a persuasive assistant outside the venue and as the show was due to start we decided to pop in. The show did not disappoint, Ada Campe was an entertaining and articulate performer whose act recounted stories of her life as a variety performer. She kept the audience enthralled for the 50 minutes she was on stage, delivered adlib lines with aplomb, drew belly laughs from the audience and when she interacted with the audience you laughed with them not at them which is a tremendous skill. We all enjoyed this little gem.
Meow Meow’s Little Mermaid
This was a late-night show which started at 10:30 pm so the only chance we had to watch it was on Sunday night as my day off was on the Monday. So, I booked tickets for my two brothers Matt and Tom who came along with me to watch. The show was an enticing cabaret full of laughter, aerial stunts, music and singing. We had a blast in ‘The Hub’ our seats were a fabulously situated in a fabulous purple booth in which we could truly relax and unwind after a busy day. It was an especially wonderful show for me as my fellow BambinO cast member Stuart Semple was playing! Goodness knows how he managed to juggle his late evening performances for this show with the early starts of our baby opera! He’s a true trooper!
Velvet Evening Seance
To sample some of the drama of the fringe we decided on my day off to check out some of the shows on offer. We liked the sound of this one man show, which was set in a Victorian court room. The monologue was delivered eloquently with sufficient depth to draw you in as the story developed. The script cleverly twisted in different directions providing enough misdirection to make you think about the guilt of the accused. Would you send him to the gallows?
Into The Woods
Though I missed out on this performance my Mum, Dad and brother Matt said they thoroughly enjoyed the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s Musical Theatre department production. Maybe I will get the chance to catch it again as they were singing about it for a couple of days.
It was lovely to combine my holiday with work and take some time to catch up with my family.
On our last performance day, today the cast and crew celebrated with lots of cake, homemade shortbread in the shape of birds (by the wonderful Paula), tarts, cups of tea and surprise party poppers from the marvelous Stuart Semple after our final bow.
I had such a blast and can’t wait to work with everyone again in October!
Please click on the above images to see a larger copy.
Each year in August Edinburgh hosts what has become one of the largest Arts Festivals in the world, bringing together a diverse range of performers, from a huge array of artistic disciplines, converging in this historic and picturesque city.
The festivals first began in 1947, the brain child of an Austrian impresario, Rudolf Bing. From its early years, the Edinburgh International Festival brought artistic icons to the city each summer for the enjoyment of enthusiastic audiences, keen to be a part of this post war cultural revival.
As the popularity of the festival grew companies of performers unable to get on the main programme hired venues themselves and put on their shows outside of the area of the main festival. Each year the number of these acts grew bringing both variety and vitality to the city. The Scottish journalist, Robert Kemp referred to them as being “Round the fringe of the official festival” and the term seemed to stick.
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival has grown dramatically alongside the main Edinburgh International Festival and is now seen as an integral part of the festival experience. In 2016 the Edinburgh Fringe Festival hosted 50,266 performances of 3,269 shows in 294 separate venues around the city. In all 2,475,143 tickets were issued during the three weeks not counting those who attended the 643 free shows included in last year’s programme.
During the Festival, the main show grounds of Edinburgh Castle host what has become a firm favourite for many who visit the city, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. This large-scale production brings together the different regiments of the UK armed forces who provide the audiences fortunate enough to get tickets with a unique festival experience.
It was great to catch up with the cast and crew of ‘BambinO’ as we ran through the production in Glasgow ahead of our run at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It is quite exciting to think that we are to be a part of the 2017 festival which is expected to be even bigger than last year. Our first performance is on the 8th August running through to 20th August, with two shows a day at 10:00 am and 11:30 am. The performances will be held at the Edinburgh Academy, 42 Henderson Row, Edinburgh, EH3 5BL.
Timothy Connor, Laura Sergeant, Me, Martin Wooley, David Sneddon, Stuart Semple
It is hard to believe that our time here in Manchester has come to an end. We have performed in Manchester, Wigan, Hyde, Heywood, Oldham, finishing today in Salford. The staff and Volunteers from the Manchester International Festival have been fantastic and made us feel so welcome at each venue.
Me with Gwyneth, One Of The MIF Volunteers
Today we all said goodbye as we went our separate ways for a couple of weeks before we get back together again in Glasgow to prepare for the Edinburgh Festival. We start our first performances there on the 8th August and run through to 20th August 2017.
Sam Phillips, Laura Sergeant, Timothy Connor, Me, Stuart Semple, Sophie Skellern, David Sneddon
This is one of the duets from the opera that I sing with Timothy Connor
Here are some links to press reviews of the production:
‘The payoff for an initiative like this is incalculable…rarely has innocent pleasure felt more vital.’ Please read this review as it is an insightful article which delves into the accessibility of opera and pretty much sums up how I feel about it.
I have had a truly special and humbling week! It was the premiere week for Bambino as part of the Manchester International Festival. We have performed in 12 shows with over 258 babies, their parents and family, and some very special guests. It has been an exciting experience and I can’t stop smiling.
The Cast and Crew
I arrived in Manchester on Monday evening in Scottish Opera’s people carrier along with the team and the wonderful Stuart Semple who had driven us down from Glasgow. We settled into our apartments after being welcomed by the magnificent Manchester International Festival team (MIF). I have been working closely with Angela, Sophie and Tracy and many many wonderful volunteers over this week, all of whom have made the show a huge success.
Me and Lissa Lorenzo
For the first couple of days, we performed in the centre of Manchester in the Pavilion performance space, in Albert Square. It was wonderful to be performing at the heart of the festival and the vibe of MIF was incredible, hosting great food, drink, and music accompanied by a wonderful atmosphere. If you are in the area during the Festival it is well worth a visit. It was here that I met Emma and Giuseppe Belli’s sweet and fantastic children. They came to watch the first performances in Manchester, making it extra special.
Stuart Semple and Me
The babies in each show are very inquisitive and engaged in the performance. There is at time some crying but it rarely lasts for longer than a few moments so perhaps they are just overtaken with emotion 🙂 But as my Mum pointed out, there are a lot more chuckles, laughs, claps and plenty of singing along. Whatever their reaction you can guarantee that every show is individual and very special. And as our director Phelim McDermott said, ‘My hope is that in later years, there’ll be adults who are asked, when they’re at the Opera, what was the first opera you saw? and they’ll be able to say, Well, I was 11 months old when I went to see an opera” and they won’t be pretending when they say that. It will be absolutely true’.
I was thrilled that Eva Belli ( Aged 4 ) , Emma and Guiseppe Belli’s daughter, drew me this beautiful picture of Bambino.
Sophie, one of our producers, helped organise tickets for two other shows for us to attend in the evening after our daytime performances. I was able to go to Bridgewater Hall to watch the BBC Philharmonic perform ‘The World Was Once All Miracle’, and ‘Available Light’ a dance choreographed by Lucinda Childs at the Palace Theatre. It was a wonderful performance and took me back to my contemporary dancing days at Knutsford High School.
After completing our performances in Manchester City Centre we started taking the show to places outside of the city centre such as Wigan and Hyde. These shows are so important and it brings music out to communities and venues that aren’t usually used for these events. Everyone deserves the chance to experience live music and theatre. I hope that this can continue!
In Wigan, I had the wonderful treat of my best friend Ellie and her family, Rory and baby Annabelle, come to watch the show! This made it extra special for me. I’m sure I’ll be visiting them again soon and we can sing the songs together. Ellie said Annabelle was mesmerised and that as well as Annabelle it was Ellie’s first opera too!
Rory, Annabelle, Me and Ellie
Ellie, Annabelle, Me, Frankie, and Abi
I’m having a day off at my family home tomorrow to recharge and then I’m back into a busy week ahead. I can’t wait! We have performances in Heywood, Oldham, finishing in Salford.
To finish I must admit that it was very exciting to see the production mentioned in interviews for BBC radio and for the BBC Regional News I’ve shared the links in my facebook if you’d like to take a look.