On Friday, I participated in an evening of opera scenes along with my fellow students at the Royal College of Music. I had a lot of fun taking on the character of the ‘Controller’ in Flight and it was very exciting – but nerve-wracking as I had to sing a top F in a public performance for the first time. It was a great challenge, but one that I enjoyed immensely.
Zachary Neal, Me, and Jessica Cale
Ready For My Scene
It was lovely to see so many friends, colleagues, and family in the audience. I was especially happy to see my dear friends Hilary, Edwin, and Norman and it was lovely to be able to see them after the performance and share this experience with them.
These productions would not be the same without all the help that we get from Costume, Wigs, Hair, Makeup, and all the technical staff, and of course not forgetting the fabulous musicians who play for each of the scenes.
Hannah Crerar and Me In The Changing Room ( Photo Julieth Lozano )
Julieth Lozano and Me
The Whole Cast ( Photo Julieth Lozano )
Our next set of scenes are on this coming Tuesday at 5:30 pm in the Britten Theatre at the RCM.
On Monday 4th June at 11:10, I will perform my final recital of my Masters of Performance. The recital will take place in the Recital Hall at Royal College of Music. It would be lovely to see as many friendly faces in the audience as possible, so if you are in the area please come along. Entrance to the performance will be free, but because it is an exam please arrive early. George Todica will be accompanying me and we will be performing pieces by Massenet, Gustav Mahler, Lliam Paterson, Grieg, and Bernstein.
This past week I was introduced to and worked alongside some wonderfully gifted people who made my week at the Metropolitan Opera House extra special, I will always remember their generosity, encouragement, and enthusiasm. Their individual commitment was truly inspiring and I will treasure these memories in the years to come.
David Sneddon, Me, and Marsha Drummond
David Sneddon, Margo Maier-Moul, and Me
The Education team: Marsha, Dan, and Angela were super hosts to the BambinO team and I enjoyed chatting with them and sharing some amazing times. They made us all feel like part of their family, providing us with tickets to the opera, pre-show parties, introduced us to some great Mexican food, and gave recommendations for things to enjoy in the city. One of their key duties as a department is creating the Education Guides for Schools that accompany each of the seasons’ performances put on at the Met. I was thrilled to find out that these guides are available for free online. If you want to learn a little more about a particular opera or use them in the classroom check them out here:
There is also an option to check the archives and see opera education packs from previous seasons. They are well worth a read!
During the week we reached our 100th Performance of BambinO and it was great to have everyone there to celebrate it. It was quite a milestone made extra special by the performance being at the Met !!
After Our 100th Performance !!
During my time in New York, I explored the city mostly by foot with the occasional trip on the subway. I was invited to go and observe a panel discussion on music and early childhood development, between the creators of Bambino and faculty members from the Rita Gold Early Childhood Centre, Columbia University Teachers College. It was both interesting and exciting that professors were exploring the effect of the work that we were doing. The panel discussion was held in the super swish Norwood Club, a private members club for Artists and Creatives in the heart of New York City. We were lucky enough to meet the owner Alan Linn who warmly welcomed us and encouraged us to enjoy the artwork and the themes to each floor of the building. As we climbed the flights of the stairs on our way to venue space on the top floor, it felt like I was walking through the looking glass in Alice and Wonderland.
The Norwood Club – New York
One of the greatest perks of working for the Metropolitan Opera House were the invitations to attend the opera performances as their guest. This made for a wonderful week as I was able to watch three Operas: Roméo & Juliette, Lucia di Lammermoor, and Cendrillon all with supreme casts, telling stories with scintillating singing, in wonderful costumes, portrayed on amazing sets.
Roméo & Juliette
Lucia di Lammermoor
My favourite was Cendrillon. I loved the outlandish costumes! In particular the red costumes for the female chorus in the ball. This was because each character was given a different style of dress, that was crazily elaborate. One had a bustle like a rooster, another had enormous horns like a maniacal princess and many, many more. James, the head of costume at the Met, told me that the performers were given the stage direction to focus on the fact that they thought they were beautiful – fit for a prince – and that these dresses were the best they had available. Rather than play up to the hilarity of their character’s image. This worked really well from an audience’s point of view. Other elements were punctuated with farce and comedy and the outstanding singing contributed to a wonderful evening. The set design for Cendrillon was particularly thrilling, and it’s magical appearance brought this iconic fairy-tale to life. Although the performances throughout were stunning I thought that Joyce DiDonato’s interpretation of Cinderella was simply fabulous, her singing was sublime and her stage presence was charming and witty and she had me enticed throughout.
Back Row : Lliam Paterson, Laura Sergeant, and Stuart Semple Front Row: Me, Joyce DiDonato, and Timothy Connor
So, can you imagine my reaction when I discovered that Joyce DiDonato had come to watch a performance of BambinO with her family on Friday afternoon, to see her in the audience was quite surreal.
I’ve tried to stay awake as much as possible today in London after a night flight to try to readjust to British Time and I’d just like to thank my very best friends for coming to my help and entertaining me all day.
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:
During my free time whilst working in Paris I have enjoyed reading your comments so thank you for taking the time writing them, I have also enjoyed eating delicious food, practicing my French, visiting galleries and walking my socks off. I thought this week I’d share some of my highlights and places to visit in case you may be planning a trip to Paris, or just wondering what it’s like.
The team and I stayed super central, near Les Halles, in the Citadine Hotel. Our rooms came with a little kitchenette which proved very budget friendly during a long stay. We were very close to bustling cafes and bars that populate Paris. I slept extremely well but that may be because I was running after crawling babies all day.
Louis, Me, and Matthew at Café Vigouroux
We quickly made Café Vigouroux on 10 rue des Halles our local. The staff there were friendly but strict with our French lessons that were to come. I will remember fondly, trying to ask Louis (one of the owners alongside Matthew) for the internet ´passwort’ in a wonderful mash-up of German and French. I quickly realised saying a word in a French accent with some conjugated verbs was not going to cut it. Louis then taught me to say ‘Qu’est-ce que les mots de pass pour le wifi?’ Which on my travels was very useful. Another great phrase for those trying to save some pennies ‘Je voudrai une carafe d’eau, s’il vous plaît.’ Which enables you to ask for tap water – l’eau du robinet. This was particularly handy during the beautiful sunny weather we experienced during our stay. If you are in this area of Paris I would definitely recommend you to stop by Café Vigourou.
The food in Paris was très délicieux! I visited a few restaurants for my evening meal. Amongst my favourites were:
Café Plume on 164 Rue Saint-Honoré, this restaurant and thriving evening bar served the most exquisite dauphinoise potatoes, that when Stuart (our percussionist) and I tasted them, we decided we simply had to bring the rest of company there to visit. This recommendation was very well received and confirmed with six empty plates.
Au Terminus du Châtelet on 5 Rue des Lavandières Saint-Opportune, is a beautiful traditional French restaurant, which I believe is in its 4th generation of family management. The Bambino team shared our first meal here and the food was outstanding. The menu is changed daily, responding to the chef’s inspirations based on the produce for the current season. A real delight for the palate!
Le 6 Paul Bert on 6, rue Paul Bert 😉(catchy and helpful name), a un tres goûteux menu (had a very tasty menu). The restaurant grows their own vegetables and take great pride in the produce used in their dishes. With great lighting and attentive service, this is certainly worth the walk.
In between eating and more eating, I was able to burn off some calories by exploring Paris on foot (hence the trainers). During my adventures, I visited many of Paris’ beautiful museums and art galleries. I didn’t realise, before Laura (our cellist) advised me, that I could visit most of these museums for free because I am under 26. (Make the most of this deal if you can, all you need is proof of age!) So as a true bargain hunter I tried to visit as many as I could. My all-time favourite was Musée d’Orsay, it was here that I was able to see Renoir, Monet, Rousseau (who I remember studying in High School ´Tiger in a tropical storm’ springs to mind) and more, my favourite piece of art in the gallery was Galatée by Morceau. I am now in search of a print of this image. The internet pictures do not give justice to the brilliance and sparkle that he has been able to achieve in the original to capture the mythical and magical subject it’s inspired by.
Exhibition at CentQuatre
Exhibition at CentQuatre
My favourite places to read, relax and study my music in the sun were the ‘Jardin du Luxembourg’, I will remember fondly the beautiful arrangements of tulips, the outstanding palace which now holds the Sénat, the beautiful water fountains, and the Grand Bassin, an octagonal pond where children can play with toy sailboats that can be rented. I lost many hours here and will miss this spot greatly. My other little spot was the little garden that surrounded Saint-Jacques tower. A peaceful place to people watch and listen to some great French jazz.
To get an amazing panorama view of Paris for free, visit the rooftop of the Galleries Lafayette! I was recommended the Pompidou Centre too, however, I thought the windows of the viewing deck needed a good scrub clean, but if you walk down to level 4 or 5 the view is very lovely there too.
If you love flowers don’t miss Marché aux Fleurs Reine Elizabeth II. One of the marketers told me flowers have been sold there since 1808 and are the oldest market of any kind in Paris. I sadly missed this, but my friend told me that on Sundays it turns into an eccentric bird market, where one can purchase a fine creature of flight! Next time I visit I’ll try to go on a Sunday!
On that note, I will bring my recommendations to a close, if you are interested in anymore please do get in touch! These are just the tip of the iceberg, but my main piece of advice is talk to the locals take their recommendations and walk, walk, walk and soak up the amazing atmosphere that is Paris!
Next stop New York, I can’t believe I’m actually saying that 🙂
Me, David, and Alison on an open top bus tour of Paris
In between practice and rehearsals, it has been great to read all your comments this week and I will try and answer them if time permits whilst away in France. I have enjoyed catching up with my friends in Glasgow as we prepare for our mini tour and I managed to get the opportunity to Interview Lliam Paterson the composer of BambinO.
I am so happy that I am finally able to share some more amazing news with you all, we are to take ‘BambinO’ to New York 😊 at the end of April for the Metropolitan Opera. I never dreamt that being a part of this fantastic production would allow me to visit and perform in both Paris and New York.
Lliam Paterson and Me
Liam when we met you were the resident emerging artist Composer at Scottish Opera, what did this entail?
The first thing to say is what an amazing opportunity it was to be resident in a national opera company! The level of support and the inspiring atmosphere were really outstanding. Scottish Opera helped to nurture my theatrical instincts, and importantly the company wasn’t afraid to take risks in commissioning a hitherto unknown young composer!
When I first arrived at Scottish Opera, I worked on small-scale pieces: I wrote miniature operas for the marvelous Opera Highlights tours, which take opera to the farthest flung parts of Scotland! It was marvelous knowing that my little dramatic works – each written to a comic libretto of my own devising – would be performed dozens of times all around the country. I also wrote a fanfare to celebrate the opening of the new Theatre Royal foyer in Glasgow in 2015.
After this, I was commissioned to produce large-scale works. The 8th Door was a new opera to partner Bartók’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle, performed in a co-production with Vanishing Point in a production by Matthew Lenton, and conducted by Sian Edwards. During the process of working on this, Jane Davidson – head of Scottish Opera’s Education Department – commissioned me to write an opera for babies aged 6 to 18 months! The resulting piece – BambinO – opened at Manchester International Festival last year in a production directed by Phelim McDermott.
The 8th Door – Photo By Mihaela Bodlovic
For both works, I had lots of workshop time facilitated by Scottish Opera. I worked really closely with Matthew Lenton for The 8th Door and with Phelim McDermott and design team Giuseppe and Emma Belli for BambinO. I learned so much about all aspects of creating powerful opera through working with these amazingly creative people!
I also did a lot of repetiteur work for the company, ranging from regular playing for the Connect Company (Scottish Opera’s youth opera) to Mark-Anthony Turnage’s opera Greek at the Edinburgh International Festival.
Where did you go to High School?
I attended the Aberdeen City Music School and for my last two years of school went to St. Mary’s Music School in Edinburgh.
When did Composition become your main interest?
I become really fascinated by the idea of composing around the age of 12, although my first work came the following year! For most of secondary school, my main studies revolved around the piano and French horn. However, I realised early on those composers of the past had all been performers too, so for that point on performance and composition were totally linked for me.
What were your favourite subjects and which subjects most helped you to achieve your goals looking back with hindsight?
I loved English and Art & Design more than anything!
Creative writing and Art both help you develop a uniquely subjective view of the world. This is so important in composition, where you have to really believe in the integrity of the sound world you create, whatever it is!
What did you do after high school?
After school, I studied music at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge University, and subsequently studied for a Masters in piano accompaniment and repetituer studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. I started my residency at Scottish Opera even before I’d graduated from Guildhall!
What instruments do you play? What age did you start lessons? Are your family from an art or musical background?
I play the piano and any keyboard instrument that’s put in front of me! For recent opera performances, I’ve played digital piano (set to a fantastic retro 80s synth sound!) and harmonium! I played French horn until I was twenty, but piano and composition took up all my time by my second year at university.
I started piano lessons around age nine and horn the following year. Before that, I was already singing in the Haddo Children’s Choir, which really developed my ear.
I’m from a very creative family – my parents went to the Glasgow School of Art, as did many other family members, and my sister has had a very varied career in the arts, from working in the film industry and radio broadcasting, to teaching English! Although my parents aren’t musicians, they have a very broad interest in the arts, so it feels natural that I ended up as a musician. They encouraged open-mindedness but the impetus for getting involved in music came from me I think! I became obsessed with the idea of playing the harp for some reason! My sister was also in orchestras and choirs all through secondary school.
If you hadn’t gone down the Music/Composition route, what would you do instead? Is there any way you can interweave this into your future career?
I think I would have attempted a career writing fiction and being an academic in a university English department somewhere! It’s wonderful that I now have the opportunity to write my own libretti and devise scenarios for theatre works. It’s much collaborative but still uses my instinct for creative writing!
I’m also a huge fan of film across a wide range of genres! I think this partly stems from my sister’s involvement in the film world! Film really flared up as a big passion at university and remains so today – I collect the BFI’s Sight and Sound magazine and the film journal Little White Lies. I’m currently writing my first film score for a documentary, so it’s brilliant to get my first taste of this business from the creative end of things!
Who would you say are your main role models not just for composition but for life too?
Composer Sofia Gubaidulina for her absolute integrity in everything she does; film critic Mark Kermode for his insights on the importance of film makers’ views of the world and the need to challenge censorship in art; composer John Luther Adams for his connectedness to the environment and his use of music as a powerful reflection of the state of the world; composer Lili Boulanger for reaching profound depths in her work at such an early age despite suffering from debilitating illness and being in the midst of war; film-maker David Cronenberg for the uncompromising vision of his work; composer Philip Glass for the amazing volume and diversity of work he has achieved in his life!
Recently when I have been sourcing contemporary music, I had problems finding
music for a small ensemble, (piano and voice). Is accessibility a concern when you compose or do think that would sacrifice musical integrity?
I think of accessibility as allowing a way in to a musical work for a listener, whether they are a musician or not. How do you grip a listener’s attention in the opening moments of a work to keep them interested? How do I move between consonance and dissonance in my music to keep dramatic tension but overload an audience not accustomed to new music?
I believe that if you make accessibility a core element of your approach to art, it doesn’t affect musical integrity.
You have been writing Operas is this your preference? If so why?
I love the dramatic immediacy of opera, and music’s interconnectedness to all the other art forms that make up opera: set design, lighting, acting, etc. Music in opera is not abstract: it can propel dramatic action just as it can become the soul of a character. I become inspired by my role in an art work that is greater than the sum of its parts! I am inspired by conversations with directors, librettists, set designers and so on. There is much ‘abstract’ music I also love, but the writing process is much more of an interior one, at least for me. I love the sociability of creativity in opera.
Do you ever enter your compositions into competitions? And what are your thoughts about them?
I have entered my compositions into competitions in the past. For instance, I won the 2014 International Frederic Mompou Composition Competition in Barcelona. Competitions are as much the reflection of a jury’s taste (or the tensions between jurors) as they are a reflection of quality and integrity on the part of competitive artists. Competitions can give a much needed financial boost to an artist in the early stages of their career, as well as giving artists a platform to hone their craft in a highly pressurised environment.
For composers, competitions almost never launch a career – but they are useful if the prize involves the performance of a work for orchestra or other large-scale forces. I’ll end with the much-quoted (and probably miss-quoted!) saying of Béla Bartók: ‘Competitions are for horses, not for people!’ People have very unique strengths and qualities that competitions often don’t have room to recognise.
Do you have a particular approach when you write a new opera/large scale works?
Usually, I do as much research as possible at the start of a project, reading about the subject matter of a new opera from many different angles. Discussions with other collaborators on a large-scale project are also crucial to making many decisions about the work at an early stage.
I write a sketch score of an opera very quickly, usually working to a strict routine every day. Then I play through the sketch score a lot to get a sense of how the dramatic pacing is working, and make extensive amendments if needed. After this, I orchestrate the work and revise as I go.
If possible, I like to speak to singers cast in one of my works as soon as it is finished, so I can respond to any concerns and make revisions. If I know a singer’s voice beforehand, this is in my mind throughout the creative process, and I hear their voice as I write their vocal lines. This was the case with your role of Uccellina in BambinO!
What is your proudest achievement?
My proudest achievement…. that would have to be my name appearing in the New York Times in an article about the Metropolitan Opera performing BambinO! I love the New York Times and am a subscriber, so that was a thrill!
BambinO – Photo By Jamie Glossop
Do certain places inspire you to compose?
I can compose almost anywhere, but I prefer to be in a room with large windows overlooking a city! The Board Room on the top floor of Scottish Opera’s Elmbank Crescent building was my composing base for three years!
Natural landscapes and open skies inspire me very much, especially those of the North- East of Scotland. I also love Suffolk, Aldeburgh in particular.
What are your future aspirations?
I would love to continue writing opera and to explore collaborating across different art forms. In future, I hope to collaborate with other artists who also seek to fuse opera and film.
Finally, Lliam What is your favourite colour?
Coming from a family of visual artists, I have always been sensitive to the different tonal qualities of colour! I am most drawn to blue in all its many shades.
Thank you Lliam for being so open and giving us your time and a peek into your world.
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.
This week has been filled with such a variety of musical experiences and it has been such a pleasure to share them with both family and friends.
On Monday, my brother, Matt, took me to see the ‘Book of Mormon’ at the Prince of Wales Theatre. The show is a personal favourite of his and provided some much-needed comic relief, I particularly enjoyed the tap dancing, and the choreography reminded me of the fun times we shared together during our dance classes when we were younger.
The Book Of Mormon – London Cast
My dear friend Harvey invited me to watch ‘Rinaldo’ by Handel on Tuesday evening. This was a concert performance, involving very little stage direction, glamourous frocks, and one prop. The performance took place at the Barbican. Iestyn Davies (performing the part of Rinaldo) sang alongside a marvelous cast in an evening of divine music and story-telling. I had not heard Davies sing live before, and it was such a treat. I was blown away by the beauty and warmth of his voice and the fiery coloratura that he made seem effortless.
Rinaldo at the Barbican ( Photo By Robert Workman )
On Wednesday, my friend Alex accompanied me to watch ‘From The House Of The Dead’ an opera by Janácek. I managed to get two tickets as part of the Royal Opera House’s student scheme. It was a very moving opera, with moments full of doom and gloom. It was unlike anything else I have seen before. The set design effectively created the prison environment, with a yard, and the warden’s office, which later became the backdrop for the prison theatre event. The experience felt like you were watching through a cracked window, which gave the impression of a mosaic, each piece filled with a different story and commentary, depicting the lives of the men in the prison. Leading you to question their morals and evaluate their choices. It was very interesting to watch this with Alex as he is a barrister and has a personal interest in law. We were able to discuss the piece in great detail afterward.
Nicky Spence as Nikita and Salim Sai as Actor ( photo by Clive Barda ROH )
The week ended with a fabulous opportunity for me to make music with my talented colleagues at the RCM. On Friday evening I performed for Joe Kiely whose composition ‘Ice Legacy’ featured in the ‘Composition for Screen’ showcase held in the Britten Theatre at the RCM. It was such an honour to perform alongside the orchestra conducted by the wonderful Akos Lustyik, a talented composer himself, whose music also featured in the event.
It has been a real pleasure to work with Joe on this piece, the melody and text were inspired by the Norwegian language. The process of preparing for this event was very exciting. The first rehearsal took place in the Belle Shenkman Studio at the RCM, where we were all equipped by the fantastic sound department with microphones and headphones. The challenge of singing for ‘film’ is that the music has to be extremely accurate in rhythm as it is composed to link up with what is seen on the screen. Therefore, it is vital to be with the conductor and the click that we hear through the headphones, whilst also balancing with the live ensemble. I really enjoyed experimenting and learning how to adapt to the requirements of this style of performance I would love to be involved in similar projects in the future.
Me With Joe Kiely
It has really been a treat to go and watch so many wonderful performances. I feel inspired and full of motivation to begin work on my next projects.
I bought a copy of Annette’s book “Go You” this week and can thoroughly recommend it. Not only is she a lovely person but you can open this book on any page and a little bit of positivity rubs off on you.
Through my research for my ‘Women In Music Module’, I was intrigued to read that the wife of Gustav Mahler, Alma Mahler, had also composed before their marriage. Having recently performed some of Gustav Mahler’s songs I decided to search out her compositions to see if I could add them to my repertoire.
As I read about her life I felt that it would provide an interesting point of contrast for my upcoming presentation on Kaija Saariaho to demonstrate how life’s opportunities have changed for women over the past 100 years.
Alma was born in Vienna August 1879, eldest daughter of a landscape painter Emil Jakob Schindler and Hamburg Singer Anna Sofie Bergen. Her early life was influenced by the many artistic people that visited the family home, including Gustav Klimt with whom she is said to have shared her first kiss, she was considered quite a beauty.
Boulevard of Poplars near Plankenberg, Emil Jakob Schindler, Leopold Museum, Vienna
Encouraged by her father, Alma showed great promise as a pianist and with the help of her teachers, one of which was the composer Alexander Zemlinsky, she started to create her first compositions.
Through the growing circle of artistic contacts, Alma was introduced to Gustav Mahler who at the time was the Director of the Vienna Court Opera. Shortly after their introduction Gustav Mahler became enamored by Alma and pursued her during a brief period of courtship.
Alma’s life to that point had been very bohemian with the freedom to explore and experiment, however, Gustav Mahler, 19 years her senior, had a very traditional view of marriage and family life and is believed to have written a lengthy letter to Alma detailing his requirements of a wife. One of his key demands was that she stopped composing as he did not want her distracted from her duties which included caring for his needs.
Alma agreed to his demands and married Gustav Mahler in 1902 and her brief experimentation with composition was brought to an end. However, towards the end of his life, Gustav Mahler had an appointment with Sigmund Freud to try to better understand his wife, Freud deduced that Alma had tried to replace the father figure in her life by marrying Gustav Mahler, following her own father’s death when she was just thirteen. Freud encouraged Gustav Mahler to revisit his decision to curb Alma’s artistic outlet through her compositions which led him to have five of her works published.
After the death of Gustav Mahler in 1911 though Alma led a full and interesting life she never returned fully to composing career. Although in 1915 she published a set of four songs and five songs in 1924.
Updated: Alma died in 1964 in New York at the age of 85 the 14 songs, written for voice and piano, that were credited to her from the time before her marriage to Gustav Mahler remained the only pieces of music that she published as most of her earlier compositions were lost in the Second World War.
On Thursday I had the opportunity of going to see ‘Hamilton’ at the Victoria Palace Theatre in London. I went with my brother and his friends to the Matinee viewing at 14:30. It was exciting as I was a jump-in for the ticket, so I didn’t know much about the show other than it had been well received in the media.
This musical theatre show is about one of the founding fathers of the United States, Alexander Hamilton, whose drive and ambition lead him to become an American war hero and George Washington’s right-hand man. It was quite an empowering story to watch because it demonstrated what successes can be achieved if you keep working hard and persevere. However, the show also demonstrates the personal costs that this lifestyle can incur. The Hip-Hop musical highlights explain that he was born out of wedlock, then orphaned as a child, and despite these challenges sought higher education when he was in New York beginning to make his connections to the American Revolutionary War.
As a student of Opera, I was keen to see what parallels there were in this piece, especially because it attracted such a large audience, I wanted to see what I could take from the production and apply myself to my own work or future collaborations with composers and producers. It was interesting to see that the story was told mainly through rap, instead of spoken dialogue and then further developed through songs, duets and ensemble pieces. This is very similar to the common structure of opera. Instead of the rap, Opera uses recitative, semi-sung music that allows the progression of the story. The songs could be directly compared to arias because they were sung by a soloist, they enhanced the narrative by focusing on the key emotions felt by the character at that moment in the story. Creating empathy between the audience and the players. I would be very interested to hear from people whether this kind of musical storytelling is easier to connect with than opera? Is it because there is a more modern beat and rhythm behind the rap. (If you are interested you can access the album on Spotify)
I was very impressed by the high energy level of the performers and their ability to rap, sing and some of them dance. It was also brilliant to see a truly diverse and talented cast.
During the week I was invited to join my blog friend Cate McDermott and her sister, Allie on a trip to Destinations: The Holiday & Travel Show at Olympia London in West Kensington. So, I agreed to meet them outside the exhibition centre today as I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to take a break from my studies and musical preparations and spend a couple of hours in the company of friends exploring all the exotic destinations on offer at the show. Unfortunately, Cate was taken ill and was not able to make the trip to London but Allie explained that she would still be coming in so we made arrangements on where to meet.
We had a wonderful time walking around the different stalls soaking up the worldwide culture, whilst sharing our dream travel destinations. We also discussed how visiting and researching different towns, cities, and countries influence our work, myself as singer and Allie as a writer and chef. This was really fascinating to me as I love to hear about people’s working methods and how fine details from History, architecture, personal memories, art can influence creativity.
The exhibition is a brilliant opportunity for people to get great deals on trips. Expert speakers were on site to inspire, some of these were Best Selling Travel authors such as Rick Stein, Katie Bowman, Mark Brownlow (producer of Blue Planet II) and many more. If you are set on embarking upon a backpacking trip, cruise or you have an ideal destination in mind, this is the place to go and the exhibition takes place every year, so keep an eye out for the next one.
As well as informative talks, the Destination show had street food stalls, travel health advice, and Experience The World Stages (Europe/Asia/The Americas) where we tried Isikate – South American Natural Energy drink, Soju Rice Wine, Mead and Low & Slow BBQ Pulled Pork. Allie had booked herself on the Travel Photography Masterclass where Steve Davey and Paul Goldstein were giving advice on how to improve your pictures whilst on holiday, which I hope she found thought-provoking and inspiring. I can’t wait to discuss what she learned when I next see her.
I am now filled with excitement and I will begin saving for a holiday getaway. I am still undecided on what would be my dream destination as there are so many beautiful and inspiring places to visit but any recommendations would be gratefully received. Let me know what you think.
I have always enjoyed reading and sharing the experiences and travels of friends I have met through their blogs, here are a few that you may want to check out: