I am on my way to Leeds today to start rehearsals for The Christmas Elf. It should be about a four-hour drive but often it can take an extra hour getting through London to the M1 Motorway. So I thought I would pre-empt the traffic and write my blog post this morning ready to launch when I arrive this evening.
This week I had the good fortune to be invited to two fantastic events. On Wednesday I went with friends to the Barbican to watch The Taming of the Shrew. . It was a Royal Shakespeare Company production which presented the audience with a really thought-provoking interpretation of this problematic Comedy. Director Justin Audibert switched the roles so that the play is gender-flipped by regendering all the pronouns. For example, the story’s protagonist Petruchio, (who is a fortune seeker who intends to marry the troublesome eldest daughter Katherine), becomes Petruchia. Claire Price presents a powerful interpretation of this role, hiding her venomous qualities behind charm and swagger.
Whilst the play unfolds, I suddenly realised how few lines the “female” roles of Bianco (Bianca) and Katherine have, despite me thinking that the play was about containing their wild spirits. It is only now that I realise that the center of the play focuses not on the prey but on the hunter. It became quickly uncomfortable, because even though the roles are now reversed to give the comedy a hint of female empowerment the general advocacy of dominance through psychological and physical manipulation is still present. Perhaps this is the message that the director was trying to put forward.
However there were many laughs had by all. A highlight for me was from Sophie Stanton’s giggle-inducing interpretation of a lovestruck Gremia who glides like a nymph in a Christmas ballet across the stage to swoon and salivate over a hair-flicking Bianco whose temperament was similar to a high school prom queen. It is interesting how through comedy we can shine a light on bitter truths and issues and how through laughter we can safely start an honest conversation.
On Friday I celebrated my friend’s birthday by attending a concert with him at the Wigmore Hall. There were three outstanding musicians Andrei Ioniţă cello; Stephen Hough piano and Michael Collins clarinet. The concert was part of the ‘Brahms series’ held at the Wigmore Hall to celebrate this composers prodigious amount of compositions specifically crafted for chamber music, song, and piano. I particularly enjoyed the 5 Stücke im Volkston Op. 102 by Schumann played masterfully by Ioniţă and Hough. It was also interesting to be exposed to a new composer, Carl Frühling and his exciting Clarinet Trio Op. 40. The music was very rich in melody, which was shared across the instruments. The harmony was very lush and late romantic in style but at times very non-intuitive which made it exciting for the listener. I have recently noticed a pattern of this whilst studying the Christmas Elf, which so happens to be composed by Pfitzner, who is a contemporary of Frühling. I found it really rewarding to hear this trio as it gave me inspiration and a better understanding of the German late Romantics, which I can use as I begin rehearsals tomorrow.
Today marks the first day of December and soon I will begin rehearsals for the Christmas Elf with Northern Opera Group in Leeds. With this in mind I thought I would share with you how I prepare and learn a new role.
After receiving the music I try to read the libretto (sung text) to get an idea of the overall story. This helps me to understand my character’s arc, their basic relationships with others, how people discuss and describe them and their key moments in the production.
If I am working on a piece that is in a different language to my own. I will take time to translate the libretto. This can be quite a time-consuming task. I aim to source/create a word-for-word translation. I often consult Nico Castel’s libretti Series, which can be found in music libraries such as at the Royal College of Music. This series contains a word-for-word translation, a phonetic translation and a poetic translation.
This series often helps speed up the process but I try to cross-reference with a dictionary to make sure I really understand what is being said and how it progresses the action of the story.
For each role, I often have a different time scale as I have to juggle all the projects that I have on the go along with other personal tasks so I try to work out a schedule for my learning. I try to break up the role, so as opposed to one big task I have several smaller goals. I use post-it notes to show different Acts, Scenes, and dialogue. If I am working on an opera by Mozart or Handel I will use different colours to differentiate between Recitatives, Arias, Duets , small ensembles, and Finales. These sections then make the overall task more approachable and easier to schedule.
I will then highlight my text and the music. Whilst I am doing this I create a list of the pieces that I am in, I acknowledge if there are any moments of tricky coloratura and harmonies as I personally make them a priority when scheduling in time for memorising. I always like to learn the first entry at the start and then move on towards the more difficult areas as I like to have a small victory to keep my motivation simmering.
After some careful planning, I will work out when to
schedule singing lessons and coachings, so that I can work on the role with my
teachers who know my long term goals or coaches who have expertise in a particular
language or period of music.
I will then sit down with my score at the piano and note-bash, and learn the melody methodically. Sometimes I create learning tracks that I can use whilst travelling on the tube, or in between singing practise.
Then with my schedule set, I make sure that I keep to it and with my fingers crossed and hope that nothing unforeseen turns up. Once I have the music underway I then have to start work on learning the words. But I will save how I do that for another time 🙂
Last Tuesday Night as I walked on to the main Pavilion stage at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod I had to pinch myself to make sure that it wasn’t all just a wonderful dream.
To be opening the evening’s Opera Gala was a huge honour for me and knowing that I would be sharing the stage with Rolando Villazón and Rhian Lois brought a tingle to my spine.
first two arias of the evening were O Luce Di Quest’anima from Linda
di Chamounix, by Gaetano Donizetti followed by Je Veux Vivre from Romeo
et Juliette, by Charles Gounod.
Rhian Lois then performed Quando M’en Vo from La Boheme, and O Mio Babbino Caro from Gianni Schicchi, both by Giacomo Puccini
Rolando Villazón then treated us to a lovely rendition of L’esule by Giuseppe Verdi .
I then sang my first duet with Rolando Villazón to close the first half of the Gala, Non Ti Scordar Di Me by Ernesto di Curtis & Domenico Furnò. This was so special for me, especially when he produced a rose from inside his jacket and gave it to me during the performance after our little waltz.
For the second half of the evening, I again sang two arias, the first was Qui La Voce Sua Soave from I Puritani, by Vincenzo Bellini followed by Glitter and Be Gay from Candide, by Bernstein. The Gala was brought to an end with the three of us performing Brindisi from La Traviata, by Giuseppe Verdi which was so much fun.
I had a wonderful evening and was thrilled to have so many
people in the audience to support my first Opera Gala including my parents, my
Nana and Grandad, Gill and Terry, and my wonderful blog friends Hilary and
Edwin, and I feel blessed to have shared this experience with them.
I also want to thank James Hendry, the Conductor and the British Sinfonietta for their amazing performances throughout the Opera Gala and for making my evening so special.
This week’s post is in celebration of the marriage of my
dear friend Ellie to her kind-hearted Husband Rory. The ceremony took place
yesterday, 18th May 2019 in Criccieth, which is a beautiful part of
For me the day started with a mad dash mammoth drive all the way down to the venue, it was like a scene from a romcom, I literally abandoned my car in the car park and ran across the lawn to where the ceremony was taking place arriving with only minutes to spare. But I wasn’t going to miss it for anything and was so proud to be a part of her big day. It was an honour to sing as part of their wedding celebrations and I wish them both many happy years to come.
I’ve known Ellie from childhood when we used to be sparring partners at Karate together. Over the years we entered and won national Karate competitions together and completed both our 1st and 2nd Dan Black Belts before I had to leave to take up my training at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. It took over ten years of hard work, determination, and perseverance to complete all of our gradings (exams) but we had lots of fun along the way.
She was my rock, in and outside of the dojo. A friend to turn to at times in need and continues to be! She has time for everyone and always thinks of others before herself as her father said in his heart-warming speech during the celebrations.
To close tonight I would like to ask if you have any words of wisdom or sound advice that the happy couple may like to read here on my blog post?
Taking the time to re-visit my trip to Seoul over the past few blog posts have been really fun. This post is going to focus on sharing a video from my performance in the Recital Hall at the Seoul Arts Centre and the Instagramable Food Treats Inspired by K-pop culture.
One of the verses of Muttertänderlei, is about comparing her
gorgeous baby daughter to sweet traditional German baked goods such as
Zuckerwechen (Sweet Bun). I think this metaphor describes the deliciousness of
cute babies and how you want to gobble them up. Which as a concept can
definitely transferred to Korea. Cute cartoons, bold colours and celebrations
of K-Pop stars decorated public areas and in turn went on to inspire food!
Rainbow Crepe Cake
The colour palette of magical unicorns, for instance, may have inspired this rainbow cake created by Billy Angel Cake Company in Seoul. This colourful cake is created from 20 individual crepes coloured with different fruit flavours and delicately divided by layers of spread mousse.
Bistopping ice-cream cafe was a favourite find of mine.
Imagination exploded here, in the form of embellished cones (with hundreds and
thousands, painted icing, colourful sugar loops), chocolate phrases and crazy
cookies which could be added to your ice-cream to produce your own unique
We found a little cafe called Conversation Cake from posts
of Instagram. These cakes were gorgeously decorated with macerated
fruit and indulgent layers of sponge. Our most expensive cakes of the day, and
sadly on our visit a little dry, but with a glass of refreshing iced coffee
they became well-balanced.
Flower Pot Mystery
Bananatree cafe was unbelievably cute from its hand-drawn
menus to its quirky presentational style of its delicious food. We tried
Candifloss covered coffee, Eggyffogatto and a Flower Paap. The flower pot cake
was an outstandingly yummy experience. From the chocolate soil and truffle
stones which deceptively hid the delectable strawberry gateau beneath – found
by trusty miniature shovel shaped spoons.
We delved inside the wonderful world of Line Friends at their flagship store and Cafe and tried a selection of jazzy and vibrantly colourful drinks inspired by the characters. From marshmallow white hot chocolate to a mysterious blue soda float and a popping candy strawberry slushy. Our tastebuds tingled from the experience.
I was thrilled this week to be asked to help launch the search for this year’s Pendine International Voice of the Future at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod. Ceidiog Hughes contacted me on behalf of Llangollen International Eisteddfod to find out how winning the prize had helped me.
Below is a copy of the press release which I wanted to share with you and I would encourage any young singers out there to put in an entry, it is an amazing competition and one that I have been honoured to be associated with since 2014.
As part of this year’s Eisteddfod, I have been invited to sing two ten minute performances as a guest of Rolando Villazón in a Classical Gala on the 2nd July 2019 which I am very excited about as it will be great to catch up with everyone involved with the festival. If you have ever wanted to visit North Wales this a lovely time of year with so much to do at this festival.
New search launched for singing stars of future
A “supremely talented soprano” has launched a search to find the world’s most talented young singers.
According to Charlotte Hoather, 24, winning the prestigious Pendine International Voice of the Future competition at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod last year catapulted her career to a new level on the global stage.
Organisers say entries are already flooding in for the prestigious competition this year which has a first prize of £5,000, along with a £2,000 cheque for the runner up.
Every year the picturesque town of Llangollen in the Dee Valley welcomes around 4,000 international performers and around 50,000 visitors to the week-long festival of music and dance.
Among the highlights of the week is the prestigious Pendine International Voice of the Future competition, which showcases young talent alongside other gifted global performers.
Once again this year the arts-loving care organisation, Pendine Park, is contributing £5,000 to the prize fund and a beautiful silver salver via the Pendine Arts and Community Trust, with the balance coming from Sir Bryn’s Terfel’s foundation and Llangollen Eisteddfod.
Following her “life-changing” experience last year, Charlotte, from Winsford, in Cheshire, is urging other young soloists not to miss the deadline for entries on March 1st.
The format will be slightly different this year, with the preliminary rounds being held at Llangollen Town Hall on Tuesday, July 2nd. The semi-final will then be held on the pavilion stage the following day with two finalists going head to head during the live televised concert in the evening.
Charlotte, who trained at the Royal College of Music, said: “The competition gave me a massive boost. It’s been huge for my confidence and helped me push the boundaries of where I could go and what I can do. And the prize money gave me such a massive opportunity to further my career.
“Having the money available meant I could fly to New York to audition for Pittsburgh Opera and attend an event at the Metropolitan Opera House and I’m also jetting off to Seoul, South Korea at the end of March for another competition which is very exciting.”
Charlotte, who previously gained a First Class Honours Degree in Music from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, added: “I’d encourage any young singer to give it a go.
“Winning the competition is life-changing. It’s helped me to take more risks and travel internationally for opportunities as a professional singer.”
“The year has been amazing. I toured the role of Uccelina in Paris organised by the Théâtre du Châtelet and appeared at the Metropolitan Opera House in the same role later touring the Scottish Highlands performing in Bambino for Scottish Opera.”
“I also performed at the inaugural Waterperry Opera Festival whose Patron is Jonathan Dove, the composer of Mansfield Park and I will reprising the role again this coming July.”
“I was also a guest soloist at Tideswell Remembrance concert and sang in the Rachmaninov recital at Pushkin House in Bloomsbury, London. More recently I reached the quarterfinals of an International Singing competition in Dublin, It was certainly a busy year!”
Charlotte’s success was music to the years of Pendine Park proprietors Mario Kreft MBE and his wife, Gill.
Mr. Kreft said: “This is the third year of the Pendine International Voice of the Future competition and the standard just seems to go up and up. Last year’s winner, Charlotte Hoather, was exceptional and a very deserving winner.”
“She is a supremely talented soprano and the competition has helped unlock the door to a hugely bright future.”
“Our aim in supporting the competition in conjunction with the Sir Bryn Terfel Foundation is to provide a springboard for brilliant young singers from around the world to achieve their dreams of establishing a career on the global stage.”
“Sir Bryn is living proof that supreme talent can take you a long way and we are delighted to doing our bit to help gifted young singers attain new heights.”
“The competition chimes perfectly with our ethos at Pendine Park because the arts in general and music, in particular, provide the golden thread running through everything we do to enrich the lives of our residents and staff alike.”
The festival’s musical director, Edward-Rhys Harry, said: “We are so grateful to Pendine Arts and Community Trust for their continued support for this truly international competition.”
“I know how much the competition has accelerated the career of Charlotte Hoather, last year’s winner and how she used her prize money to help further her career.”
“It’s a massive opportunity to perform before a big live audience and live on TV. My advice is very simple, if you are a young singer aged between 19 and 28 and think you may be good enough, then go for it.”
“Approach the competition with courage and conviction and even if you don’t make the final it will still be an invaluable lesson and a wonderful experience.”
“This major competition is something that we need to nurture and thanks to the support of Pendine Arts and Community Trust young artists are getting an opportunity to further their careers.”
“It’s certainly a competition I’m really looking forward to and it promises to be one of the major highlights of this year’s International Music Eisteddfod. And another new aspect of the competition is that the winner will be offered additional performances at other venues. The competition really is going on to another level.”
To find out more about the Llangollen International Music Eisteddfod and for competition details please visit here:
What an enjoyable week I’ve spent at the Veronica Dunne International Singing competition in Dublin, Ireland. I sang alongside my peers, met the most lovely generous couple, Susan and Glen, who hosted me and a fellow soprano Claire Lees from London, and I’m hoping to stay friends with them both for a long time to come.
“Inaugurated in 1995, the Competition was created to honour the lifetime’s work of Dr. Veronica Dunne, Ireland’s Grande Dame of singing. Ireland is known throughout the world as a land of song, and in the classical and operatic field, this is in no small measure due to the unique and dedicated teaching of Dr. Dunne.”
Dr. Veronica Dunne – Photo By Frances Marshall
To get to this stage I submitted an application with videos to get through to a live audition at one of six City locations throughout Europe and the US. 160 singers were selected from 35 Countries for live audition my location was The Wigmore Hall in London, which was a treat in itself. I was thrilled to get selected as one of the 50 competitors that got through to the live preliminary round of the competition in Dublin on Friday/Saturday, and even more so to get through to the 21 singers selected for the quarter-final on Sunday especially as I had sat in the audience and listened to the most excellent singing.
Sadly the quarter-final is where my adventure ended, I was hoping to give you all good news on Sunday evening but I discovered the result at twenty past nine Sunday evening and didn’t have time to put this post together, and you know what I’m like I was optimistic of getting through to the Semi-finals. It was fun though and a great experience plus my first ever visit to Ireland!
Wigmore Hall, London
The Natioanl Concert Hall
Inside The NCH
Each round was held at the National Concert Hall in Dublin and was open to the public. It was a great honour to sing for such a prestigious jury: Jane Carty; Richard Bonynge AC CBE; Orla Boylan; Peter Carwell; John Gilhooly; Olga Kapanina; Andreas Massow and Evamaria Wieser read more about them here.
I’m going today for my personal feedback which is a bit nerve-wracking but on the bright side I get to hear from this star-studded jury what I need to improve on to give me a better chance in future competitions and auditions.
After the first week of 2019, I feel energised, happy, and hungry to step closer towards my personal goals. After throwing myself at all my targets head on, I did feel a little tired today. But after eating a tasty homemade chicken, sausage, and vegetable casserole, to fight against any last germs and lingering colds that seem to be in the air. I still say, “Bring it On!”
This week I have updated my calendar and diary with work deadlines, events and fun outings with friends. I have treated myself to a weekly planner, that allows me to plot year goals and monthly goals that I can track the progress weekly and create focused to-do lists. So far it’s helped me to be prepared for my immediate goals whilst maintaining my focus on tasks for future projects. I really like it, it feels like an adult star chart that helps to keep me motivated and positive. How do you assess and manage your goals and productivity? Do you have any tips or suggestions that have helped you to achieve a personal goal?
Today I arranged to meet up with my friend Beth Taylor who I studied with at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Beth is a fabulous mezzo-soprano and as we live at opposite ends of the country this was a great opportunity for us to catch up and just chill out together.
One challenge I’m tackling head on this year is learning how to run. Of course, I know how to run, but previously I found no enjoyment in it. I would occasionally sprint for a bus but would be greeted with breathlessness and possibly catching it in time. Luckily for me, I love dancing and trying out new hobbies but I have been very resistant to running even though it can be a cheap hobby to participate in. I read an article about Lisette Oropesa, a soprano working in the industry who explained that she began running to help her lose weight so that she could be more appealing for casting. But as I read the article, I realised the overall benefits of being able to run were important to an opera singer. Often opera stages are very large and directors may want you to run on from the wings before a big aria. I would hate to work so hard and get an opportunity to perform in a big opera house and then begin an aria out of breath because of poor running technique. So I download the NHS/BBC app ‘Couch to 5K’. It’s is aimed at beginners and builds up to being able to run a 5K slowly. I chose the comedian Sarah Millican to narrate my run routines and so far I have enjoyed listening to her encouraging voice. The routine starts you off with baby steps, including both running and walking to help build up towards the 5K goal. I do still run like Phoebe Buffay with the occasional disco arm moves if inspired by my playlist. I’ll keep you posted with my progress. I don’t think I’ll ever be like Mo Farah but I’m glad I didn’t put it off.
I can now run for 8 minutes and I am getting my pose ready for the Olympics ( Ha Ha )
One other task that I have set myself this year is to attempt to re-write my biography to include some of my achievements from 2018. I find this difficult as it is a real skill to write a comprehensive yet concise biog, which can then be condensed even further for auditions and production companies who request biogs of 200, 150, or 100 words maximum. If any of you can offer any guidance or make suggestions on how best to achieve this I would be really grateful. Here is an example of a short one I wrote recently what do you think? How could I improve it to be interesting in a program?
Soprano Charlotte Hoather completed her Master’s in Performance (Voice) at the Royal College of Music in June 2018, under the tutelage of Rosa Mannion and Simon Lepper, previously gaining a First-Class Honours Degree in Music from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland studying under Judith Howarth.
Following five-star reviews in 2017 for her performance of ‘Uccelina’ in Scottish Opera’s production of BambinO in Manchester, Edinburgh, and Glasgow, Charlotte continued in the role for a tour of Paris for the Théâtre du Châtelet before the production moved to the Metropolitan Opera House, New York for a series of sell-out shows in 2018. In July 2018 Charlotte won first prize in the Pendine International Voice of the Future at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod.
Charlotte’s professional performances include the role of ‘Zerlina’ in Don Giovanni with Opera Britain, the role of ‘Maria Bertram’ in Waterperry Opera Festival’s production of Mansfield Park, and the role of ‘Cunegonde’ in Surrey Opera’s production of Candide. In 2019 Charlotte will be performing the role of ‘Pandora’ in Radius Opera’s production of Tim Benjamin’s new opera The Fire of Olympus which will be touring the North Of England in Autumn 2019.
This week I flew to New York City to participate in the live auditions for a Young Artist Program. I was elated to receive the invitation, during the application season I have to send out applications to Opera companies all over Europe and North America. This is a lengthy process requiring references, audition repertoire to […]
This week I found the inspiration for my blog post when reading back through some comments on previous blog posts. I came across a comment from my blog-friend Eric Christopher Jackson, a wonderful artist who tells stories through Photography it got me thinking. He wrote:
“When you say things like “bel canto phrasing” or “arpeggios progressing to coloratura exercises” I’m at a loss. However, as I continue to read your Blog, I’m learning how to speak “Opera.”
So I thought that I could perhaps create a little glossary, that I could expand upon over time, to help explain some of the details and vocabulary that I may use. Today we will be discussing Voice Types.
But first here are a couple of Buzz Words that you may be helpful:
Vocal Range: A measurement of the range of the notes/pitches that a human voice can phonate/sing.
Vocal Weight: The amount of volume the voice can naturally produce. This is important because it can dictate the size of orchestra that a soloist can comfortably perform with (without any artificial amplification )
Colour: This describes the particular sound of the singer, and is what allows a singer’s voice to be individual and unique. You can describe a voice as warm, bright, dark, light and much more. Preference depends upon the listener.
Vocal Runs: A fast succession of notes that can ascend and descend in pitch rapidly.
Coloratura: An elaborate ornamentation/decoration of a vocal melody, which will often involve runs.
The Voice Types
The initials SATB, which are often used in choirs, stand for the four main voice Types: Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass. These initials are to show that the choir uses the full range of the human voice, as opposed to an all-female or all-male choir. When singing as a soloist, you will also come across the terms Mezzo-Soprano, [usually the same range as an Alto], Contralto, [the lowest female voice], Counter-Tenor, [a male voice who has the equivalent range to a mezzo-soprano] and Baritone, [the male voice lying in between Tenor and Bass].
The Seven Main Voice Types [High to Low]
In the Opera World, these main Voice Types are further categorized to facilitate casting. This system was created in Germany and is called the Fach system. These sub-categories depend upon much of what we have discussed so far one’s vocal range, vocal weight, Colour, flexibility, characters and more.
Listen to the above youtube video created by the Royal Opera House, to hear the different voice types and excerpts of them singing Opera.
I will now explain a little more about my own vocal Fach. If you find it interesting and want to know more, please comment below and I will expand in later weeks.
The Soprano voice:
Full Lyric Soprano
At the moment, I am categorized as a Lyric Coloratura. This means that I have an extended upper range. Personally, I can sing up to an F#, which is needed for roles such as the Queen of the Night from Die Zauberflöte by Mozart and The Controller in Flight by Jonathan Dove. My voice is quite flexible and I can sing a variety of vocal runs. The characters that Lyric Coloraturas would sing are generally young women, who are charming, sometimes short-tempered, coquettish, cheeky and stubborn. In theory, audition songs I select should enable casting directors to see which roles I could be appropriate for and possibly be cast for within their operatic season. This is similar to typecasting for actors in the Movie and Theatre World.
Well known examples of my current voice type: Beverly Sills, Kathleen Battle, Diana Damrau and Natalie Dessay.
To end this evening I have included a link to my live recording of Danny Boy which I performed last week at the Tideswell Male Voice Choir’s Remembrance concert. I was asked if I could share the video of my performance but unfortunately, my Dad was a little too wobbly with the video camera so I hope you enjoy the audio recording instead.