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.
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.
This has been a very eventful week, rehearsals have been blossoming with energy and imagination as we experiment with how to block ‘Bambino’. Our wonderful director Phelim McDermott uses a fantastic method which allows us to combine the qualities of improvisation and movement, to act instinctively and tell the story. It has been wonderful to work in this way as it is full of freedom.
I had my second costume fitting, which is beautiful and I am very excited and I can’t wait to see it when it is finished! I’m not sure how much I can reveal just yet, but there are feathers! I can’t wait to get to wear it next week. We also had the pleasure to invite some babies along to our rehearsal on Thursday, for this, we focused on the music and performed it in a concert format. In rehearsals leading up to an opera there is a session where the cast and the orchestra finally come together to play through the score, this is known as a ‘Sitzprobe’ It was great fun to think that Bambino’s ‘Sitzprobe’ included babies who would be able to openly react to our music making and decide whether it was enjoyable. Luckily, we had no crying! but we did have the occasional singing along which was adorable. Next week we have our dress rehearsal and preview performances. I can’t wait. It’s getting very exciting.
The Cast Of ‘BambinO’ : Stuart Semple, Timothy Connor, Laura Sergeant and Me
Picture From The Rehearsals ( MIF Twitter )
As the week progressed it did get me thinking though on how important these education programmes are to the future of Opera. Finding interesting and innovative ways to connect with a new audience is so important for any Opera House and there are many now which are fully involved taking opera out into their local community. Scottish Opera, for example, take opera out and about using a converted articulated trailer. This version of a pop-up opera allows small taster shows to be hosted in a much wider area and introduce the artistry and storytelling of opera to those that want to give it a try.
Through the Connect Company, with whom I performed in “The Walk From The Garden”, Scottish Opera provide a programme of classes for teenagers throughout the year culminating in a fully staged production. The connect company allows both instrumentalists and singers the chance to work with some amazing coaches and learn about what makes opera such a vibrant and absorbing art form. This also introduces the families of the students to the intricacies of a live performance and encourages them to maybe go along and watch one of Scottish Opera’s main stage productions.
There is also a programme ‘Opera for Schools’ which provides primary school teachers with educational activities along with a full day of immersive participation which ends with a performance for friends and family. I would have loved to have been a part of one of these days when I was at primary school.
These are just some of the ways that Scottish Opera are trying to broaden the appeal of opera within the wider Scottish Community and I am excited to be a small part of it. It is the responsibility of all of us who wish work in this wonderful industry to help where we can to explain why we love it so much and with our passion and enthusiasm encourage as many people as possible to give it try.
School’s out for summer!! (Well at least for me), on Wednesday 7th June I performed my end of year recital program at the Royal College of Music. I sang a program of Mozart, Liszt, Strauss and Moore.
Amelia Widjaja, Prajna Indrawati and Me
My delightful singing teacher Rosa Mannion reminded me to think of it as a performance rather than an exam. I thought this was a wonderful sentiment and reminds me to stay positive and share music with those around me. My recital celebrated all that I have learnt this year and showcased some of the beautiful music that I had the pleasure of preparing with Rosa and my wonderful repertoire coach Andrew Robinson.
Rosa Mannion and Me
On that note, It was a real treat to be supported by my friends and family who were able to make it to the performance and for all the many kind thoughts sent to me from those unable to attend. You all added to the magical atmosphere and boosted my confidence to get out there and shake a tail feather!
However, after a few photos, hugs and a quick celebratory lunch with my wonderful duo partner Prajna Indrawati and our friend Amelia Widjaja, who kindly turned pages at the piano, I jumped onto a train with my family heading to Glasgow ready to begin rehearsals for BambinO!
On Thursday morning I arrived surprisingly fresh-faced and full of energy for a day of music calls at Scottish Opera lead by composer Lliam Paterson. Laura Sargeant (cellist), Timothy Connor (Baritone), Stuart Semple (Percussionist) and myself started to work through the score scene by scene, marrying each independent instrument together. We continued our work on Friday morning and then in the afternoon, I had my first costume fitting with the wonderful designer Emma Belli. The costume looks fantastic and I can’t wait for my second fitting when the next layer of details can be added on. Plus anybody that has worked with me before technically, knows that I adore costume and the first fitting always gets me ridiculously excited!
On Saturday we were given a sneak preview of the set design by the fabulous designer Giuseppe Belli (who is Emma’s partner in crime). The set is in the final process of being built and should be ready for our production rehearsal beginning on Monday. We then continued our music calls by performing a little mini taster for the director Phelim McDermott and Assistant Director Lissa Lorenzo. So that they could hear the new music and allow their imaginations to begin bubbling with inspiration.
I will find out how much I can share during the process but one thing for sure is that I’m really excited and can’t wait to perform the production at the premiere in Manchester on the 4th July! If you are in the Manchester area please check out the schedule.
I am excited to share some wonderful news with you all, last December I was invited by Scottish Opera to participate in a week of exploration and development for a new project they were hoping to produce. It was very hush, hush and I wasn’t able to share the experience with you at the time so that the concept could be fully developed before announcing their plans. All I can say is that I had a fabulous week and enjoyed every minute of it. I returned to London happy that I had been involved and excited for the production team as they had some wonderful ideas, I had no idea what was to happen next. After a couple of months, I was contacted and asked to be part of production, and tour as one of the cast members this summer and autumn.
Here is the press release that I was sent which explains a little more:
The long-awaited follow-up to Scottish Opera’s hugely successful BabyO performances, BambinO is a pioneering and unique piece of music theatre for infants aged 6 to 18 months.
A new co-production with Manchester International Festival and Improbable, the show premieres at Manchester International Festival in July, before traveling to Edinburgh as part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe, then to Glasgow for performances in Scottish Opera’s Production Studios.
Written by Scottish Opera’s Composer in Residence Lliam Paterson and directed by Improbable’s critically-acclaimed Phelim McDermott, BambinO will be a celebration of the possibilities of music and the power of the infant imagination.
The show reinvents operatic language and traditions for children at an age when their minds are wide open to new sounds, images, and experiences. Babies are free to explore during the performance and to interact with the singers, musicians and each other.
Director, Phelim McDermott, said: ‘It is inspiring to create a new opera for what is possibly the most discerning – and important – audience there is. We all know that babies respond to music and we want to nurture and stimulate that relationship through their very first opera.’
Scottish Opera’s Composer in Residence, Lliam Paterson, continued: ‘BambinO will bring an operatic experience to a little audience with ears open to discovering new sounds. It is so exciting to create a colourful and vibrant work that can engage both babies and adults fully while conveying the drama and passion of opera. The opportunity for me to work with as imaginative a director as Phelim McDermott is fantastic and truly inspiring. He and design team Giuseppe Belli and Emma Belli will bring a beautifully crafted operatic world to a whole new audience!’
Scottish Opera’s Director of Education and Outreach, Jane Davidson, said: ‘Incorporating rich, exuberant colours and images – both musically and visually – we’ve created the perfect miniature opera. Complete with percussion, cello, and tiny pianos, all four performers fashion a magical soundscape that will enthrall and challenge both the babies and the adults who come along with them. This is not a ‘baby’ show in a traditional sense; this is baby baroque as you’ve never seen it before!’
BambinO is commissioned and produced by Scottish Opera, Manchester International Festival and Improbable. It is supported by Scottish Opera’s New Commissions Circle and Scottish Opera’s Education Angels.
Cast and Creative Team
Composer Lliam Paterson
Director Phelim McDermott
Designers Giuseppe Belli & Emma Belli
Soprano Charlotte Hoather
Baritone Timothy Connor
Cello Laura Sergeant
Percussion Stuart Semple
Stage Manager David Sneddon
I can’t wait to join everyone on the 8th June when we start rehearsals and I will keep you posted as we progress and the tour gets underway. It will be great to work with Stuart Semple again who I toured with last year in the Scottish Opera production of “ The Little White Town Of Never Weary”
I must admit that it was quite a buzz to see the production listed on the Scottish Opera website in this season’s events and to have the opportunity to work on this new composition which is to Premiere at the Manchester International Festival on 4th July.