Following the ‘Giulio Cesare’ performances that took place at the Grand Theatre in Leeds, it was a brand new experience for me to be part of a tour with Opera North. It was the first time I had performed an opera in a variety of theatres and it was a fantastic experience. What great theatres they were too!
Our first visit was to Nottingham and to the lovely setting of the Theatre Royal. It was built in 1865 and is a luxurious theatre. It initially provided opulent surroundings during the popularity of music hall and a variety of events, including light opera and touring opera. In 1952 the theatre made history with the world premiere of ‘The Mousetrap’ (as part of the pre-West End tour). It is a Grade 1 listed building with an audience capacity 1294 on four levels. It was lovely to see the historical buildings in Nottingham and I also grabbed the chance to meet Robin Hood while I wandered through the city!
Our next ‘Giulio Cesare’ performance was in The Lowry Lyric Theatre in Salford Quays Manchester. Built in 2000, The Lowry is a spectacular waterside building housing three theatres, galleries and restaurants. The art gallery holds a vast collection by the artist L S Lowry. It was wonderful to be back in Manchester where I spent my time studying at the Royal Northern College of Music. There was great support in the audience from friends and colleagues and it was a really memorable evening.
We then travelled up to Newcastle to the Grade 1 listed building; Theatre Royal. The theatre was celebrating its 175th year (opened in 1837). Following a performance of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, a fire destroyed the interior of the building in 1899 and its interior was redesigned. Celebratory events are taking place throughout the year to mark the theatre’s 175th Birthday.
The final venue for the tour was the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre (formely known as the Grand Canal Theatre) in Dublin which opened in 2010. It was Opera North’s first visit to the theatre and my first trip to Dublin. The Theatre is a stunning new building and is the largest theatre in Ireland and it was officially opened with a performance of Swan Lake by the Russian State Ballet with Stars from the Bolshoi.
The Opera North team travelled to Dublin taking not only the Cesare production but also their successful production of Madame Butterfly. What a warm welcome we all received! I took part in several radio interviews prior to our arrival in Dublin to talk about ‘Giulio Cesare’ and I also had the pleasure of joining Marty Whelen on his Lyric FM morning show.
It was also a great opportunity to soak up the atmosphere as the City prepared to celebrate St Patrick’s week-end and also to be able to visit some of the Dublin’s tourist attractions from the stunningly beautiful Book of Kells at Trinity College to the Guinness Storehouse experience!
Thanks to everyone who made the tour a wonderful experience and to the audiences who gave us such warm receptions. It was a very special way to finish a very special tour!
I began rehearsals for Giulio Cesare at Opera North in November 2011, one week after the completion of English National Opera’s production of ‘The Marriage of Figaro’. I had originally been engaged to cover the role of Sesto in the production and was thrilled to be offered the opportunity to perform in the principal role. It was certainly a great transition from my role as Mozart’s cheeky Cherubino into Handel’s serious character of Sesto – a young boy to a young man.
The experienced cast, crew and team at Opera North were wonderful to work with. Under the direction of Tim Albery and the musical guidance of Conductor Robert Howarth the production made great progress and I learned so much. I loved exploring the musical style and the dramatic journey of Sesto through his will to avenge the perpetrators of his father’s murder . The set and costume for the production were designed by Leslie Travers and in the first week we gained a great insight into the production plans through a model showing and talk with Tim Albery. It was really exciting to learn about the ideas for each character and to see Sesto’s military style costume for the first time.
There is a great blog by Technical Manager Peter Restall on the design of Giulio Cesare which gives a real insight into the set,
“The main set represents Egypt; it is a pyramid box that is annexed by tall Roman concrete walls. The Romans invented concrete and their civilisation was very structured, in contrast to the decadence and corruption of the Egyptians, inhabiting this gold inlaid pyramid. The pyramid was based on a jewel box seen at the British Museum, and interpreted here as one that is breaking down and rotting, reflecting elements of their society. The movement and rotation of the set by ‘slaves’ also allows for the opera to flow fluidly from one scene to the next: it opens up, reveals a warren of passageways and beautiful gold, mirrored walls and floors.”
We were able to utilise the set throughout rehearsals and get to grips with sliding doors and steps. We had a wonderful team of people moving the heavy structure of the set from one scene to the next which made for magical transitions. This was my first time working on a production that would be going on tour and it was really interesting to see how this would be taken into consideration throughout all of the staging. It was a real pleasure to be a part of such a lovely cast and when I wasn’t needed on stage it was such a treat to watch the drama unfold and listen to the beautiful music.
Our sitzprobe rehearsals commenced in January and following this we continued rehearsals on The Grand Theatre stage – I had made sure that I didn’t overdo the Christmas festivities in order that I would still fit into Sesto’s uniform! As soon as rehearsals began in costume it was great to see how the character would look and the wig was a wonderful addition to becoming Sesto!
We had five wonderful evenings of Guilio Cesare in The Grand Theatre in Leeds before going on tour with the production. The theatre was built in 1878 in a backlash to the music hall tradition. With 1,500+ seats over five levels, it is one of the most beautiful theatres in Britain. It was such a pleasure to perform there to full houses and to very enthusiastic audiences – I take away such fond memories from having made my debut with Opera North in the role of Sesto and a big thank you to everyone who made it such an amazing experience.
On 4th February 2012 I performed as part of a concert to mark St Joseph’s Hospice’s 50th anniversary celebrations at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall. As always, it was a privilege to perform at home in Liverpool with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and choir and lovely to be a part of an event for such a good cause.
Author and screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce presented the evening and Professor Ian Tracey conducted. The programme included Verdi’s Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves, Handel’s Zadok the Priest and Halleluiah Chorus, concluding in a Last Night of the Proms-style finale. The event raised in excess of £12,000 for the Hospice and the monies will go towards Jospice’s work in caring for Merseyside people with terminal and life- limiting illnesses.
In 1974 the UK Jospice opened in Thornton, near Crosby. Founded by Father Francis O’Leary, a missionary priest, St Joseph’s Hospice (Jospice) originally began in South America and Pakistan in the 1960’s.
Jospice provides care and support to terminally ill people and their families from within the Liverpool and Sefton areas. The hospice can care for 25 people at one time providing high quality end of life care in an out of a hospital situation. Jospice has also continued its work overseas and has hospices in Honduras, Guatemala, Peru and Ecuador and is also linked to hospices in many parts of South America, India and Pakistan which still bear the Jospice name.
Jospice is partially funded by the NHS, fundraising is a vital part of the work they do. There are many more fundraising events taking place throughout 2012 in aid of Jospice – if you would like to support them and get involved you can find more information here .
It was a really special night to come together with people to whom Clatterbridge Cancer Research means so much and to celebrate the work they do.
“Clatterbridge Cancer Research works to fund research to advance the understanding of cancer for the people of Merseyside and Cheshire. …our research laboratories based in Liverpool focus on how to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, as well as understanding how to provide the most effective on-going care for cancer patients.”
Over the past 31 years Clatterbridge Cancer Research has invested more than £20 million into cancer research – but they can’t continue to do this without support. Clatterbridge Cancer Research is an independent charity which receives no NHS funding and relies solely upon public donations to survive.
“We need to raise in excess of £2 million every year to continue with our vital research – that is nearly £5,500 every day. Visit our donate page to find out how you can support us today, or find out about all the ways you can get involved in supported cancer research in your region.”
Interesting facts about the Liverpool cathedral…
- The Cathedral is the largest in the whole of the UK and the fifth largest in the world (I can’t begin to imagine how big the biggest is!) It’s bells are the highest and have the heaviest peal in the world.
- There are two pipe organs in Liverpool Cathedral – The Grand Organ is the largest in the UK and is considered to be one of the largest operational church organs in the world with 10,267 pipes.
- The Cathedral is considered to have 2 out of 3 of the most powerful stops in the world. The Trompette Millitaire and the Tuba Magna on the Great Organ operate on 50” of wind pressure and are each as loud as an entire organ played on their own. The sound of the stops is aided by generous 8-9 second reverberation in the Cathedral.
- The setting was magical and what a magnificent space to sing in! I found another concert Christmas tree…and it was huge! (a 50ft. tree from Grizedale Forest in Cumbria!). They also had a huge wreath (weighing 25kg.) on the Great Western door of the Cathedral.
It was a pleasure to be involved in the evening and the people from Clatterbridge Cancer Research were lovely to work with and truly inspiring in their dedication to raising awareness and funds for their continued research for Cancer patients.
A wonderful way to mark the start of the 2011 Christmas celebrations.
Merry Christmas Everyone!
You can find out about the work of Clatterbridge Centre for Oncology here:
“Clatterbridge your cancer centre’ raises funds to directly benefit the patients of Clatterbridge Centre for Oncology, the leading cancer treatment centre for people in Merseyside, Cheshire, Lancashire & the Isle of Man. They are dedicated to delivering excellence and always striving to improve what they do, creating a positive environment, providing vital research and the best possible care and support to around 26,000 patients each year and their families. They do this for their Centre in Wirral, their network of chemotherapy treatment clinics across the region, and their brand new radiotherapy centre in Liverpool.”
On 3rd December 2011 I was delighted to return to Richmond in North Yorkshire to perform a recital with pianist Daniel Browell. It took place in a lovely concert venue, the Influence Church (formally the Zetland Centre) in the beautiful town of Richmond.
The final performance of the 2011 run of Fiona’s Shaw’s production at the ‘Marriage of Figaro’ on the London Coliseum took place on 10th November and marked the tenth performance.
What an amazing journey from rehearsal to stage – I am so thrilled to have had the opportunity and experience of making my professional opera debut for English National Opera in the role of Cherubino.
On the eve of the opening night of the production I had a wonderful time going along to BBC Radio 3 to an interview with Sean Rafferty where I made my ‘In Tune’ debut singing Cherubino’s arias! It was a lovely opportunity to provide listeners with an insight into the preparations for the production and to share some of the excitement – knowing opening night was just around the corner.
From the first to the last performance it was an incredible experience to be a part of such a large scale production which had been developed by director Fiona Shaw, CBE who was so supportive of us all and in attendance for the performances.
Each night before the performances, the cast and conductor Paul Daniel gathered for a run through of all of the recit in the production – essential to keeping us ‘on our (revolving) toes!’ The transformations into our characters began with costumes and wigs/makeup. (Ensuring Cherubino’s moustache was on straight was always a crucial moment!) – All of this happening amongst the good luck wishes and vocal warm ups until the ‘Beginners calls’ to stage. Once I stepped foot on stage, it was always difficult for me to resist a sneaky peak into the auditorium before the start of the overture to see the audience taking their seats – such a special sight in the beautiful Coliseum.
It was a great pleasure to be a part of such a popular piece as Mozart’s ‘Marriage of Figaro’ and to be stood in Cherubino’s long-johns! It was an honour to work with such a great team at ENO and thank you to everyone who shared, supported and made it all so special!
Preparations are well underway for English National Opera’s forthcoming production of ‘The Marriage of Figaro’. I have loved stepping into Cherubino’s shoes to perform the role, in director Fiona Shaw’s new production. Performances take place this October and rehearsals began back in August – What a journey it has been …this week we arrived at the London Coliseum!
“The London Coliseum, commissioned by the great theatrical impressario Oswald Stoll and designed by the flamboyant theatre architect Frank Matcham, opened as a Music Hall in 1904. It is considered to be Matcham’s masterpiece and is a sensational example of Edwardian architecture in the grand style. It quickly became known as ‘The Peoples Palace’; a theatre that was affordable to enter but which would also inspire a sense of wonder and excitement.” Information about guided tours.
We initially rehearsed at London’s largest studios, 3 Mills. At the 3 Mills rehearsals it was great getting to grips with the revolving stage (I have often finished rehearsals still revolving!), delving into the maze of this ‘Marriage of Figaro’ household and exploring the relationships within it.
“Just seven miles from central London, 3 Mills Studios is nestled on a picturesque and secure island oasis in the heart of London’s famous East End.” http://www.3mills.com/3
Our first rehearsals with the English National Opera orchestra took place last week at Cecil Sharp House with conductor Paul Daniel – it is always such an exciting moment to join the orchestra and hear the music with full instrumentation – it also means that the performances are just around the corner!
Come and join us! ‘Marriage of Figaro’ performances will take place on October 5th, 12th, 14th, 19th, 21st, 26th & Nov 3rd, 5th, 10th at 7pm | Oct 29th at 6pm. Tickets are available here.
There is also a ‘Marriage of Figaro’ Pre-performance talk on Wed 12th October at 5.15pm and Pre-performance tours on Sat 29th October & Sat 5th November at 2.30pm. More information.
About Mozart’s ‘Marriage of Figaro’:
“Widely regarded as the greatest comic opera ever written, Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro whisks us through the whirlwind events of ‘one crazy day’ (to borrow Beaumarchais’s title for his original play) as Figaro, the Count’s valet, attempts to wed his beloved Susanna, the Countess’s maid, before their philandering master can bed her first.
The Marriage of Figaro was Mozart’s biggest success – it’s an edgy upstairs/downstairs comedy-drama in which the bullying and womanising Count Almaviva is comprehensively outwitted by his domestic staff.
Figaro and Susanna conspire with the lovelorn and neglected Countess to thwart the Count’s plans, while a sub-plot involving the Count’s lovestruck and disobedient young page Cherubino adds further to the Count’s confusion. The Count’s machinations include encouraging Marcellina, a woman to whom Figaro once promised marriage were he to default on a loan, to press her case; but it turns out that Marcellina is Figaro’s mother, and her lawyer Bartolo is his father.
Matters turn darkly farcical when the collision of Figaro’s and Susanna’s independent revenge plots brings jealousy to the fore – their relationship hangs momentarily in the balance before everything is a resolved and love wins through for all concerned – even the Count.” More info
About the English National Opera Production:
“Following her much-praised ENO productions of Vaughan Williams’s Riders to the Sea and Henze’s Elegy for Young Lovers, leading stage and screen actress Fiona Shaw plots a path through The Marriage of Figaro’s moral maze of disguises, deceptions, sexual intrigue, mutual suspicion and mistaken identity. Former ENO Music Director Paul Daniel returns to conduct….”
Credits: Conductor Paul Daniel, Director Fiona Shaw, Set & Costume Designer Peter McKintosh, Lighting Designer Jean Kalman, Choreographer Kim Brandstrup, Translator Jeremy Sams . Cast includes: Figaro Iain Paterson, Susanna Devon Guthrie, Countess Kate Valentine, Count Roland Wood, Cherubino Kathryn Rudge, Marcellina Lucy Schaufer, Bartolo Jonathan Best, Basilio Timothy Robinson, Barbarina Mary Bevan