Oh dear, I’ve let time slip by again without updating my website. It’s been a very busy 8 months since my last update:
Grange Festival- Albert Herring
We had a wonderful few weeks at the brand new Grange Festival with John Copley’s delightful production of Albert Herring. It’s was a huge hit with the critics, and a joy of a job, from start to finish, with such a great cast. It was the fourth time I have played Nancy. She’s such a fun character to play. Cheeky and flirtatious, but with touching empathy. All my favourite roles so far have been the Britten ones actually. I have played Kate in Owen Wingrave several times, and she’s a fantastic character; very different to Nancy. She’s hard and cold, and yet reveals a very tender side. Hermia too, is great fun to play with her fiery temper, and her emotional hand god and lows across the span of the opera, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Lucretia is very high up on my list of dream roles.
Three Choirs Festival Recital
After Grange Festival, it was on to the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester, for a recital with Simon Lepper. We presented a programme of songs, all by living composers, including the world premiere of a song cycle which was written especially for us by Sally Beamish. Sally had teamed up with the author of the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency, Alexander McCall Smith, to produce a delightful set of songs on the theme of birds, which was an honour to have written for us, and a joy to perform.
The recital also feature two other song cycles which have been written especially for me: ‘Hold This City All Night’ by Tarik O’Regan, was commissioned for me to perform at the Ludlow Festival in 2017 to texts by Alice Goodman, and Nights Not Spent Alone by Jonathan Dove, which was commissioned by BBC Radio 3 for Simon and I to premiere at the Cheltenham festival in 2015. These are settings of Edna St Vincent Millay, and feature on our album of the same title, along with all of Jonathan Dove’s other fantastic songs for Mezzo Soprano. (Available to buy here)
Wigmore Hall Recital
That was a very busy weekend, as the very next day I had the great pleasure of performing at Wigmore Hall, with a huge group of some of the best UK singers of my generation, to celebrate the final song recital of the season. Conceived by Graham Johnson, we each performed solo lieder, but the highlight was to all sing together, Vaughan Williams’s heavenly Seranade To Music.
English Touring Opera- Giulio Cesare
After this I was straight into rehearsals with English Touring Opera, for their ambitious and spectacular production of Handel’s Giulio Cesare, performed in its entirety, without cuts! It had been several years since I had played a trouser role, but with great guidance from our director, James Conway, we found ways to make my character, Sesto, very three dimensional and sympathetic. I enjoyed it so much, and the production was a huge success with the critics; hailed as one of English Touring Opera’s best productions in years. A real thrill. We toured it from as far North as Keswick and Durham, right down to Exeter, and everywhere in between.
English Touring Opera is a fantastic company to work for. It was my fourth tour with them, and I have learnt so much from each of those jobs. I started with them when I was still as student at the Royal College of Music, and learnt so much, gained so much experience and stagecraft that just cannot be taught at conservatoires. The chance to work with professionals in all departments, and repeat the role over and over again until you know it so well and it is so built into your body, having had the time and freedom to experiment with things, and make observations about what does and doesn’t work. It’s wonderful that ETO are so supportive of young singers.
Concerts from Birmingham to Berlin
A busy few months of concerts followed, including Messiahs at Cadogan Hall and with City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Then just before Christmas I made my Berlin Philharmonic debut, in a beautiful concert of Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, under the baton of Ivor Fischer. It’s a favourite piece of mine, since I studied it for A-level, and to be sat amongst some of the best orchestral players int he world, hearing their almost deafening and glorious sound, was one of the absolute highlights of my career so far, even if mine was only a small role. Berlin is a fascinating city, and it was lovely to be there at Christmas time, and to enjoy the Christmas markets and Glühwein.
Recitals in Hexham and Glasgow
In January I had the pleasure of performing with Malcolm Martineau, in a recital in Glasgow for BBC Radio 3, as part of Malcolm’s ‘My Life In Song’ series there at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music there; and then a lovely recital with Joseph Middleton, in Hexham, for an audience including many lovely supportive family members who live in Northumberland. This was very special for me.
La Nuits d’Ete
I performed my first ‘La Nuits d’Ete’ by Berlioz, with the Bedford Sinfonia at the end of April. Bedfordshire is the county in which I grew up, and the orchestra included several teachers that I had been helped and encouraged by as a teenager. Bedfordshire has always been an outstanding county for music, but sadly these days the music service receives less and less funding, which is an absolute tragedy as far as I am concerned. Read more here https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/music/tomserviceblog/2010/nov/02/save-council-music-services-bedfordshire
I am looking forward to returning to Bedford with Joseph Middleton in a few weeks, for a recital at St Andrews Church on March 10th, with a lovely programme of English and French songs, Lieder, and some favourite show songs.
Royal Opera- Coraline
I’m now enjoying rehearsals for the world premiere of Coraline by Mark Anthony Turnage, which will be my Royal Opera debut. Its going to be a spectacular show, with some exciting special effects and fantastic jazzy score. It’s a favourite story of my eldest daughter, Ivy’s, so I really can’t wait for her to see it. I play Coraline’s mother, and also her ‘Other Mother’, who a pretty terrifying, witchy character, so I hope Ivy won’t be too spooked. Mark Anthony dropped in this week, which was a little nerve wracking, but it was great to meet him, and he seemed pleased with our work so far.
My other great passion at the moment, is a project that I have been setting up with four colleagues; a charity in support of women and parents, working in the opera industry. Performing can be a solitary job sometimes, and I often feel it is a little selfish, not really helping anyone else. Read more here. I am so thrilled to be a part of something that I believe in so passionately, and which I really feel has the potential to make a big difference for people. Read more here: http://www.swap-ra.org
Opera Holland Park- Cosi Fan Tutte
Later this year I look forward to returning to Opera Holland Park, for a new production of Cosi Fan Tutte there which I am really looking forward to. It will be the fourth time I’ve played Dorabella, and although she can be a bit of a silly character, it’s a great fun ensemble piece to be a part of. My husband and I fell in love playing Dorabella and Ferrando at RCM in 2011, so the music holds a special place in my heart. It was directed by the late Lee Blakely, who we tragically lost last year. It was an excellent production, and we learnt so much from Lee. He found great depth in the character of Dorabella, and had some great ideas to make her more than just a stupid girl.
I’m really looking forward to returning to The Grange Festival again in July for a concert performance of Bernstein’s fabulous Candide. I adore musical theatre, and so rarely get the chance to perform some of my absolute favourite repertoire. Candide is not one that I know well, but I’m so looking forward getting to know it, which I should do by the end of the year because I’ll be doing it again this Autumn.
My husband, Anthony, and I are excited to get the chance to work together, which we haven’t done for about six years. We’re off to Bergen in Norway for another Candide. The whole family will be heading out there, as Anthony is playing the title role, I’m playing Paquette and my dad will be playing the Narrator, so it’s a real family affair. I spent a very happy 6 week’s in Bergen in 2015, doing Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s a beautiful place and a wonderful company to work for. I’m so looking forward to returning.
Vaughan Williams CD
Shortly after that I will be recording some stunning songs by an absolute favourite composer of mine, Ralph Vaughan Williams. William Vann and I will be recording several stunning song cycles, some of which have never been recorded, as part of Albion Records’ Complete Works of Vaughan Williams anthology.