Once again, I have fallen very behind in my website duties. It seems my updates have been pretty much annual. I apologize.
So, picking up from my last news update….
Coraline- ROH at Barbican
Coraline was a great success. We had a fantastic time, and totally fell in love with the enchanting and sinister story based on the book by Neil Gaiman, and the fabulous, witty and breath taking score by Mark Anthony Turnage. My daughter Ivy loved it, and most of all enjoyed the backstage tour afterwards, where I naughtily revealed some of the top secret special effects techniques that they’d seen in the show.
Cosi Fan Tutte
It was an utter joy to return to Opera Holland Park for Cosi Fan Tutte last summer. It is such a special place to work, such a wonderful company, and best of all, being reunited with soprano Eleanor Dennis, who had been my Fiordilligi at the Royal College of Music when we were students. We did an awful lot of giggling, but it was so easy to slot into character with Ellie and create the sisterly rapport we needed. It was a fantastic and fun cast in general, so a profoundly happy job all round.
Candide- Bergen National Opera
Having the chance to work on stage with both my husband and my father was an experience I will never forget. We had such an enormously fun time, and looking over at those two men, the most important in my life, every night in the curtain call, never failed to bring tears to my eyes. Having my mum there to look after our girls too, made the whole thing very special for all of our family.
Concerts and recitals
It has been a fiendishly busy year for recitals. Since launching SWAP’ra, I have pledged to make sure that any recital programme for which I have free choice of repertoire, will always strive to contain an equal balance of male and female composers. This has inevitably meant learning a huge amount of new repertoire. I’ve so enjoyed discovering the music of Cécile Chaminade, Pauline Viardot, Lili Boulanger, and of course Fanny Mendelssohn and Clara Schumann; but it has also been a great joy to discover some contemporary female composers, whose work I was not previously familiar with, including Judith Cloud, Helen Grime, Juliana Hall, Cheryl Frances Hoad, Lori Laitman and Judith Weir. This will be a life-long project for me, so I am excited about what else I will discover on my journey to play my part in the gender balance revolution. I was hugely honoured to have a cycle written especially for me two years ago by the fantastic British composer, Sally Beamish. I now eagerly await a piece which American composer, Juliana Hall, is writing for me to premiere at the Oxford Lieder Festival later this year.
Simon Lepper and I presented our programme ‘From the Pens of Women’ at Wigmore Hall in a live BBC Radio 3 concert. This was a carefully gender balanced programme of English Song settings of some of the 20th century’s best-loved female poets and writers, including Ursula Vaughan Williams, Virginia Woolf, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Margaret Atwood.
This is a programme which we are looking forward to repeating at the Salisbury Festival in June, with the addition of some spoken text, performed by my parents, actors Madelaine Newton and Kevin Whately. We have performed several recital programmes together in this format, and it is always a real pleasure. We always find that the audiences respond so well to having the poetry mixed in with the songs, and they are texts which we have chosen very carefully to compliment the songs in each section.
I’m really looking forward to returning to Wigmore Hall for a fund raising gala for Leeds Lieder Festival. It’s a star studded line up pf singers appearing, for a Shakespeare themed evening. Joseph Middleton and I will perform the fabulous and dramatic Scena of Lady Macbeth by Joseph Horovitz, a favourite party piece of ours. I’ll then join the other singers for one of my all-time favourite pieces of music, the Vaughan Williams Serenade to Music. Heavenly!
I’ll then return to my alma mater, Chetham’s School of Music, for a very special gala concert at Bridgewater Hall, featuring an all-alumni line up of fantastic singers and the Chetham’s Symphony Orchestra, in a performance of Mahler’s 8th Symphony. The school was the real beginning of my serious musical training and I owe so much to it, so I am thrilled to join them in this celebration of their 50 year anniversary.
Wuthering Heights- Nancy Opera
I am currently enjoying my sixth week in beautiful Nancy, France, where we have been rehearsing a breath taking production of Wuthering Heights by the film composer Bernard Hermann. It has been a wonderful experience working with the fabulous director Orpha Phelan, and our brilliant conductor Jacques Lacombe. It is an extremely talented cast of young singers, and some of the orchestral writing is just thrilling. If you don’t know it, I’d highly recommend having a listen.
It was a slightly nerve wracking role for me, because my character Isabel has to play the piano live on stage, and then accompany myself singing. I haven’t really played the piano since I was a teenager, and even then I didn’t get too far in the grade system. But I was determined to do this, and worked very hard for several months. When I arrived and we started to rehearse, my confidence took a knock when I found that despite my months of preparation and my ability to play the two pieces fine on my own, as soon as I had to play it in front of others I could not get through it without making a lot of mistakes and getting terribly flustered. That teamed with several technical issues with the piano they made for the piece, there was a time in the rehearsal period where I thought I might have to apologise and admit defeat. But thanks to a hugely understanding and encouraging group of colleagues and production team, my confidence slowly returned, and I was able to get through it on opening night.
I’ll be sad when Wuthering Heights is over, though glad to get back to my babies at home, after so long away from them. But they very much enjoyed their trip to visit me here for the Easter holidays, with all the grandparents taking it in turns to nanny for us. It has been a real treat to share this job with so many parent singers. All the cast members with families have had their children here at some point over the past few weeks, and the kids have had great fun playing all together, enjoying Easter egg hunts and birthday parties, cooking together and visiting the monkeys and peacocks at the park. It is so therapeutic to be able to chat to other parents who know exactly what we are coping with in our crazy family/career juggle.
SWAP’ra- Supporting Women and Parents in Opera
A small progress report on what SWAP’ra have been up to. Here is a little bit of info on what we have achieved in our first year of existence. For more info see our website, and do subscribe if you’d like to be kept up to date on everything SWAP’ra is doing.
SWAP’ra founders, Anna Patalong, Madeleine Pierard, Sophie Gilpin, Ella Marchment and Kitty Whately