Tag Archives: Opera

Lack of ambition never saved anyone in trouble

3 Mar

ENO CPThe rigmarole about English National Opera’s finances continues. The board seems to be incapable to bring anything of value to the table since their only solution to the brutal fiscal realities is to scale down ambition and erode standards of performance.

The stories of the folding of New York City Opera and the current slow death of Scottish Opera teach us one main lesson. If you scale back activity you become so irrelevant that nobody cares if you survive or not.

ENO needs people in charge that have imagination for programming and a flair for fundraising. Yesterday’s update from Cressida Pollock the CEO of the company. In response to the current troubles and the all out assault her management has received in the press and social media was like a speech by Margaret Thatcher when she was selling off the family silver in the 80s. She presents her position as if the whim of the gormless Arts Council England is the word of God and must be adhered to. This slavish reliance to ACE is part of the historic issues they have to deal with.

How about ENO grows a pair and instead of trying to whore itself to a cretinous ACE they do all they can to prove them wrong. The only way out of trouble is to remind everyone what a vital service the company offers when at its best and to properly fight for survival. But reading between the lines of Pollock’s carefully worded statement she doesn’t believe in her own product very much. Her tone verging on the utterly defeated and going through the motions.

They could try to perform more alongside with cutting production costs with reviving many classic productions that haven’t been staged since John Berry took over. But the implication is that the Board don’t believe that they will take enough at the box office to make it worth a try. And of course with that lack of faith in their own product they will find it much more difficult to attract funding from benefactors as they wouldn’t want to be associated with a sinking ship.

Instead they ruin their permanent Chorus by making their jobs essentially freelance. If they want to call themselves a national opera company they should shout out loud and clear why they are different and worth surviving. Not just retreat into a cave and await slow death. Nobody in the arts is having a great time right now but we all start from one basic tenet we believe in our product and advocate with the loudest voice why the arts are important to the UK. Being visible in that live discourse is important and opera companies seem all too happy to live in their parochial bubble. Be part of the wider conversation on the vital contribution ENO makes or can make to British life not just cling to the purse strings of ACE. The breast feeding phase has passed it’s time to start walking.

Let’s all support the Chorus of ENO in their struggle against this myopic management and hope there is a way out of the current mess. We do need this ensemble to survive and to offer hours of joy to anyone willing to listen.

My musical 2013 in photographs

13 Jan

Looking back at the last twelve months I found a few shots that tell my story of 2013 and the performances and venues I visited.

Makes a simple travelogue that hopefully you will enjoy viewing.

Don’t underestimate the Athenians

12 Oct

All you read in the news is stories of poverty, shock and horror from Athens. What doesn’t get reported quite as widely is the perseverance and mettle of the Athenians and how the battered artistic institutions are responding to the financial crash.

Every year since 1977, when Maria Callas passed away on 16th September, the anniversary of her death, a unique event in the Greek classical music calendar takes place, a concert at the Herod Atticus Amphitheatre in her memory. This year due to financial pressures this concert didn’t take place. Instead the National Opera of Greece took to the streets  (as they have done many times in the last few years to promote their work) and brought arias that Callas sang in her illustrious career to the streets and squares of Athens. The processional event was attended by at least 5.000 people, starting at the New Acropolis Museum and concluding with a full orchestral and soloist recital on the steps of the National Archaeological Museum (in whose rooms and garden I spent many of my childhood summers) A venue suitably a stone’s throw away from the flat that the Greek-American diva rented during her stay.

Every time you think of Greece as the pariah of the European family do also spare a thought for the indomitable spirit of us Greeks. We didn’t give up during four centuries of Ottoman occupation and whatever the difficulties thrown at us we always find a way to come together and celebrate what makes us unique. So instead of thinking of all the negatives, let’s watch the Athenians assemble to celebrate the life and work of Maria Callas and regain some pride via the power of music and the collective memories of a great artist.

Vacuum packed opera

23 Sep
Image courtesy of Andrew Rudin via Twitter (@groveguys)

Image courtesy of Andrew Rudin via Twitter (@groveguys)

Yesterday Peter Gelb, the General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera wrote for Bloomberg:

Throughout its distinguished 129-year history, the Met has never dedicated a single performance to a political or social cause, no matter how important or just. Our messaging has always been through art.

You can read the rest of his argument for not designating the opening gala for Onegin as an occasion to support LGBT people in light of Russia’s recent anti-gay legislation. While reading it I was overtaken by a sense of misplaced propriety by Mr Gelb and also made me wonder what arts bodies like the Met should stand for.

I don’t think arts organisations can be operating like social zombies…happy to hoover public funding but not keen to fulfill a social function. In the world of North American opera Houses the funders are the gods of the circuit. But what do they buy by giving millions to an opera house…a glitzy gala and access privileges or do they also castrate the ability of the organisation to have ideals and to pursuit them?
An organisation of the global reputation and reach of the Met Opera  has more responsibility than smaller houses to set an example. The world of opera cannot afford to be seen in total removal from the reality. The real world is meant to be reflected in its work, outreach and education is part of it but also it should be brave enough to have moral values and to stand by them regardless of what the fat wallets have to say.

Life is political by definition (Aristotle defined it as being part of the Polis, the ancient Greek word for city. Being a citizen one is a political being) and art reflecting life should ideally have an engagement with what means to be human and to be ready to fight for gross injustice and inequality. The arts have traditionally been a fertile field for shady governments to find a fig leaf to cover their dehumanising policies and use artists as the disseminators of propaganda. In a democratic country like the US it is puzzling to me why Mr Gelb will post an open letter essentially presenting the Met Opera as a sympathetic but crucially inert behemoth. Many will say the anti-gay agenda is only part of Putin’s pursuit of his own people and neighbouring nations, which is understandable. My main protest against the Met is its happiness to be seen as a political blank slate. A company that has nothing to say with its work to a world audience, a brain-dead showbiz establishment with no social nous.

Art and artists have found ingenious ways to protest against oppression over the years. Due to the funding basis of the Met being largely private I can understand Mr Gelb wanting to please them by being seen to skirt controversy. But running a major institution can at times be a testing and political business. I was proud when British art establishments from National Museums to the Royal Opera  House came together to fight the imminent budget cuts by an unsympathetic government and not sit and wait for it to happen with fatalistic abandon. If arts institutions don’t have anything to say about our wider environment and life they become a fossil, perpetuating emptiness and pushing themselves into a niche of irrelevance and deference.

Please do go and sign the petition on here which has reached over 9.116 signatories already.

Tonight’s opening gala for Onegin at the Met Opera and despite the management’s numb reaction. Has the potential to be a watershed moment, I hope a lot of the patrons present will wear the rainbow ribbons to show support for the campaign. What is more worrying is that Valery Gergev who is a close ally of President Putin has not deemed the campaign worthy of a statement in the New York Times or any other publication to date. His silence becoming more of a puzzle as the days go past.

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A good recent example of applying political pressure are those two blog posts on the Royal Opera House website encouraging direct action across the country to make the government take notice:

The Royal Opera House did urge readers of their blog to lobby their MP

A call for support to make the case for the arts

If you fancy supporting the cause on your social media accounts feel free to use the avatar picture below

ribbon avatar

Rosenblatt Recitals on Sky Arts

11 Jun

Faux outrageLast season four Rosenblatt Recitals were recorded for TV broadcast on Sky Arts and the wait is almost over.

All will be shown on Sky Arts 2 HD at 8pm in the following order:

Monday 15 July
Lawrence Brownlee

Monday 22 July
Joel Prieto

Monday 29 July
Dimitra Theodossiou

Monday 5 August
Antonino Siragusa

I was present and blogged on the Dimitra Theodossiou one and am intrigued to see how it will come through on-screen. The recitals provide a platform for an intriguing array of performers and this eclectic line up is no exception.

Static does it / The Pilgrim’s Progress / ENO – 20 November 2012

24 Nov

It would be fair to say that this is what the English National Opera exists for, putting on works written in English and which would never grace the stage of the Royal Opera House in normal circumstances. Vaughan Williams’ The Pilgrim’s Progress has not fared well since the 1951 ROH première, timed to coincide with the Festival of Britain. Seeing this slick production makes one see why it has fallen into neglect. The work is far too static dramatically to make itself good source material for staging.
Oida used a simple but configurable set that owed much to a robust prison aesthetic. The monotonous palette of rusted iron and grey costumes was not original but thankfully was relieved by the orgiastic colour in Vanity Fair. Overall the staging felt well-considered but curiously limp, the overall discipline being at odd with Williams’ chromatic, warm soundworld.
On the night ENO’s orchestra was wonderful under the energetic conducting of Martyn Brabbins. We all know the signature sound of Williams, Brabbins brought all the brightness and golden colour without shlock ruralism (unlike ENO’s fairly twee marketing materials) which tends to be his fate in the wrong hands.
Roland Wood gave a monumental performance, displaying incredible stamina despite the vocal writing not being incredibly beautiful or that varied and weighted down by the archaic libretto. Most of the most characterful writing was saved for the female singers and the chorus and they also delivered in spades. The opening contribution by the chorus was a dreamlike reverie leading to a gorgeous nocturne introducing Act Two. The contributions of the chorus became the backbone of the performance and shaped the action that at times is missing focus due to the plethora of on stage characters. Also Williams’ imagination shines through when writing for cameo appearances such as Lord Lechery, Mister and Madam By-Ends and Lord Hate-Good. Vanity Fair closed the first half of the performance and was exuberant enough musically, despite the obligatory caricatured mammaries and genitals foisted on the singers.

The second half was a much more meditative, spiritual part of the evening. The musical values definitely went higher and the staging had some interesting moments. The subtle use of a square projection screen that was showing footage of WWI trenches that in the end lifted to reveal an array of floodlights that illuminated the auditorium as the Pilgrim crosses the water (in this staging reaching the electric chair on top of a flight of steps) was very effective. I found the metaphor of the chair heavy-handed and not particularly necessary in the context of the work but it did not distract from the luminous score. The finale featuring bells and chorus on and off stage is a thing of visceral beauty, exciting and imposing with a gorgeous eerie presence. Giving the work a metaphysical aftertaste.

Worth noting the beautiful contributions by Benedict Nelson as the Evangelist who added gravitas and suavity, George von Bergen who added a quirky sense of humour. The three ladies: Eleanor Dennis, Aoife O’Sullivan and Kitty Whately who offered delectable singing in a variety of unconventional roles. Also having the opportunity to see Ann Murray in an outfit I could only describe as ‘Carmen Miranda in space’ has to be something to remember!

Overall I could not imagine Vaughan Williams’, almost half a century in the making,  Morality, being better served elsewhere and as I left the auditorium realising that he would never be a favourite composer of mine. I knew that this was an evening of music making of the highest calibre. The vivid choral writing and the imaginative orchestration were wonderfully satisfying even if the work itself is a very static piece of theatre. Despite Oida’s attempts to inject movement and drama it strikes me as a truly delectable oratorio. 

Find out more

Listen to an introductory talk chaired by Christopher Cook with conductor Martyn Brabbins, baritone Adam Green and ENO repetiteur Richard Peirson.

Production photos on ENO’s Flickr

What did Kasper say? / In Conversation / Clore Studio, Royal Opera House – 12 October 2012

13 Oct

Usually I couldn’t care for the over-priced insight events at the Royal Opera but this time having the chance to see what the fairly interview shy new Director of Opera had to say about his first year at Covent Garden was alluring. I can happily report that it was worth it, read on if you want to know what was said.

From the outset his enthusiasm for opera and directing was evident. He talked about his childhood and how initially he got hooked on it by going to a visit with a tutor at age 9 to see Carmen. He recalled how he was blown away by the experience. A particularly funny episode was his retelling of organising a Ring cycle from the age of 13-16 in a LEGO constructed theatre, making the whole family watch it. He even managed to write a letter to the director of the opera house and the minister of culture to ask why one had to be 18 in order to take advantage of the young people discount scheme. They changed the policy so the precocious 13 year old Kasper could buy cheaper tickets with his pocket money.

The talk was indispersed with three excerpts from his productions in Copenhagen of The Ring, Nielsen’s Maskarade and Die tote Stadt.

Edward Seckerson asked him about the tension between being a creative force and having to do a lot of admin as part of his job at Covent Garden. Holten mused that his life has possibly come full circle as he comes from a family of financiers (his mother having been the Governor of the Bank of Denmark) he was expecting to go into banking but instead chose the life in the theatre. He seemed to be very pragmatic that the two productions a year that he is allowed by his contract to direct have an impact on his deputy and PA but it seems he would not want a job that would not allow him to direct in House and out.

He was asked whether he would compromise rehearsal time in order to accommodate big stars like Kaufmann.  His response was a bit roundabout, bordering on the meandering but he seemed unhappy to create a precedent by allowing big names to show up a couple of weeks before a show starts. He did make the distinction between singers that grow in rehearsal and others who do not find it as stimulating. But he mentioned that the camaraderie that develops during a full rehearsal period is an essential part of the mix for an as good a performance as possible. But he concluded that some smart administrative decisions could see them programme big names for productions that don’t need a lengthy period of rehearsals.

On the subject of commissioning new work and allowing the national composers emerge, in the mould of Poul Ruders in Copenhagen where three operas where staged (most notably A Handmaid’s Tale). He went to great lengths to point out that for him Covent Garden is not a national opera house but an international one and even though Thomas Adès is writing a new work for the main stage he wants composers from all over the world to have an equal chance to stage a major project with the Royal Opera. He did mention the great work ENO does with new music and commissions. He went to lengths to point out that the House would not be the right place for a young composer to write their first opera (he quipped that the first one is usually not very good) he wanted composers with a developed voice and some stage experience.

On the subject of modern/traditional productions he thought the distinction was redundant and that he had directed in both idioms, led by the work itself. He was warned that London audiences are too conservative and would not accept modern productions and he responded that in his experience the audience is discerning but expects good storytelling/a clear narrative. As he exclaimed this is after all the country of Shakespeare and BBC drama. He wants opera to be relevant (not in a jeans and trainers way) but to talk about life as it is. Emphasising that the companies have to believe in the greatness of the material and the extraordinary nature of the artistry required to promote the art form.  He contemned Regietheater as a creative dead and ridden with clichés (to the chagrin of the rather elderly audience). The conversation wandered to Stefan Herheim and he confirmed that his predecessor had engaged him for the 2013 season for a Verdi opera (the rumours suggest Les Vespres Siciliennes), he expressed his admiration for him and his very physical, dramatic productions. He also made a point about La Donna del Lago that he scrapped the Lluis Pasqual directed co-produced production with La Scala and the Opéra when he realised that it was not a good one. And he said that such a great cast (Didonato/Flórez/Barcellona) deserved a new production and he’d rather spend the small budget on it than spend it on promoting a production that was fundamentally unsuitable for the piece (we all remember the ludicrous chain mail costumes). Boasting that his upcoming Onegin and DDL had the smaller budgets in Royal Opera’s history but hoping they would not seem cheap to the audiences.

On the subject of the cinema broadcasts and live online relays (prompted by two audience members questions) he mentioned how he originally (when the Met HD series started) did not believe that opera in the cinema would work but was happy to be proven wrong. He said that it was imperative for the Royal Opera and the Royal Ballet to have a worldwide presence in cinemas and that wherever possible they would like to challenge the exclusivity on venues by the Met. As for online streaming he thought the costs involved are prohibitive due to the low levels of public subsidy (in comparison to Central Europe), but he’s hoping to work more with The Space like they did for Les Troyens.

He mentioned that a major part of his decision to move to Covent Garden was working with maestro Pappano, who he thought had the most incredible curiosity and musicality, making him possibly the best musical director in any of the major opera houses. He also made clear that for him a sense of personality in the programming was important despite the fact that is not always possible due to casting restrictions. Exclaimed how courage was very important and not playing it safe all the time, offering as an example his work on staging Karol Szymanowski’s King Roger in the coming seasons. Also defended the long runs of “classics” like Traviata, Tosca and Bohème as a good way to bring new audiences in. Quoting that 30% of the audience for La Traviata were new to the House.

He kept on repeating how important it was for him to have more affordable tickets and how aware he was that the audience in the House is not as representative of London’s overall diversity and vitality. Also seemed to be keenly aware that the online presence and booking system of the ROH still needs work but he was confident the investment would pay off.

The Baroque question

Unfortunately I did not get the chance to ask my main question of their deplorable use of their young artists or about the significant lack of British talent for the juiciest parts, but instead managed to approach him after the talk to enquire about the lack of baroque opera from the main stage.

His response was that he was aware of that gap and he had conversations with the rest of the management but was worried that maybe the auditorium is too big for a satisfactory experience. Mentioning  that ENO and Glyndebourne having a great record at presenting this repertoire in the UK. When I responded with how extraordinary was Niobe Regina di Tebe and if he had the chance to see it. He responded that he hadn’t experienced it for himself but was aware it had troubles selling tickets and that any such projects will need a period instrument specialist orchestra. So in other ways it means that Covent Garden in its current state will not produce any more baroque opera for the Main Stage, which is deeply regrettable in my view. Had I  had the time I would have mentioned the obvious flaws of his thinking around baroque, as the ENO has a larger auditorium than the ROH and also they use their in house orchestra with mainly modern instruments as do the other regional companies.

Overall what came through from the talk was his vibrancy and will to succeed in the role but also a keen sense to be realistic about what can be achieved at the Royal Opera. Left me feeling positive about the future of the House and its programming despite its obvious lack of will to stage baroque, the very starting point of the illustrious art it promotes.

Some excerpts from the talk will be circulated by the Royal Opera in the coming weeks will try to link to them here so you get a more direct sense of the talk.

The dreamworld of Mr Jones / Julietta / English National Opera / Opening night – 17 September 2012

20 Sep

I have been hosting the blog posts of Claire Pendleton from the ENO chorus  for the last month and I had a good idea about the set up and direction of Julietta and even had a sneak peek view of the set during rehearsals. But the great unknown was always the work itself. Martinů takes the dreamworld of the original play into an extreme, his composing becoming fragmented and episodic, very few of the narrative threads are followed through and much of the singing is a recitativo accompanied by pillowy (at time wondrous) music. It makes for an unsatisfactory night at the theatre if the audience is not prepared to take it at face value and allow itself to be seduced by the spare but oddly voluptuous soundworld of Julietta.

The heroine is a dream and it seems so is the possibility of a coherent narrative. This production was immaculate and the orchestral playing was tremendous. Particularly how it was customised to the sometimes too hot acoustic of the coliseum was an impressive feat. The music sounded distant and echoing at times and others the fortissimi braced the material into shape. Edward Gardner as an astute and highly theatrical conductor managed to bring out a wealth of beauty and lyricism. The woodwind passages in Act Two were truly delicious and worthy of the concert hall let alone the opera house. The singing was mostly exceptional, Peter Hoare was tremendous as the dream swept Michel and managed to take us all on a journey as he gradually starting losing himself and his own memories and retreating from reality to the uncertain world of dreams. His singing was always assured and full of spark. His Julietta was as ethereal and edgy one would wish Julia Sporsén (who was unfortunately let down by the orchestral balance on appearance in Act One) sang with an airy confidence and strong stage presence. We could surely see why she made such and impression on Michel. She made a great case for ENO’s frequent casting of singers from its own young artist programme for major parts. If she was that wonderful on opening night imagine how much she will grow through the run.

The chorus who mainly creates a reflective echoing sound through the first two acts was a great asset and established the mood set by the orchestra.  And also supported Michel in his attempt to find his way through the provincial town he found himself stuck in.  Also Claire did do a magisterial dash across the stage in Act Two, as mentioned in a previous blog!  From the smaller parts Susan Bickley was a tremendous presence and the source of much hilarity either as the fortune-teller that talks about the past or as the old woman coming out to admonish Michel. Henry Waddington made an assured man at the window plus a dry witted waiter in the Second Act. One singer that made a distinctly bad impression on me was Emile Renard who maybe too carried away by the little arab character just oozed arrogance throughout the evening. Especially when she was out-sang as one of the three men by Clare Presland and  Samantha Price. She has a lovely lyric voice but her stage presence could use a little bit of toning down.

The production by Richard Jones was well honed (after all this is the third incarnation of this production since 2002) the three differently orientated accordions created a suitably surreal and evocative setting. One slight annoyance was the flimsy construction of the instrument in Act One with the doors almost prematurely flung open on impact. I can imagine Julietta with its sparse orchestration can be a victim to a director’s whim to add extra clutter to make up for it. Jones went against the grain and allowed the music and signing ample space to breathe. His attention to physical acting paid dividends, both Hoare and Sporsén gave us a fully lived performance of great distinction.
The addition of the custom curtain design made up of white drawn sleepers in pyjamas spelling out Julietta, with Michel being the last one on the lower right was a nice touch and when it re-appeared in the end it brought the story to a circular conclusion. Another beautiful touch was the wandering french horn player in the wood of Act Two adding another surreal touch in addition to the wine waiter and a piano being “played” by Julietta on a moving platform towards the back of the stage.

Jones’ touch was light and this production deserves to be seen for its sheer ebullience and wit. Unfortunately what let it down was Martinů and his fragmented, sometimes prescriptive music that especially in Act Three felt overtly laboured. Overall I am delighted that ENO exposed us to such a repertoire rarity especially when staged with such conviction and good taste but two days later not much of the music has stayed with me.  It surely was surreal and witty and a wonderful night out, but as an opera it seemed to lack that extra hook that makes it unforgettable. I may have to return to see if I will allow myself to be won over by the music 😉

Some tweets from the evening

Dress rehearsal / ENO Julietta blog

17 Sep

Last week we talked about the stage rehearsals, tonight is the opening night and all the hard work will be up for the critics’ and the public’s scrutiny! Claire tells us how the dress rehearsal went and we can agree the culmination of six weeks of preparation has reached its final stretch.

So, we finally reach the dress rehearsal. It’s been a busy week but we’ve made it. Such an early start too, on Saturday morning. Some of the singers and actors have been in make-up & wigs since 8am! There’s a nervous but excited buzz around the theatre.

The opera starts and Peter Hoare, singing the role of Michel starts his mammoth journey through the Martinů score.

Michel is dreaming…who will he meet in his dreams? Where will his thoughts take him? To a strange town where everyone suffers from chronic amnesia.

The villagers try to feed off Michel’s memories. The orchestra has a rich texture and depth, almost cartoon-like at times. The quirky set design compliments Richard Jones’ production, which is slick and stylish.
The stage is one enormous piano accordion, which has doors and windows. Characters appear inside and pop out of the vast, concertinaed instrument throughout the opera.
Everyone on the stage is an individual character and hunt in a pack-like group, to drain Michel of his memories in order to feed their minds, albeit for a few minutes before amnesia sets in and all is lost.

There’s a lot of running, dancing, jumping from those on-stage. It’s a fast moving production, full of life and energy.
I have to run right across the front of the stage near the start of act two, with the rest of the chorus and actors sprinting in different directions at break-neck speed too which is frightening. There have been a few bumps and bruises in rehearsal but nothing too bad!

The costumes are shades of green silk based loosely on the 1950’s style. The colours blend in with the set & lighting. The wigs are quirky styles also loosely based on 1950’s styles.

Julietta meets Michel and they immediately fall in love. She has shining red hair and her dress is pattered with miniature piano accordions but I don’t think the audience will be able to see that (you can surely spot them in the shot in the slideshow below).
She has some beautiful musical passages with Michel. They promise to meet again and throughout the opera Michel searches for her. No-one else can see her or knows her. Julia Sporsén sings the role so well. Her unique soprano voice suits the role perfectly. She has a folk-like unaccompanied verse off-stage which bewitches Michel and I’m sure the audience.

Ed Gardner steers the orchestra and singers through the lush, textures of Martinů. Richard Jones directs specific moves and noises during particular musical sections, which add to the drama and gels the characters to the score.
It has been a tough but enjoyable experience, creating such a masterpiece. This could be a ‘marmite’ opera but my guess is that the majority will come out with nothing but positive comments. Hoorah for Martinů! Hoorah for ENO!

You can follow Claire on Twitter, her handle is @ClaraButt .

Dress rehearsal shots in ENO’s Flickr account


Stage rehearsals / ENO Julietta blog

10 Sep

Last week we talked about the sitzprobe, this week we are getting closer to the opening night by another week! Claire tells us how it went.

So, here we are on stage, rehearsing with full set, props, costumes & lighting. I was very excited, walking on set and being bowled over by the enormous accordion which dominates the stage. It moves open & shut during the opera, sometimes on its side and for one section it splits in half to reveal a dark, star-lit forest. The rest of the stage is black with open wings. This is a problem for singers as the voices get lost as soon as you turn facing across the stage. We’ve had to resolve balance problems with the rich texture of the orchestra against the singers being heard. The Coliseum stage is very deep so we have to ‘cheat’ and sing out sometimes. We’ve such a great team working on the show. Martin Fitzpatrick, Head of Music has been up in the dress circle, listening for the difficult sections to get across to the audience and then relays it to Ed Gardner in the pit. Ed works hard to correct the colour and balance of the orchestra, to fit the staging and voices.

The chorus have some off-stage sections in which we’ve worked hard to get the right balance. Some sections are just echos of Julietta‘s voice. Others are the thoughts of Michel.

The costumes are a mix of cute and quirky. We have villagers, young and old, a blind beggar, bell-boy, man in pith helmet, a horn player, commissar and commander of the city, amongst other characters. Each has an individual personality which Richard Jones; the director is very good at creating.

The direction and choreography is very specific, with soloists, chorus and actors moving, freezing, glancing, running etc. at key points in the music. It makes for a typical Richard Jones quirky trade mark in my opinion and brings the opera alive. Never will you find characters just standing and singing to each other. There’s always movement. The direction has great pulse, which complements the score.

The lighting is still being worked on and will put the finishing touches to creating the right ambience during the scenes. This is a unique production, which will have the audience laughing and sighing with great pleasure.

Richard Jones and Ed Gardner are a great team. I feel lucky to be part of it.

You can follow Claire on Twitter, her handle is @ClaraButt .

The trailer for the production

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