Denis Coe, the founder of British Youth Opera, sadly passed away on Tuesday 3rd March. Tinged with sadness, some of my fellow Swallow colleagues and I performed at the home of BYO in the Edric Theatre, at London Southbank University on Thursday 5th March. It was being back there and having an overwhelming sense of nostalgia of the previous summer that I realised how dear BYO is to my heart. Not only has it given me the confidence to be a better artist, but I have also made some lifelong friends and experienced raucous laughter on the way! And it is thanks to Mr Denis Coe that this was made possible. I, along with many other singers, will be forever indebted to this remarkable man.
As my time at the Academy draws to a close, I find it hard to believe that three years has gone by since arriving in the big smoke. It was a rather emotional farewell concert with Academy Song Circle at the Austrian Cultural Forum on Thursday 12th June and a privilege to sing the songs of Ludwig Thuille – a composer almost unknown to most contemporary audiences.
Gosh…what a marathon of a term it has been! Aber wunderbar. It started with my Wigmore debut for the Patrons Award Final way back in January, during which I felt exceedingly proud to be a member of The Royal Academy of Music. Many congratulations to pianist David Gray and Notus Winds for winning a recital at one of the most prestigious recital halls in the world. This was then followed by another recital at the Elmbridge Music Club on the 1st February – the first day the sun had come out for a long time. Fortunately, Finn and I didn’t have to get the rubber dingy out. No sooner had I added my embellishments to Dopo Notte, I was fortunate enough to be back at the Wigmore for the annual Academy Song Circle Concert, with a genius programme concocted by Audrey Hyland, Richard Stokes and Michael Dussek: A Goethe Palindrome. Dreaming of mediterranean lands didn’t last for long, however, as it was full steam ahead with Ariodante, my first Handel Opera. Thrown into the baptism of fire, I was in good hands with the formidable director Paul Curran and conductor Jane Glover. During the runs, it was the first time I fully appreciated why opera is regarded as the olympics of singing. A banana for each Act at the ready with a cheeky cup of coffee thrown in for good measure, this is a composer who not only tests the agility of voice but also stamina to the extreme. No sooner had my transformation been completed, I was back in an elegant evening gown for my premiere of Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn at the bridge over the Cam. I then finished the term off with my best rendition of an Arabian temptress in Karl Jenkins’ Stabat Mater back home in the shire, seeing old friends from Stanley Opera. Ready for an Easter egg or two…
After receiving this text message from the director of Cendrillon on Wednesday evening, I have been frantically youtubing clips from Sunset Boulevard. Yes, I hang my head in shame for never having seen this film noir classic and, rather embarassingly, I had to google ‘Norma Desmond’. My sincere apologies to Gloria Swanson, the actress who immortalised the faded silent film star. My drama teacher holds the internet accountable for this ‘recency effect’, of which I appear to be a victim.
On Sunday I arrived back on British soil after three fantastic weeks at the Georg Solti Accademia in Castiglione della Pescaia, Tuscany, greeted by a heat wave and my first radio broadcast with my fellow RAMs in the title role of Ravel’s ‘L’enfant et sortilèges’.
It was an early and chilly start for the RAO field-trip to witness the pre-dress rehearsal of Kasper Holten’s controversial production of Eugene Onegin at The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden on Friday 1st February. So, there was nothing for it but to start the day with a Chai Latte. With mixed reviews from my fellow budding opera singers (and the critics), it nevertheless instilled us all with the excitement of beginning production rehearsals for Johnny Ramster’s version at the Academy.
This morning, I donned myself with a headscarf and rehearsal skirt, ready to peel apples and assume the babushka traits of my dear grandmother. I even managed to drop a glass from the tea tray, which I put down to Filipyevna’s arthritic hands (!) Tomorrow we’re rehearsing the ball scene, so it’s time for Nyanya to get some of her much needed beauty sleep. Pakoynay nochi (Tanya)!