The Singing Entrepreneur at Operosa in Belgrade, Serbia

This week The Singing Entrepreneur (Arlene Rolph, Darren Abrahams and me) has been in Belgrade at the invitation of opera company Operosa. Operosa’s entrepreneurial and inspiring founder Katherine Haataja had invited us, having followed our progress since the Forum we held in London in 2012. We spent two full days with a number of young singers (early 20s to early 30s) discussing issues of Identity, Business and Performance in the singing industry, exploring definitions of success and models for growth. We were overwhelmed by the positive and collaborative response we got from the participants. Everyone, whatever their experience of the industry so far seemed eager to engage with and contribute to the discussion.

Best of all, we had the chance to hear most of the participants sing during the second day’s ‘mock auditions’. The singers generously opened themselves up to us by performing and then discussing the issues that their ‘audition’ had introduced. In this wonderful collegiate atmosphere we discovered a great deal together and heard some really knock-out singing as well! As so so often happens in teaching situations, the three of us from the Singing Entrepreneur learned at least as much as the students.

We had a great time in Serbia’s capital and even found time for a quick late-night flit round the impressive Fort that dominates the Old City. We look forward to following how everyone gets on with the fifteen new Habits for Success we shared with them and hope our ideas and suggestions will not only prove to be motivating and inspiring, but also practical. Our thanks to Kat, Mia, Tea and Silviya for making it all happen.

A version of this blog post also appears on the Singing Entrepreneur website.

Prometheus, rising

(c) The Wordsworth Trust; Supplied by The Public Catalogue FoundationMore good news this week as I received confirmation of a project that has been bubbling away for some time. Stephen McNeff’s work for me about Shelley’s death at sea, called A Voice of One Delight and commissioned by the Presteigne Festival in 2010, underwent a transformation for the stage at the hands of McCaldin Arts, directed by Joe Austin. The piece will now undergo another transformation to emerge in extended, re-orchestrated form as Prometheus Drowned. The new work will be conducted by George Vass and directed by Richard Williams for Nova Music Opera, with me reprising my role, and will tour in a double bill with a new commission from Cecilia McDowall called Airbourne. Tour dates and venues to follow. The new title, Prometheus Drowned, is a play on Shelley’s epic poem Prometheus Unbound – here is Joseph Severn’s painting of Shelley composing that poem (allegedly) in the Baths of Caracalla.

And we’re off!

cmc_headshot_SQUAREAfter a post-Christmas lull when nothing seemed to be happening, I received a flurry of phone-calls this week and am now in the happy position of revising two of the pieces I made last year through McCaldin Arts.

In June, I take Haydn’s London Ladies to Bridgnorth for an appearance at the English Haydn Festival and in July, Vivienne is going to the Little Gidding Festival at the invitation of the TS Eliot Society.

Good omens for 2014. Watch out for more performance dates for these two shows and other activites from McCaldin Arts.

If you’d like to be kept informed of what I am doing, both as a soloist and with the company, sign up for my newsletter e-mail in the box below.

Best foot forward

beggars_bootAfter my musings on the pleasure of wearing Alina Garanča’s shoes, I remembered the killer heels worn by Anna Netrebko when she created the role of Manon at the Royal Opera. Ever the professional, she allegedly arrived at her costume fitting with the vertiginous platform stilettos in hand and announced that she would be wearing them in the show, so this needed to be allowed for in the length of her dresses. If you’ve seen the poster for Manon (currently on Tube platforms across London), you will know that the set for Act IV is all diagonals and stairs – hardly ideal terrain to negotiate in high heels, without the additional effort of a huge aria. 

So Netrebko’s choice of shoe is interesting because it flies in the face of information we often receive, particularly as student singers, about the importance of being physically grounded as a pre-requisite for vocal stability and health. As we develop as singers and learn to find safety in even the most uncomfortable physical shapes and environments, the issue of shoes might be expected to become less important. But clearly not – many female singers still insist on the flattest shoes they can reasonably get away with in order to feel vocally balanced as well as physically comfortable. On the other hand, ‘lifts’ are popular among more diminutive tenors and there have been no shoe-related accidents that I know of on-stage. Clearly it’s a very personal thing, and perhaps being taller as well as looking fabulous is an irresistible way to own the stage in addition to singing like a god(dess). It certainly makes a difference if you get a chance to make friends with your shoes before attempting any high-risk manoeuvres and, ideally, they should be Louboutins, which are beautifully enough made to withstand any amount of stagework. Alas, the budget didn’t quite stretch to these for the Royal Opera’s production of The Beggar’s Opera (see photo) but, to our surprise, those of us wearing heels like those shown got used to them remarkably quickly.

We were still glad to take them off at the end, though. Honestly, I don’t know how Netrebko does it.

Small, but pleasing details

photoI’m rehearsing with the Royal Opera at the moment for Massenet’s Manon, which opens on Tuesday. It’s the first revival since the show was made here by Laurent Pelly in 2010 and in the intervening years the production has been touring the world, as evidenced by the fantastic series of labels sewn into my Act IV dress.

I started wondering who the exotically-named singers are who have shared my costumes. Some items last longer than others, according to fabric and function, and only the most robust garments and shoes survive many years without needing to be totally remade. I look inside the boots I am wearing in Carmen and am delighted to find that I have been following in the steps of Alina Garanča, who wore them as Carmen herself in an earlier revival.

I love these historical details; what, I wonder are the oldest and most frequently-worn garments still in use at the Royal Opera?