Siberia. In the south of France.

They say a change is as good as a holiday and this one really is. Ten days in the south of France singing in Giordano's underrated story of love and betrayal set on the steppes of Siberia. 

Singing the title role is the glorious soprano Sonya Yoncheva. I first met Sonya last year at Covent Garden, when I played her mother in the lovely old Royal Opera House production of The Tales of Hoffmann. This time round, I'm her friend/servant/confidante Nikona. Her gorgeous husband Domingo Hindoyan conducts a cast of internationals for Radio France's annual summer shindig. 

http://lefestival.eu/evenements/15-55-Siberia

Apart from great colleagues, great music and great weather, we've also had great food- here we all are having dinner at the beach! (Can't say that happens too often in opera?!) 

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With Sonya pre-show

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With the "baddie", Italian baritone Gabriele Viviani- 

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Most of us head home for some well-earned summer holidays after this. Bon vacances a tous! 

 

🌞🌞🌞🌞🌞🌞🌞🌞🌞🌞🌞 

(silly, silly Marin Yonchev!) 

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Everything really IS beautiful at the ballet...

Everything really IS beautiful at the ballet...

So I've been spending a lot of time lately with some rather extraordinary rare creatures of the stage, this time the ladies and gents of the Royal Ballet. Yes, that's right. Me. The great two left-footed Heffalump is in a ballet.

But before you all get too excited, no, no I'm not dancing. (Sighs of relief resound throughout the land). I'm singing. Yes. In a ballet. It's the rather wonderful Mayerling, by Kenneth MacMillan, set to a lavish score of Liszt's music and masterfully orchestrated by John Lanchbery.

 http://www.roh.org.uk/productions/mayerling-by-kenneth-macmillan

 The piece is one of the great masterpieces of the Royal Ballet, a lavish, violent and intensely brooding rendering of the last days in the life of Rudolf, son of Emperor Franz Joseph. His death in an apparent suicide pact with his teenage lover, Baroness Mary Vetsera, had repercussions that were eventually felt worldwide, with the shooting of the replacement heir to the throne, Franz Joseph's nephew, Franz Ferdinand.

As Katharina Schratt, "friend" (*cough* mistress) of the Emperor, I have a rather lovely featured cameo in Act 2, singing the wistful Ich Scheide. And yes, she was a real person and the Emperor's lover. She was quite a force of nature, going on to become the widely acknowledged "Uncrowned  Empress of Austria". Read all about her fascinating life here-

 https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katharina_Schratt

And you can read a brief rundown on the "Mayerling incident" here-

 https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mayerling_incident

 

 With the ever charming and delightful Alastair  

With the ever charming and delightful Alastair  

I have a rota of Imperial boyfriends (shoutout to Gary, Christopher, Tom and Alastair) and there are 4 principal casts in all. I even have two different onstage accompanists. And they portray a real-life character too - Alfred Grünfeld, composer and pianist and one of the first musicians to make commercially available recordings of their work. Truly, this is a real onstage "world within a world".

Having spent a lifetime in the opera, it's a rare treat and a huge privilege to be involved in such a masterwork of the ballet stage. I sneak backstage and watch as much as I can of the four different principal casts. Each one brings it own special take on the characters. The interplay between lovers Rudolf and Mary, the cheeky Mitzi Caspar in Act 2, the rather tragic Princess Stephanie and of course the scheming Larisch. I don't think I'll ever tire of watching this piece, there's so much to see - sideways glances, stolen kisses, court intrigues.

The amazing athletic ability of, in particular, the men playing Rudolf, is mind boggling and I feel especially privileged to have seen the magnificent Edward Watson dance this role, "up close and personal". If you think it's exciting from the stalls, you should be onstage with it! There can be few greater pleasures in life than being danced around by four principals from the Royal Ballet and a scowling Ed Watson!

Everything really is beautiful at the ballet. 

 Katherina Schratt. And her awesome hat. 

Katherina Schratt. And her awesome hat. 

On your marks, get set... blog..

First blog, eeep...

Welcome! I've finally joined the rest of the world and gotten a website. Bit slow on the uptake, I know.

Deep in moving house chaos and preparing some music for recording and Tristan for Lisbon next month.

 

More soon. One of these days I'll have a lounge room floor again, but more of that to come...