Edinburgh Studio Opera are bringing a double bill to the Assembly Roxy; The Mumble managed to grab a wee chat with its director…
Where are you from and where are you living today?
I was born in Sussex and lived there until aged 16, but our family was always travelling North to Northumberland for every holiday we could. I fell in love with Northumberland at an early age and, apart from a 10 year period in London in the 90s, I have lived and worked from there ever since. We now live in Harbottle in Northumberland at the edge of Northumberland National Park.
Can you tell us about your theatrical training?
I trained at London University and then at the School of the Science of Acting in London. This college, headed by Sam Kogan (I was taught by him), was a wonderful and opening place to train both in Acting and Directing. I trained while working as a full time music teacher and musician. Sam’s approach was a controversial but fitted exactly with my feelings about theatre; Stanislavskian at its heart but twinned with a radical new approach to the actor and directors craft. I have to say though, I have always trusted my natural instincts above anything. That is, a natural curiosity and feeling for theatrical space, musicality and physicality.
When did you fall in love with opera?
My first operatic experiences were watching my uncle, the great English Bass baritone Thomas Hemsley, perform in London and Edinburgh. I quickly became familiar with his work, including his longed period of working with Benjamin Britten on operas such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Death in Venice. I quickly found a love for early opera and majored in Early Music at degree level. From there, I performed as a singer in various operas. It seems an absolutely natural thing for me to combine both my musical and theatrical training in this art form. My particular passion is to work with young people in opera. It seems to me the perfect art form as it combines all the arts and creates a future generation of performers and audiences for this most immersive creative experience.
What are your favorite operas to both watch & to direct?
The operas of Benjamin Britten, Amadeus Mozart and Claudio Monteverdi. I love all of the operas of Monteverdi but my particular favourites are Orfeo and Poppea. I love Peter Grimes, Noye’s Fludde, The Little Sweep, The Turn of the Screw, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Billy Budd. Le Nozze di Figaro is an absolutely favourite of mine too. Actually, I have directed Dido & Aeneas four times so that has to be up there too!
What do you like to do when you’re not being musical?
I am passionate about the natural environment, conservation and rewilding. When not in Northumberland, I like travelling to the Scottish islands and West coast. Also writing poetry in my spare time.
You are quite the nomad when it comes to directing for the stage, where does the wanderlust come from?
I will go anywhere where there is opera…! I love European and Russian theatre and am a passionate European.
What is your role in Edinburgh Studio Opera?
As a 50th anniversary special, ESO presenting a double bill production of Dido & Aeneas & Gianni Schicchi – why these two operas?
There is a fantastic comedy-tragedy contrast between these two operas which the audience will be fully immersed in. I would love the audience to feel a cathartic sense of tragedy at the end of Dido & Aeneas and to be shocked and challenged through the new narrative of the piece, especially the relationship between Dido and Belinda but also the predatory nature of Aeneas. In Gianni Schicchi, which many will not have seen before, especially never in this traverse staging, I hope the audience feels completely taken into the middle of the fast, furious and hilarious narrative of this absurd comic masterpiece.
What does the rest of 2018 hold in store for Robert Hersey?
I am working to set up an opera company in the North East. We hope to stage two one-act operas in Autumn 2018. As stage director for the Brundibar Festival, I am working towards staging the opera ‘Brundibar’ with a large cast of young people in early 2019.
ESO will be bringing their operatic double-bill to Edinburgh’s Assembly Roxy
February 27th & 28th / March 2nd & 3rd