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
THE MUMBLE TEAM
Has headed to warmer climes with the Migrating Swallows, but we…
WILL BE BACK WITH THE BIRDS IN THE SPRING
After the huge success we had with our “La Boheme” and “Rigoletto” projects hCFlyde Opera are preparing their next production: Cosi fan tutte by W.A Mozart, in Italian (with English surtitles) and with double cast. This is a project to help young soloists to gain more stage experience and to learn a new role. Working with our amazing team and Orchestra of Clyde Opera Group will give singers the opportunity to improve their technique, work with the conductor in all rehearsals, then perform a full role in a well organised production, fully staged and with orchestra. This is the public’s opportunity to join us for 10 days and be part of a wonderful experience. CO’s previous performances of “La Boheme ” and “Rigoletto” were sold out- they are now convinced that the public will love this production too. Rehearsals and performances between the 19th-29th of July 2018 (GLASGOW, UK). Performances on the 28th and 29th of July 2018.
Participants must be available during the entire period of the project. This is a workshop for the training, specialization and advancement of professional opera singers. The workshop will be based on the study and practice of musical interpretation; dramatic interpretation; diction, Italian pronunciation and expression of the text; study of musical dramaturgy in the score, techniques of body movements, posture and acting; vocal ensemble and score study. The production will be double cast and participation will be based on auditions for specific roles. The program is in two parts: 1) musical rehearsals/staging and 2) fully staged opera production (with orchestra). Certain selected artists will be engaged in a concert arranged to take place in a nice little town near the sea. For anyone interested in applying, please include the following with your application: High definition photos, curriculum vitae and repertoire, as well as video-clip (YouTube), a scanned copy of your passport or equivalent identification document that is currently valid. Applicants outside Europe will have to submit the visa and / or residence permit / work permit where necessary. Note – all the applications must be sent to the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Applicants who are accepted for an audition will receive notice of their acceptance by email or phone. Fees: All the participants accepted in this program will pay a participation fee. The fees are: Fiordiligi (soprano) £700, Dorabella (soprano) £700, Giglielmo (bass) £700, Ferrando (tenor) £700, Despina (soprano) £700, Don Alfonso (bass) £700. The fee includes the 11 days of the full program (masterclass, rehearsals with all our 3 pianists and orchestra, staging and singing lessons; also, lunch/every day is included + refreshments all day). If you would like to apply for 2 different roles please let us know in advance. The fee is paid in 3 instalments. If accepted into the program there is a deposit of £150 to be paid in maximum 30 days after acceptance (probably before the 25th of January 2018). The deposit is deducted from the fee. Accepted applicants will be responsible for their own flight and accommodation costs (accommodation could be provided if booked in advance for £475 -£550 / person) if you want to know more please get in touch. The organization could indicate available hotels and B & B options; information will be communicated to everyone interested by email.
Deadline for applications is 10th of December 2017 (interviews/auditions to happen before Christmas). If applying from abroad CO could organise Skype interviews or auditions. For more information email: email@example.com
Gilded Balloon Teviot
Until August 27th (15.15)
Now and then you see something so original and unexpected you will never see things the same way again. This is one such show. Right from even before the show starts when we are serenaded in our seats by the cheesy keyboard stylings of a song who’s only lyric is “Waiting for the show to start” you know you could be in for a treat. Then when an anemic, awkward, googly eyed creature with a Tin Tin haircut walks on to the stage and starts apologizing for the show before it’s even begun you know it could go either way. And, truth be told by the audience reaction, it went both. Either stunned into confused, uneasy silence, storming off in disgust or beaming and cackling with delight. Thankfully I fell into the later category and frankly see it as a damning condemnation of humanity to react any other way. What was not to love?
The music itself was a monumental achievement. Almost an hour of uninterrupted ebbing and flowing of Gershwin like melodies done through your little brothers shitty Yamaha PSR keyboard. Endless musical motifs, references and jokes. And jokes there were so many. Like the airplane films if there was one you didn’t find funny now there was bound to be one coming up that you’d find hilarious. Or as in much of this show’s humor, one you’d be clever enough to understand. And this was one of the beauties of the show. There was absolutely no attempt to dumb it down for a mass audience. And in these days of emojies, made in Chelsea and Donald Trump that is certainly a refreshing change. Lyrically he was outstanding. To be quite honest I don’t think I’ve ever heard wittier or better constructed comedy lyrics anywhere. One song was literally just all the expressions for being gay – but they all rhymed! And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
A gay, autistic bulimic man singing a comedy opera about his time spent in prison and mental breakdown may not be to everyone’s taste but it damn well should be. Outsiders are often the only real voice out there and that’s why everyone should listen to them but then, if they did, I guess they wouldn’t be outsiders anymore. That being said Robert White should be the biggest comedy star on TV today. He is like no-one else before and I expect since. He should be hosting the panel shows and participating as all the contestants. Step aside Jimmy Carr, your time is (thankfully) up. And you can’t even play a decent trumpet! So remember this name – Robert White. If there is any justice in the world the star of tomorrow. Just come and see the show I implore you. You may love it, you may hate it, but whatever happens you’ll remember it. And isn’t that the important thing? Like Lars Von Trier said – “Great art should be like a stone in the shoe” and Robert White is a fucking great Boulder.
Reviewer : Steven Vickers
Aug 11-15, 17-22, 24-28 (21.50)
Brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant!
A unique and very clever stage production bubbling Andy Warhol Art Pop Panache. A love Story told in three parts that coexist together through the medium of Opera. With a String quartet and a Hip Hop band, blending classical music with funky electronica, this is a feast for senses, that is at once lovely to witness. The cast are all extremely good looking and the genius of the book and stagecraft is nothing less than entertainment at its very, very best. Like a sailor to a siren I had been drawn to the beauty of The Countess singing her part in The Marriage Of Figaro on The Royal Mile after afternoon prayers in Saint Giles. The Countess had a face that was equally as beautiful as her voice. but it was her voice that stole me. So I pleaded with the Mumble editor to arrange for me to review this magic piece work. What I witnessed in this capacity was not what I was expecting. But this made things delightfully entertaining.
It all begins with the heroes of the show settling in on the cuddle couch. Amelia has just secured a job as a Lawyer and Stephen is a struggling composer, both are at the end of a busy day & Amelia wants to watch Kim Kardashian’s televised 72 day marriage with NBA Basketball Star Kris Humphries , while Stephen wants to watch The Marriage of Figaro. At first compromise with the remote control for the telly is workable. Now this is when the stagecraft bursts alive and the switch between Rhythm and Blues and a chamber orchestra becomes palatable. When the remote control was pressed by Amelia, her choice was represented on the left side of the stage. Kim all figure hugging pants and lace sexiness, with the passion of a new married couple, Kris all butch muscular testosterone with one thing on his mind and it wasnae basketball.
When Stephen takes control of the box we are taken back in time to the Marriage Of Figaro. The Count is being a bit of a canute, wooing Wwmen with his literary skills, The Countess gets wind of this and this is where the problems start. Both the Count and the Countess looked fantastic. All period frills and elegant ball gowns. It was right up Divine’s street, Once a New Romantic always a New Romantic. So on the right hand of the stage a fully blown opera. With the Countess giving a mesmerising performance (Divine was awestruck) this is when the stage lighting was brought into full effect. Two marriages on the brink of collapse and one relationship struggling because of telly choices. All sung in fine voice. Sexy & marvellous & sexy entertainment indeed.
Reviewer : Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert
Where were you born/where did you grow up and where are you living today?
Our bedroom’s window opened to Andrássy út across the Budapest Opera House. I spent my childhood watching this building where Gustav Mahler was opera director for a few years. When I was 8, I got my first subscription as a birthday present. I had a diary then, noting which singer I liked or disliked and why. Now I live in Berlin and Budapest.
When did you begin to understand you had a gift for music?
Coming from a musical and theatrical family this question was never asked. My father was a composer/conductor/ translater of operas into Hungarian and my mother should have become a singer. We discussed music, culture and literaure around the dinner table. I learned to read music before reading letters.
You have music in your bones. Is this natural or has it taken some training?
We were brought up by the Kodály method, an excellent school. Studying piano, violin and finally cello also helped. Training is very important at an erly age.
You play several instruments. Which of these would you say was your forte?
When I graduated with cello in Vienna, I realised that I am not really an instrumentalist. Repeating the same works and practicing for many hours didn’t appeal to me. I was interested in the meaning of music and art in general. And I was interested in working with people.
What does Iván Fischer like to do when he’s not being musical?
Now that I am also directing operas, this profession seems much more real: being responsible for the sound alone was never exciting. Being responsible for the essence of a work is really me.
You are the founder and Music Director of the Budapest Festival Orchestra, can you tell us about the company?
It is an excellent and innovative orchestra. I achieve the best results with them, although I am fortunate: I can work with the best orchestras of the world.
What are the secrets to being a good conductor?
You need to be a good, well trained musician, and a good, responsible human being. Conducting means absorbing the work completely and passing t it on to an orchestra and an audience. The absorbing process needs musical qulities and the sharing process needs human qualities.
In recent years you have been steadily gaining an international reputation as a composer. What has motivated you to begin creating new music?
I discovered this gift relatively late because I was so busy as a conductor. Composing needs time and a quiet place. Now I always compose in a small Hungarian village. It is the greatest pleasure at the moment.
You will be performing at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival, can you tell us about it?
Next to a concert I will present my Don Giovanni production that was first performed in Budapest and New York in 2011. Now I changed many details, extended the concept and I think this production can now be seen in a more mature version.
What does the rest of 2017 hold in store for Ivan Fischer?
Many tours and the finishing of my new children’s opera.
9 – 12 August 2017 : Festival Theatre
Scottish Opera – Puccini’s La Bohème
Eden Court’s Empire Theatre, Inverness
13th June 2017
Director Renaud Doucet and designer André Barbe open this production of Puccini’s La Boheme with a prologue which brilliantly blends the past and present together by presenting modern day tourists, complete with mobiles, mp3s and headphones browsing through a timeless Parisian flea market inspired by the Marché aux Puces de St Ouen, the largest flea market in Paris.
We are then transported back to the 1920’s Paris, the Années folles (crazy years) and time of the Lost Generation which were a group of creatives such as Ernest Hemmingway, Man Ray and Jean Coctau. Rodolfo (Christopher Turner) a poet and Marcello (David Stout) a painter are struggling to keep warm in their artists garrett, but are joined by friends who bring wood and alcohol and the lads begin to celebrate Christmas eve before they head out to party in the Latin quarter. Rodolfo stays behind to finish writing and falls in love with his ailing neighbour Mimi (Nadine Livingstone) who calls on him as she needs to relight her candle. The story follows the relationship trials of Rodolfo and Mimi and Marcello and the flamboyant Musetta played by Jeanine De Bique, who somewhat stole the show with her amazing voice and homage to Josephine Baker. Appart from a minor moment when Christopher Turner was drowned out by the orchestra, the four main characters gave good performances both in duet and in ensemble.
Puccini’s themes of love, friendship, illness, and struggling to make ends meet are just as relevant today, the beautiful and vibrant art Deco set and intelligent movement between past and contemporary Paris really highlighted that connection. It was indeed a pleasure to discover La Bohème for the first time.
Reviewer : Zoe Gwynne