An Interview with Eamonn Dougan

This Friday, the Lammermuir Festival will be bringing Mozart’s La Finta Giardiniera to the Brunton in Musselburgh. The Mumble managed to catch a few words with its conductor…


Hello Eamonn, where were you from and where are you living today?
Both my parents are Irish, but I was born in the UK so have a foot in both camps. Home is now Haywards Heath in Sussex.

When did you begin to understand you had a gift for music?
I always loved music from an early age. One of my earliest memories is of sitting in on my sister’s piano lesson & enjoying listening to the sound of the piano.

Can you tell us about your work with The Sixteen?
I’ve been working with the group for about 14 years now initially as a singer and now also as associate conductor. The main focus of my conducting with the group has been a series of five recordings of Polish baroque music, but I also conduct a number of concerts on the choral pilgrimage each year & work closely with Harry Christophers, with Genesis Sixteen, our training scheme for young singers.

How did you get into conducting?
I started as school, but it really took off at university where I set up all manner of different groups, including a barber shop quartet, an acapella choir & a baroque instrumental ensemble.

What are the secrets to being a good conductor?
Learn what to do from good conductors & what not to do from less good ones. Also remember its never about you.

What does Eamonn Dougan like to do when he’s not being musical?
Simply, be at home with my wife & two sons.

You are performing at this year’s Lammermuir Festival. Is this your first time & if not what is the history?
First time – looking forward to it enormously.

You will be conducting La Finta for Ryedale Festival Opera at the Brunton next week. Why this piece?
The choice was mad by Christopher Glynn, artistic director of Ryedale Festival. Its a great piece, especially to do with young singers… perhaps.

La Finta is one of Mozart’s earliest operas. What are the differences between this & his later masterpieces?
Mozart is still cutting his teeth in Finta G & you feel it principally in the dramatic pacing. The arias are often too long & he’s sometimes too interested in showing how clever he is. In the ensembles you only tend to hear one voice at a time (unless they are all singing the same text) – compare that to the ensembles in Figaro.

WEB Ryedale Festival Opera La Fintaw Giardiniera credit Matthew Johnson.jpg

Ryedale Festival Opera

The libretto is a new English translation by John Warrack. How are you finding it?
Brilliant. I’m a big fan of doing opera in the vernacular & John has made it crystal clear & very amusing.

What does the rest of 2017 hold in store for Eamonn Dougan?
It’s a busy time – a tour of Japan with The Sixteen, Mozart’s Requiem in an arrangement for ‘Harmonie; wind band, directing my first Monteverdi Vespers & conducting The Sixteen in Belgium, including a world premiere of a new Magnificat by Thomas Hyde.

Photographer Benjamin Harte


Robert White : InstruMENTAL


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


The Marriage Of Kim K


C Venues
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


An Interview with Ivan Fischer


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.

You can catch Ivan & Don Giovanni in Edinburgh this August

9 – 12 August 2017 : Festival Theatre

La Bohème

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


Ellen Kent’s Verdi

The Playhouse


31st March & 1st April



Last weekend I had the immeasurable delight of catching two of Ellen Kent’s 2017 operas. Nabucco & Aida, both by Verdi. This composer has a special place in Ellen’s heart, & handling Nabucco especially is always an emotional experience for her, having been the first opera she ever produced. This was Friday’s opera, & seeing as my two daughters (ages 7 & 9) had invited their pals for a sleepover – I mused upon introducing them to the opera while they were under my wings, so to speak. So gaining permission from the other poems, we dressed accordingly & all went to the opera.


Nabucco is an Italian-language opera composed in 1841 by Giuseppe Verdi to a libretto by Temistocle Solera. In essence, Nabucco is a collection of Old Testament tales which follow the adventures oof teh Jews as they are persecuted by King Nabucco (Nebuchadnezzar II). It is globally famous for the epic, cinematic, hauntingly melodic Va Pensiero – Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves – & Ellen Kent’s inescapable penchant & reputation for handling such potentially hot potatoes with professional & entertaining creativity was proven yet again. My girls simply adored the magic of the moment. ‘Mother, do they sing all the way through?‘ asked my seven year old, but then returned the gaze mesmerised to the stage. Enraptured by the spectacular visual feast before them – including a real horse & the startling burning down of Solomon’s temple – French soprano Olga Perrier ‘s brilliant Abigaille, Moldovan baritone Iurie Gisca’s moody Nabucco & the orchestra’s sublime emotions, four of us fell in love with the opera that night, while the other – myself – could not wait until the morrow.

For Saturday night  I had a few spritzers & took the taxi to the top of Leith Walk in the company of a good ladyfriend of mine, settling down with her in a nigh-full Playhouse, for my second slice of Ellen Kent’s take on Verdi. I must admit he is one of my personal favorites, & especially Aida – there is something about ancient & grandiose Egypt which is perfect for operatic visuals & song. Opera & the Pyramids, two of the highest inventions of humanity. Tonight also saw the return of the horse from Nabucco, this time for Triumphal March scene with Giorgio Meladze’s sensational tenor, Radames whose ‘Celeste Aida’ was delivered impeccably.

Aida & Amneris

Meladze was perfectly complemented  by international soprano Ecaterina Danu’s, Aida, and iza Kadelnik’s mezzo-soprano, Amneris.  Iurie Gisca was also back as the King of Ethiopia & one really feels that he prefers to play this part, he poured in passion & relish which were perhaps not as prominent on Friday’s performance. The stage was dominated by the King’s Palace and Temple of Isis, which were lit with grace & sophistication by Valeriu Cucarschi. An excellent setting for some excellent opera. Aida is a much more bubbly piece than Nabucco, which is strange seeing as the two operas were written in Verdi’s ebullient youth & reflective age. But that is why I love Aida, it is sensational on all fronts & Ellen delivers its imperial majesty with her own kind of majesty. Yes, for Ellen Kent – & for us our grateful acolytes – Aida totally fits.
Reviewer : Emily Beeson Bullen

La Boheme

Edinburgh Playhouse

Thursday 30th March



IMG_20170331_105242502.jpgIs it that time of year already, when the fabulous Ellen Kent invites us all to her private operatic society, in order for us to become more educated, lets say, in what an opera should be. She & her Moldovan maestros are in Scotland for a wee while, of which stint Ellen told The Mumble in an earlier interview, ‘There’s something atmospheric about Edinburgh – I love the Playhouse – I always make a point of coming up to Edinburgh for the shows & this year I’ll be staying for all three. I do like Scotland, what is there not to like, I’ve got my shows there, we’ve just played Glasgow Concert Hall – I have to say we get well over a thousand people every night – its just a pleasure, people come in a big way. OK, Edinburgh is a bit of a mission to fill – its a bit big – but I do Glasgow, I do Dundee, I do Edinburgh – I just love Scotland, but particularly Edinburgh, its one of my favorite cities.’ As always she is serving up a three-course meal, with the starter being Puccini’s inimitable La Boheme. Set in Paris & sung in Italian, its four acts tell the story of a poet called Rodolfo, his musewoman Mimì, & her tragic early end. The title comes from Puccini’s activities in the early 1890s, of which Robert Beale told the Mumble; ‘he & a few friends formed what they called the ‘Boheme Club’, meeting in an old hut near Puccini’s villa at Torre del Lago in Tuscany. Some were locals & some from the group of painters who worked in the area.  They got together to eat, play cards & drink & had a set of rules which included ‘The treasurer is empowered to abscond with all the funds’ & ‘It is forbidden to play cards honestly.’ By 1896 the opera was ready, & after its first performance in Turin, at the Teatro Regio, it has projected far beyond its early dilettante status into a true stellar satellite of the operatic pantheon.


La Boheme is also one of Ellen Kent’s favorites, & the care she has shown for the piece with this particular production reflects her love completely. Her backdrops are magnificent, & their place in this opera was described by Ellen in her interview; ‘I love art – my great friend is Ralph Steadman – I see opera in pictures – I am very filmic, accompanied by beauty. La Boheme indulges that, each scene reflects a French Impressionist style or painting – my act 1 is more Renoir, for example.‘ In fact, perhaps they were a little too magnificent, for the scene transitions did linger a little too long, I thought, but as soon as the transition was complete all was forgotten. You simply cannot rush genius, & Ellen Kent has something of Da Vinci’s eye when it comes to an aesthetic. In Act 2 we have the Jardin des Tuileries on market day, an exquisite scene with brilliant costumes, a brass band & marching children. Even better was melodramatic Act 3, which contained a constant &  enigmatic snowfall. All in all, a spectacle showing how Ellen Kent applies her mind mind to a classic art form, & reinvents it with pitch-perfect vigour.

Thomas Chatterton

The libretto  – by Luigi Illica &  Giuseppe Giacosa – is a perfect thing, especially come the sweet-scented fragrance of Rodolfo’s love lyrics to Mimi. Lines such as ‘Because I am the poet, she is poetry,‘ & ‘in blissful poverty I squander rhymes & song of love like a rich man… I have the spirit of a millionaire,’ float down straight from the slopes of Parnassus. The singers were positively excellent, with Giorgio Meladze’s Rodolfo maintaining a sustained majesty through his rather difficult part. At times it seems as if his voice were a chamber orchestra, all playing the same note in perfect harmony. He also managed to pull of the gay opening, a difficult to perform romp through Parisian bohemia; but there was a fine bouncy rapport between the five actors, as if they were the operatic prototypes of the three-stooges. It was also adorable to watch Rodolfo sing with, act alongside & caress with much sweetness with his co-star, Alyona Kistenyova. There was an exceptional sweet chemistry between them, their voices interweaving like branches of ivy snaking up a single polar tree. Together they invoked in me a genuine pathos at the end, when Mimi boarded her death-bed just as Keats mounted the Spanish Steps.  Another young English poem sprang to mind as Mimi stretched her arm with  her final breath, & created an image I had seen before, concerning the Death of Thomas Chatterton, & I am curious to know if Ellen was aware of this in her conscious or subconscious mind. Kistenyaova’s soprana, however, was outdazzled I think by Olga Perrier’s Musetta, who looked, moved & sounded amazing. From the moment she glided onto stage in a pink dress in Act 2, leading a lovely white Scottish Terrier, she dominated the stage with her glitzy style & splendid arias. Her dog had won a recent competition advertised in the Edinburgh Evening News, & though a little bamboozled at times, was calm enough to let the opera flow about it with nothing so much as a bark. A tremendous effort from the insatiably high-standard-setting Ellen Kent.

Reviewer : Damian Beeson Bullen