I am thrilled to announced that I have been awarded a bursary for 2017/2018 from the Opera Awards Foundation alongside some very esteemed and talented colleagues. The Foundation awards annual bursaries to aspiring operatic talent and applications are encouraged from any artist working toward a career in opera, who needs financial support to achieve their career goals.
I took the chance and applied back in August and at first wasn't entirely sure what I'd ask for in terms of funding. Creating a show or production is the obvious idea of course, but with a limit on £5000 it would be tight to create a new show and produce it - and I didn't have anything currently in progress to add funding towards so I didn't pursue that. I also thought about taking the money to try to watch or observe some operas in the US or Australia where I have a few contacts but that didn't ring true to me either. I didn't want to apply to do something for the sake of it, and then be left with the possible realisation that I had made a poor decision. But then one day I was talking to a friend about how much I had enjoyed my Italian experience earlier this year and the thought hit me.
I went to Italy in February and March with the intention of learning Italian properly - surrounded by the people, culture and the food (important!) in preparation for Don Giovanni for which I was the associate director at Opera Holland Park 2017. Now, learning the language isn't a must for opera directing, you could just translate what you need and go for it and lots of people I know do just that. You can get by and still tell a great story with a good cast and that's what I did for a while. I first realised this wasn't the only way to prepare though when I was working with Opera Director Harry Fehr in November/December 2016. His understanding of the musical and linguistic languages in the operas he works on is at times mesmerising (a bold statement I know but it's true) and it was a pleasure to see someone take so much care and pride over the work that they make. There's something appealing about doing things properly - about knowing all the facets of the story you're working with and all the subtext that this language tells you about the characters and their context. Anyway, per farla breve Harry inspired me to give it a go - and begin to learn Italian ready for my work on a show in Italian. To say I found the process rewarding is an understatement - Italian is now a skill I cherish and practice daily (and eat as often as I can...).
My next big opera I'm working on is Ariadne auf Naxos which is a production in collaboration between Scottish Opera and Opera Holland Park in 2018 - part in English, part in German. So there you go - in preparation for this show I applied to the Opera Awards to go to Berlin, spend some time there and learn the language properly. It's a personal development adventure and one that I'm lucky to have the time to dedicate to at this point in my career. So a big thank you to the Opera Awards Foundation and the board who allowed me the time and space in December/January to really do things properly. What a pleasure that is.
Another huge pleasure is reading the list of recipients and recognising some colleagues and friends amongst them; Lauren Fagan, Ruth Mariner and Alex Stenson - congratulations ladies!
To see the full list of award winners and what they are up to click here. And if you know anyone I should say hello to in Berlin please get in touch. Danke!
I have been incredibly lucky to have observed back-to-back at the two major opera houses in the UK over the past three months and I thought it was about time I took a little moment to reflect. First of all I was in the English National Opera rehearsal room for Phelim McDermott's production of Aida (Latonia Moore and Gwyn Hughes Jones) - a multi-faceted production with a circus skills team and a stunning set designed by Tom Pye - lead with the inspiration from the Open Space principles and the general Improbable style and process. I then jumped straight into holding the Directing Observership at The Royal Opera House on Katie Mitchell's revival of Lucia di Lammermoor (Lisette Oropesa and Charles Castronovo) - a feminist perspective on this opera which features surprising little of the protagonist, beautifully designed by Vicki Mortimer.
Both of these experiences have been remarkable in identifying my own process as a director - and being in rehearsal rooms for such an extended period of time has reminded me quite how much I love the job I do. Although I greatly respect both directors in this instance (I've seen lots of work by both of them and have studied/researched their styles and processes) my reflection is mostly how important the role of the assistant director is in these rooms - and that a good assistant can really help make a show. I suppose I would say that. But as well as Phelim and Katie, I've had the pleasure of watching some fantastic assistants do their job and in turn, enabling the cast and creative team to do theirs too. This is integral to a fulfilling and successful show - and although you may not always recognise a good assistant from the outside - (the good ones are usually quite invisible until required) it's been a thrill to watch some of these people be outstanding at their jobs. Some of these people included; Heather Fairbairn, Lily McLiesh, Jamie Manton and Joe Austen.
I don't think good assistants always get credited enough so here's me doing my bit - I think we probably have to try and make those little changes from the inside to say thank you and give praise.