Bravo Figaro

Anna Devin portrait

Anna Devin

Soprano Anna Devin brings you the latest news direct from the 2012 Glyndebourne Tour, Anna will give regular updates on the company as it tours venues across the country.

Born in Ireland, she studied at the Royal Irish Academy of Music and GSMD. She was a Young Associate Artist at OTC and is a member of the ROH’s Jette Parker Young Artists Programme. She has appeared at several festivals including Aix, Göttingen International Handel, London Handel, Chelsea Schubert and Brighton Early Music.

Tuesday 28th November

Since I last wrote my previous blog I have taken part in three Glyndebourne Tour productions and a recital, so it’s been a busy winter of activity so far!

On the road we have toured in Wimbledon and Canterbury; both were equally enjoyable with wonderfully receptive audiences.  The Wimbledon show was my last performance with the second cast and conductor. I have really enjoyed working with this particular cast and will miss their personalities and our unique show. It is always sad to know you may never get the same combination of voices and musicians performing together again, and with that in mind I made the most of our the time. The feedback so far is that the production has been brilliantly received and lapped up by the crowds. So if you can get through the flood waters please do try and make most of the last two venues in Milton Keynes and Stoke-on-Trent, as the most exciting performances are yet to come.

Due to the change in personnel I was not scheduled to perform in Plymouth. Instead of resting I used the time to perform in concert singing Debussy in London; I like to keep busy!  There is an interesting contrast between the worlds of Mozart and Debussy as they are so far removed from each other.  Mozart’s harmonies are crystal clear and the music guides the listeners on a journey. Whereas on the other side of the fence I find Debussy makes one sit back and inhale the romantic landscape that he readily creates.  I must confess; I did miss my alternate personality of Susanna when I became the narrator of wonderful French poetry.  I’m not sure Susanna would have the time to wallow in the charms of Debussy but I am sure would find joy in the silence between the notes!

Back to the master of all, Wolfgang Mozart and my first rehearsal in Canterbury. The shows here had a new feel as the Figaro, the Countess and the Count were all from the first cast.  It must have been strange for them as they have been performing together for 16 shows with a different Susanna and along I come. Creating the chemistry on stage was an important step to maintain the level of quality for the audience.  It is very rewarding in these situations, as it makes the first performance an unknown and very exciting.  All are very different performers and brought original interpretations of their roles to the show. All the work and excitement paid off, and we had two excellent shows at the newly developed Marlowe Theatre. The Cathedral city of Canterbury is most definitely worth a visit, unfortunately I only had the time and pleasure to see a snippet. It feels like a quintessential English city but with a modern vibe, catering for every generation.  The Marlowe Theatre has recently been renovated. It is a lovely, clean space and back stage is easy to work in.  It is the small, almost funny things that matter when you’re working in differing venues; for me a comfortable back stage is very important.  The theatre resembles Glyndebourne, with its use of wood panelling, which makes for a very live acoustic sound; I wonder where they got their creative inspiration!

Two more venues, four shows to go. I hope to see you all there!!

Wednesday 7th November: A Tour to remember

The Glyndebourne Tour is definitely under way; we have performed three shows and are enjoying the fun of different venues and different audiences.  Glyndebourne is such a fantastic, acoustic venue that I was not expecting to experience such impressive acoustic anywhere else, but I have been pleasantly surprised by the New Victoria Theatre, Woking and the Theatre Royal, Norwich.

Although the New Victoria Theatre, Woking is a small theatre it was a joy to sing in, the resonance of the space came straight back on stage and on top of that the orchestra was in a double level pit.  This meant that the first desk of violins and cellos along with our conductor were on a raised platform almost level with the stage.  It was great.  I could see the orchestra while performing and it felt like being in a chamber ensemble, with the conductor right under my nose.  What an unexpected treat!

The show in Woking was on a Thursday night and was clearly enjoyed by all, however it always amazes me how much more relaxed the audiences are on a Saturday night. Last Saturday, in Norwich the audience was laughing from the outset and very involved in all the details of the show, it is a reminder of how relaxed we all are by the weekend.  

Touring is a funny business as it is hard to get a feel for places when all you do is eat and sing there.  I stayed overnight in Norwich as it was too far from home and I really wished I had another day to explore.   The historic centre of the town is charming and the people are incredibly friendly. The countryside around Norfolk is beautiful, with the changing trees and the crisp sunny weather, it is begging for me to return. 

This week we are closer to home in Wimbledon so I am looking forward to singing to a London audience with plenty of friendly faces, I will be back soon to report on the London leg of what is so far a wonderful Tour 2012!

Wednesday 24th October 2012: The role of Susanna

Performing the role of Susanna has been number 1 on my list of dream roles since I started singing. I saw my first production of Le nozze di Figaro when I was just 6 years old and in my early innocence I turned to my mother and told her I wanted to play Susanna one day. That seems like a long time ago now and at that time I had no understanding of the study, dedication and commitment it would take to embark on a career as an opera singer, but my 6-year-old self pushed me on through those years of training and preparation and here we are, touring this wonderful Glyndebourne production across the country!

The most inspiring and daunting thing about the gem of a role that is Susanna is the fact that it is the longest role in the soprano repertoire, ensuring a lot of learning before you even step into the rehearsal room. This process makes the first day all the more exciting. After imagining, developing and crafting my approach it was now time to see how I could develop Suanna into the magnificence that is Michael Grandage’s Susanna.

Meeting the cast, conductor and director is like meeting a new family. Although I knew the other singers, I had never worked with our revival director Ian Rutherford or conductor Ilyich Rivas.  As we sang through the opera I knew we were in for a good time with Maestro Rivas, he is a young conductor at the beginning of an exciting career and brings a fresh, truthful and honest reading of Mozart’s score. Ian had spent the summer with Micheal Grandage so his understanding of the concept and story telling was impeccable. We started at the beginning with the duets for Susanna and Figaro. This opening scene sets the tone of their relationship for the whole opera, as it is the only time we see them alone until after they are married in Act 4. There is nothing like lovers affection, kissing and rolling around the floor to get one in the character.  Rehearsing like this on the first day is great as it makes you immediately open up and give your all to your touring Figaro, Derek Welton. 

For me the key to success in the role of Susanna is in the development of her relationships and how she behaves with different people; from the intimacy she has with Figaro to the treachery with the Count and the complex connections with the Countess – all of these relationships require a different approach to Susanna’s character portrayal. Our rehearsal schedule allows for time to enjoy nurturing these relationships whilst learning all about the effect the 1960’s would have had on such an intricate household. 

Opening night is the peak of the rehearsal period and on this occasion it was heightened with the excitement of an auditorium filled with children from 8-18 years old.  Their concentration, learning, understanding and sheer enjoyment for life flows on to the stage and to us as performers. Figaro is a difficult story to follow with all the subplots but the young audience understood everything. As the show got underway, I knew they were in for a bit of fun when the first giggles permeated from the audience as Susanna gets stuck between the Count and Basillio and the story (and the audience) take off. 

The rest of the opera went by in a flash as I loved every second of it and had no time to think about anything but performing my first Susanna. For me the outstanding difference between school’s matinee and a regular show is in the curtain calls.  Children bring ridiculous amounts of excitement and cheer to everyone that is involved in the show and when you step out to bow, you feel a little bit like a pop-star rather then an opera star, the amount of noise they made would have filled Wembley arena.  I do hope that the show sticks with them as much as it did for me when I was 6 and there are some budding opera buffs amongst the children of East Sussex. 

I will leave you for now and the next time I write it will be one the road. The show has now opened in Woking and I will perform what feels like the adult opening night for the people of Woking tomorrow. Fingers crossed!

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