I have had a super two days at Durham University and The Sage Gateshead. I have masterclassed students from 12 to 22 years of age, and of all different stages of development. The university students were a mix of final recital performers, working towards a very imminent exam, perhaps even during this coming week, and those who are freshers, just getting to grips with the new world of student life, and being away from home. The Sage singers were younger, mostly around 16 years old, and attending the weekend school run out of this wonderful venue and resource for North East of England culture vultures !
I heard some really gripping performences, including a truly startling Lady Billows aria, sung by a 21 year old about to take up a full scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music in London. It is not often one comes across a young person who has such wonderful comic timing, but this young lady is a past master, and has a face as malleable as Eric Morcambe ! On top of that splendid talent she sings like a goddess with a full, fruity and fat tone quality which strikes to one's very core. She thinks like the wind, and reacts to the incredibly British humour of this most glorious Britten opera, and whilst not yet having managed the gait of a 65 year old spinster who is a bossy as they come, she makes the sardonic lyrics come to life. She sang Lady Billow's first aria, when the assembled (and trembling!) May Day Committee, are sitting around her drawing room table listening, in fear and trepidation to her rantings about how to chose a 'virtuous' Queen of the May for the village fete !
'Must make virtue attractive,exciting, desirable for young people '
'Too many ....goings on......Dirty things.........Agh !
......and so it goes on. Having played the role myself many years so, I know just how much fun can be had with the rantings and ravings of such a deliciously repressed edwardian aristocrat, a woman used to being cow towed to, a woman whose words are village law ! Oh the joy of it, a gift of a role to sing and act.
Another young cast member is from The Sage Young Musicians Programme. I have watched and listened to this rather shy, yet self possessed young lady over a number of years. She is playing the redoubtable housekeeper, Florence who is at the beck and call of Lady B 24/7 ! This singer is quite remarkable. I have rarely seen such a youngster, one who blossoms so vividly when she performs, then retires back into her own thinking world as if she were retreating into the shade after shining so brightly in the sunlight. She is totally committed, totally focused and sings with a chocolate tone quality, so warm and resonant yet with tangible edge and bite. She gives me goosebumps and I feel pulled to her performance completely and wholly.
These two young singers make me feel so joyfully positive about the future of classical singing. There were many others too, and I heard some remarkable and moving songs and arias, there is so much of top notch worth happening in this neck of the vocal woods. After allowing my brain to rest awhile I will elaborate on some more performances in the next few days.
This young company will be stunning in August when their production of Albert Herring opens. They will each relish their role as if it were a richly layered and thickly iced operatic chocolate cake, and the two young young C's will bring the house down.
The hugely funny operas by Benjamin Britten are like 'tricky to sing' panto, goodies, baddies, mums and sons, bad girls and flighty children, all mixed up with great vocal drama. If you've never seen Albert Herring, get the wonderful Glyndebourne DVD and laugh and cry with the audience! Not to be missed.
Go on - go on !