Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Ellen's Aria from Peter Grimes

It's a wild, wild day here on The island of Paradise. It was forecast and everyone has battened down the hatches. I haven't seen any mail vans, so hopefully my alto post lady will have had a much deserved day off. The bridge was closed most of the night and some of today, so I'm very glad I had nowhere official to go ! Tuesday is one of my home teaching days, so I could hunker down, keep the stove topped up and enjoy being warm inside !

Lots of the youngsters are still away on holiday so my days are a little jumbled still, but in a way it is 'a change is as good as a rest' scenario !

Last week, for the first time in a few years I gave the profound and tricky aria ' Ellen's Aria' from Britten's opera, Peter Grimes, to K. It is a genre and style she has never tackled, but given her huge facility for drama and characterisation, I felt it was worth the risk. Very often, when I demonstrate to the student whilst they listen and make a decision whether they like it or not, that decision is quite straightforward and most often a style of vocal music which is easily accessible to the ear and brain. Britten is a totally different case. It is such wonderous music drama, based around the story and so fixed by the speech rhythms of the English language, but it can also be tricky to understand and many times full of clashes which can be hard on the ear.

In this aria Ellen is talking to Peter Grimes' boat boy, and her whole short scene has a rumble of storms and wild water, yet she is being warm and kind to the poor child. K listened with an intelligent approach and open mind and went away from her lesson more than willing to 'give it a go', and mildly excited by the thought of such new music.

A few days later I received a text from said K, which simply said 'I LOVE LOVE LOVE it!' How gratifying is that, and what a joy to know that sometimes I feel that I can choose repertoire which suits the person first, as well as the voice alone.

Infact, I think the key is 'the person first'. Get that bit right and the rest falls into place like a row of falling dominos !

Opera North production of Peter Grimes


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