I was thrilled to be asked to join the team at Birmingham Opera Company for their 2014 production of Modest Mussorgsky's Khovanskygate: A National Enquiry, but now we are in the final weeks of rehearsal I am even more ecstatic to be part of such a wonderful cast.
This week we finally got to see the pieces of this very confusing puzzle start to come together. Running the acts in order, I am finally beginning to understand what on earth is going on! And I am utterly amazed by the beauty of the music and the glory of the singing. Having worked with some of the principle cast and chorus mentors before I know how strong Graham's cast are, but somehow in this space, with this music, they are bigger and richer and more impressive than ever.
Watching Paul Nilon rehearse is like a master class in singing, and even in the huge space of The Freedom Tent, you can hear every panicked word. Keel Watson fills the space with gorgeous rich sound which washes over you, making him the perfect man to lead us all to the new world. Claudia Huckle's rich contralto timbre is warm and full and her control is simply stunning. Stephanie Corley gives a heart-wrenchingly convincing performance as Emma, the victim of Andrei Khovansky's sexual attack in Act I and has almost caused the audience tovery cast member, including those small roles being sung by chorus mentors, fits perfectly together to make a rich and varied sound world which I am thrilled to be part of. It also helps that the whole cast are encouraging, warm and great fun to work alongside - even when we're committing mass suicide.
Birmingham Opera Company's production of The Khovansky Files: A National Enquiry is an official UK - Russia Year of Culture 2014 Event with performances on 22, 24, 28, 30 April and 2 May 2014 in Birmingham.
The powerful political drama about rebellion and revolution will be performed in a secret venue in Birmingham and I am thrilled to be working as a chorus mentor with such an innovative and exciting company on such a politically relevant operatic work.
After having performed in the premiere of Jonathan Dove's Life is a Dream in 2012, I am delighted to have been asked back to work with Birmingham Opera Company on their latest project - The Khovansky Files: A National Enquiry, composed by Modest Musorgsky and directed by Graham Vick. The opera, in a new English version by Max Hoehn, raises strikingly modern parallels. The story takes place in a Russia divided by powerful conservative forces and growing Westernising influence. Musorgsky paints a devastating portrait of a nation on the brink of collapse; torn apart by state corruption, religious fanaticism, social inequality and ethnic cleansing. A Russia not all that dissimilar from the one we know today.
The latest song from Pussy Riot, 'Putin Will Teach You to Love the Motherland', released to coincide with the Winter Olympics in Sochi highlights the injustice in Russia in 2014 and attacks the President's human rights record. Much of the new video shows the women being manhandled by police, attacked with pepper spray and whipped by Cossack militia.
Khovanskygate: A National Enquiry in Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham, received fantastic reviews across the board and was awarded four stars by both The Guardian and The Telegraph.
"The evening’s most impressive element is the huge amateur chorus embodying the people who are the ultimate victims of all the shenanigans...here, performing with passionate enthusiasm and commitment, they become the show’s motivating force" - Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph
"Musical standards and the quality of individual performances are both extraordinarily high." - Andrew Clements, The Guardian
One of my very close friends, and fantastic fellow singer, the beautiful Hannah Davey is one of 100 people taking part in an exciting new fundraising project aiming to raise money and awareness for three wonderful charities.
It is a very simple idea: to create portraits of 100 people who have beaten cancer and then ask businesses to support three brilliant charities by sponsoring their favourite. The aim is to show people that cancer can be indiscriminate and has extraordinary effects on ordinary people. It can affect absolutely anyone. Even people just like you.
The people behind The 100 Project say:
"No one asks for cancer and it can strike at any age - from 1 to 100. The people we have met are vibrant, energetic, ambitious, and have families. Many don’t smoke or drink. They didn't ask for cancer; cancer, for some reason, came to them out of the blue. They like and dislike all sorts of things. Some of them even dislike having their photo taken - just like you!"
The three cancer charities benefiting from this great idea are:
Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research
We Are MacMillan. Cancer Support
Take a look at The 100 Project website for more information about how you, or your business can help. I've just donated, perhaps you can too...they'll think you're awesome!