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La traviata – 2016
We hope you will enjoy this, and the Where Are They now?
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Designer in the Spotlight
Opera Novice Night’s Director’s Talk
‘…Christopher Cowell’s new production of La traviata was impressive but the bedrock of its success was the design, by Eleanor Wdowski. Taking her inspiration from Klimt and the Vienna Secession and, by inference, the liberation it symbolized, she provided a glorious gold-patterned backdrop which at first seemed over the top but which under the subtle influence of Petr Vocka’s lighting came to reflect the moods of the show. By the end, it became deeply autumnal, even threatening. Marlena Devoe, a tall New-Zealand-born Samoan, was a striking Violetta… lovely, even sound, full of warmth. She found plenty of passion in Act 2… Among several other promising voices, Natalie Sinnott’s dynamic Flora made a nice contrast with Violetta. The conductor Clive Timms brought a reassuring cohesion to the proceedings, with the Clonter Sinfonia sounding much more sizeable than its dozen players. He kept an admirably steady momentum without hurrying his singers. The main fruit of Cowell’s efforts was the palpable esprit de corps in this cast, most clearly realized when they combined as chorus’ Martin Dreyer, Opera Magazine
‘A fresh approach…stunning staging…in the visual style of the Viennese world, Gustav Klimt…Brilliant designer Eleanor Wdowski has gone to town…Director Christopher Cowell look for the underside of the superficially glitzy, party-loving, champagne-drenched circle of the courtesan…In Marlena Devoe (Violetta) we have a real star…spellbinding from her first entrance…surrounded by a fine cast…Peter Aisher captures the character of Alfredo…they sing splendidly together. Sopranos Turiya Haudenhuyse, as Violetta’s caring companion Annina, and Natalie Sinnott as vivacious courtesan Flora, sing beautifully…Piran Legg, as Alfredo’s scheming father Giorgio, is an impressive baritone. Edward Laurenson (Baron Duphol), Rhys Alun Thomas (Violetta’s doctor), Richard Shaffrey (friend Gaston) and Guy Booth (Flora’s protector) make up a strong cast…Clive Timms, who works wonders with the 12-strong Clonter Sinfonia in realising Verdi’s wonderful score’ Philip Radcliffe, Manchester Theatre Awards
Where Are They Now?
Marlena Devoe – Violetta Valéry
Since performing the role of Violetta in Clonter’s production of La traviata in 2016, returning to take part in Clonter’s Opera Gala in 2018, Marlena, having already won the Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge Bel Canto Award and the Tait Memorial Prize, went onto win the Leonard Ingrams Award later that year, and was a 2018 Alvarez Artist at Garsington Opera at Wormsley, where she made her debut as Alice Ford Falstaff. Further engagements have included Mimì La bohème for New Zealand Opera 2018, which she also repeated for additional performances with Lyric Opera, Dublin, Beethoven Symphony No. 9 with the Orion Orchestra at Cadogan Hall and Messiah with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. Current engagements include Mimì La bohème for Oxford Opera, Verdi Requiem at the Snape Maltings and Classical Favourites with the Roman River Festival Orchestra.
Si, mi chiamano Mimì, La bohème 2018 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AjkGgizpdig
TVNZ – New Zealand Public Broadcast 2018 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ESrCRkqHI8
Adina L’elisir d’amore, Verbier Festival – “Marlena Devoe looked almost Ava-Gardner-like as Adina and produced a linear, seraphic sound that went excitingly into overdrive above the stave.” Opera
Lucia Lucia di Lammermoor, Auckland Opera Studio – “Devoe is fresh from winning the Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge Bel Canto Awards in Sydney and she certainly demonstrated her natural aptitude for bel canto style here. “Regnaza nel silenzio” showed off her ability to sculpt a long phrase and the ensuing cabaletta gave us some nigh-perfect passagework. Devoe’s is a pleasing lyric soprano that gains in amplitude as it gets higher; the final high phrases of “Quando rapita” were as magnificently gleaming and immaculately poised as any I’ve heard…“ Bachtrack “Marlena Devoe, fearless in her coloratura, was an affecting Lucia.” New Zealand Herald
Mimì La bohème, Lyric Opera, Dublin – “Samoan-born Marlena Devoe presents the fragile figure of the consumptive heroine with positive conviction. Her clear soprano range may be delicately expressive but it also shows a depth of purpose when need be.” Irish Independent “The team of admirable young singers was headed by the excellent Marlena Devoe, a New Zealand winner of the Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge Bel Canto Award. She proved a most appealing Mimì…” Opera
Mimì La bohème, New Zealand Opera – “Devoe’s Mimì was sweet and appealing in character but with a surprisingly large and rich voice that luxuriated in Puccini’s soaring vocal lines. There was an almost-dramatic soprano richness, particularly in the higher register, to the extent that her great third-act plea to Marcello had an extra vivid tragic effect. Some veristic sobs and dives into chest register in this scene made Mimì a more compelling, rounded character than many others do. The many remembrances of phrases past that pervade the final act were taken with a ravishingly soft thread of tone as death approached.” Bachtrack ”Thomas Atkins and Marlena Devoe are memorable as the doomed Rodolfo and Mimi, from their first heart-stopping encounter to Devoe’s moving death scene.“ New Zealand Herald “Marlena Devoe’s Mimì was a rich and developed character and her singing was moving and, equally importantly, her acting was convincing.” Radio New Zealand
Peter Aisher – Alfredo Germont
Since performing the role of Alfredo in Clonter’s production of La traviata in 2016, Peter graduated from his postgraduate studies with Distinction and was the winner of the Ted Moss & Bertha Taylor-Stach Prize for Lieder, and of the Joan Chissell Schumann Prize. He was a young artist at Deutsche Oper am Rhein, singing 120 performances across two seasons. His operatic repertoire includes several Mozart roles: Tamino Die Zauberflöte, Ferrando Così fan tutte, Don Ottavio Don Giovanni; Handel: Arete (Giove) Giove in Argo, Lurcanio Ariodante; and several other roles from the lyric repertoire: Alfredo La traviata, Lensky Eugene Onegin, Albert Albert Herring, Arturo Lucia di Lammermoor. Operetta roles include Alfred Die Fledermaus, der erste Fremder Der Vetter aus Dingsda and Frederick Pirates of Penzance. Performances on the concert platform include: Bach St John Passion (tenor soloist), St Matthew Passion (tenor soloist), Christmas Oratorio (evangelist and tenor soloist), Handel Messiah, Haydn Missa Sancti Nicolai, Missa in tempore belli, Mendelssohn Lobgesang, Monteverdi Vespro della Beata Virgine, Mozart Requiem, Vesperae solennes de confessore, Litaniae Lauretanae, K.109, Orff Carmina Burana, Tippet A Child of Our Time, Vaughan-Williams On Wenlock Edge, as well as contemporary works: Giles Swayne’s Hubbub, Christopher Brown’s A Five-Gated Well, and David Earl’s settings of Rupert Brooke poetry for tenor and piano with the composer at the piano.
Full Biog – http://peteraisher.com/en/
‘A wonderful Italianate tenor with a scintillating upper register. This is a voice of jaw-dropping beauty and an open sound. This young man is also an intelligent, poised musician. I don’t say that because he graduated from Cambridge in Astrophysics, but because he gave such a beautifully-phrased, elegantly nuanced performance.’ Miranda Jackson, Opera Britannia ‘I can’t remember the last time I went to a Handel opera and came away most excited about the tenor, but Peter Aisher (Lurcanio) is an exception. It helps that Handel writes some of his most athletic and attractive music for this role … , but it’s Aisher who seizes these challenging coloratura showpieces and really sells them. Added to his vocal agility is a lovely baritonal colouring to the voice, and even tone-colour from top to bottom.’ Alexandra Coghlan, The Arts Desk
Piran Legg- Giorgio Germont
Since performing the role of Germont in Clonter’s production of La traviata in 2016, Piran has performed extensively in Opera and concert around the UK and abroad, singing roles with companies such as Wexford Festival Opera, Garsington Opera and the LSO. He has ranged from characters such as Schaunard in La bohème at the Cadogan Hall to Antonio in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro and Ferrando in Verdi’s Il Trovatore. Piran also enjoys more contemporary projects and has taken part in cutting edge new work in festivals around London and the U.K. He has recorded a C.D. of new songs written on a theme of “Songs of the Big Smoke” and has played the roles of Crow and Eric Satie in WorkShopOPERA’s acclaimed productions of Boys of Paradise and Seven Velvet Suits respectively. He also premiered the role of King Erysichthon in Edward Rushton’s chamber opera Cicadas with the LSO. As well as performing on the Operatic Stage, Piran has a busy schedule of concert performances. 2017 saw Piran undertaking a wide variety of projects, including Bach’s St. Mathew Passion and Elgar’s masterpiece The Dream of Gerontius, working with Bergen National Opera on Il Turco in Italia and taking the role of Samuel in Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera, with Winslow Hall Opera. Highlights of 2018 included a critically acclaimed role debut as Ferrando in Verdi’s Il Trovatore, a debut as Colas and Buff in a Mozart double bill with Pop Up Opera and a return to Bergen National Opera in the Flying Dutchman, along with a thrilling performance as Action in West Side Story with the Bath Festival. Piran has won Music Prizes at the Canterbury Festival, is a former International Opera Awards Young Artist Bursary Winner and Fishmongers Music Scholar.
Ferrando, Il Trovatore 2018 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYZaVt_Uvv0
Natalie Sinnott – Flora Bervoix
Since performing the role of Flora inn Clonter’s production of La traviata in 2016, Natalie went on to cover Lel in Snowmaiden and chorus in Aida at Opera North in 2019. She also works a lot with a music charity called “Lost Chord” performing with Dementia. Natalie was due to cover the role of Tisbe in La Cenerentola at the Grange Festival this summer.
Full Biog – http://www.nataliesinnott.com
Richard Shaffrey – Gaston de Letorieres & Giuseppe
Since performing the role of Gaston (and understudying the role of Alfredo) in Clonter’s production of La traviata in 2016, Richard went on to perform the role of Il Cancelliere in the Wexford Festival Opera’s production of Maria de Rudenz in the same year. In 2018, in addition to returning to Clonter to take part in its annual Opera Gala, Richard performed the role of Rodolfo in La bohème at the Rye Arts Festival and made his debut with Scottish Opera as The Officer in Ariadne auf Naxos.
Turiya Haudenhuyse – Annina
Since performing the role of Fora in Clonter’s production of La Traviata in 2016, she was awarded a Golden Medal in the 3rd Berliner International Music Competition 2019, and won the 2nd Prize in the Kattenburg Competition 2017 at Opéra de Lausanne. She is also a prize winner of the 27th International Singing Competition 2017 Kammeroper Schloss Rheinsberg. In 2019 Turiya was part of the prestigious Vocal Residency at Festival d’Aix-en-Provence. She made her guest debut at the Dutch National Opera in 2018 as part of the Opera Forward Festival, in the role of Dinah in Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti, for which she received critical acclaim in the New York Times. Further appearances on the operatic stage include Dinah in Bernstein’s A Quiet Place (Opera Zuid), Mercédès in Carmen (Kammeroper Schloss Rheinsberg), Iphigénie in Iphigénie en Tauride (Euphonia Opera), Cinders in the world première of The Hive (Grimeborn Festival), Kirsten in the world première of Der Eisenhut (Tête à Tête Opera), Zerlina in Don Giovanni (Rye Arts Festival), Papagena in Die Zauberflöte (RCM International Opera School), Model in Henri Christiné’s Phi-Phi (Opéra Lausanne), and Suor Dolcina in Puccini’s Suor Angelica (LUCA School of Arts Belgium).
Full Biog – http://www.turiyahaudenhuyse.com
Je veux vivre, Gounod – Concours Kattenburg – 2ème Prix 2017 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QdYvd368OUM
Guy Booth – The Marquis D’Obigny & A Messenger
Di Provenza Il Mar Il Suol La traviata Verdi 2016 –
Piran Legg – “I had an unbelievable time at Clonter again. It really was one of the most developmental experiences I’e had…What an opportunity!…For me, the chance to do a large role and spend time working on it in the context of a staged production is the best format for artistic development”.
Turiya Haudenhuyse – “The experience has definitely been worthwhile, even though it was a small to be part of a production of quality and an organisation which is dedicated to opera makes the opportunity an invaluable experience…Working with a very good director and getting to know the tricky parts of the role of Violetta, while performing Annina…a great way to access the major role while still exploring which direction (fach) my voice is developing towards…I’m extremely grateful…Not only the peaceful surrounding countryside but also meeting wonderful people and being fully immersed for three weeks in a great work of art, that would normally be performed by more mature singers, is a true gift to any young artist”.
Rhys Alun Thomas – “It gives emerging artists the opportunity to put everything they’ve learnt over their education into practice in a professional environment. Something that quite frankly, we don’t get enough when studying. I feel Clonter is one of those few essential performance platforms which gives young artists the opportunities needed to grow.”
Christopher Cowell – What aspects of this residential training and performance opportunity do you think has added value for emerging singers? “The absolute standard of production is crucial here – one might assume that the result, because of the short rehearsal period, would be a bit ‘workshop’ in feel but this is not at all the case – for young singers to produce performances of polish, with no hint of make-do-and-mend, in less than two weeks requires them to address the absolute essentials of performance quality. The nature of the theatre means that everything they do is immediately visible and audible, so there can be no fudging or generic behaviour and no lazy singing.” Which challenges did you think were most beneficial to them? “Working in a tight ensemble piece where every character and performance was inter-dependent required them to abandon ego and preciousness from the very first rehearsal. The intensity of the process is a great eliminator of time-wasting and fussing.”
Sarah Masters, Clonter Sinfonia Orchestral Fixer & Clarinet – “… more than ever its more a case of very experienced players wanting to be available to come and work at Clonter each year… (I myself have actually played Traviata a number of times, once before at Clonter and also for Opera North both in the pit orchestra and the off stage band, so I have played all possible clarinet parts!) This year our leader James Pattinson (who played for Clonter in the past but not for about 5/6 years) actually requested time off from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic where he is a permanent member, when I asked him if he’d like to lead this year. This really makes quite a statement about how musicians value it as a musically rewarding and enjoyable engagement, and they are very keen to be involved year after year.”
Until next week, take care!