Over the last 6 years our development programmes have grown to deliver what we believe to be an exceptional and unique course in an ideal, supportive environment in which to explore and hone one's talents.
What is really exciting for us is that we are able to bring people through from the development programmes into the main company – thereby providing a two-tiered, coupled system of development and paid performance.
Obviously not everyone can move to the main company – there aren't enough roles for one thing – but also not everyone is ready. And some might simply not be cut out for the life of a soloist, but will be able to find another route to which they are perhaps more suited.
That is another area in which we can help; we aim to help everyone achieve their full potential and guide each individual to the best path for them.
So if you have an aspiration to be involved in opera, are passionate and willing to learn and would like train with and work alongside some of the profession's most highly respected and experienced members, then Co-Opera Co. 2015 Summer Development Programme is probably the place for you.
I look forward to perhaps meeting you in April at our auditions and hopefully to working with you this August in our 2015 Summer Development Programme.
Matthew Waldren – Conductor
Denni Sayers – Director
David Gostick – Head of Music and Ensemble Director
Charles Kilpatrick – Répétiteur
David Gostick – Ensemble Programme co-ordinator and Chorus Master
Kate Flowers – Soprano
Nuala Willis – Mezzo
John Graham-Hall – Tenor
John Rawnsley – Baritone
Matthew Waldren – Conductor
Denni Sayers – Director
Charles Kilpatrick – Répétiteur
ESSENTIAL SKILLS TEAM:
Kim Begley – Tenor
Norman Cooley – Actor and Founder of Acting for Opera
Susan Gritton - Soprano
Yvonne Howard - Mezzo
Melanie Merry – Soprano and owner of Audition Oracle
Harry Nicoll – Tenor
Stephen Wilder – Conductor and vocal coach
Catherine Wyn-Rogers – Mezzo
Grimes is a visceral piece of theatre by a composer with a real understanding of people, community, fear, hypocrisy, prejudice, but also tenderness, desire, and loneliness. Britten shows how easy it is for peoples individual fears and prejudices to snowball into a pack mentality, and how, with tragic consequences, an isolated, vulnerable and flawed man is broken.
It is vital that singers and conductor alike must live in the moment in this piece: We will work hard on all the incredible musical detail that Britten gives us, but we must always ask why Britten has written these notes, this articulation, these dynamics, these rhythms? The reason must lie in the thoughts of the characters- whether named or not – and when we sing and conduct those thoughts, the music and drama will come to life.
The Co-Opera Co. Development Programme is a remarkable opportunity, whether one is there as a trainee conductor, rep, director or a singer. Having the opportunity, as an emerging artist, to take on big repertoire and to experience the process of putting on an opera is a rare thing in our business. To be mentored by such stellar professionals as John Graham-Hall is also an opportunity to be grabbed. I firmly believe that we develop most as artists in this business and genre when we are given the opportunity to actually do it. These rare opportunities are at the centre of the process of rehearsing and performing big repertoire, alongside experienced and talented performers and mentors, are what develop one most as an artist. Co-Opera Co. provides this opportunity, and I come across artists time and time again working in the profession who have benefited from their Co-Opera Co. experience.
It is an opportunity to be grabbed: Grab it!
I grew up in East Anglia, not so very far from where Benjamin Britten lived and worked all his life. The world he portrays so vividly in Peter Grimes is one that I feel very familiar with.
Where I lived there was a local saying ' Don't open yourself to comment’, meaning, don't stand out, be like everyone else. Being an outsider, an artist, you were definitely seen as 'opening yourself to comment'. Benjamin Britten was writing from personal experience when he created this powerful masterpiece.
The character of Peter Grimes is guilty of opening himself to comment, and from the first bars of the opera it is clear that the entire community see him as guilty until proven guilty. Every single inhabitant of The Borough has a strong opinion about him. The writing calls for a cast, a company, a community of individuals, each with their own opinions about everything and everyone else.
With such a rich, fertile ground for exploration of character, the whole company will become both the community and the environment in which the story takes place, the emphasis being in this production to focus on how every single inhabitant of The Borough plays their unique part in Grimes' tragic denouement.
To achieve all this will demand a highly rigorous and detailed musical and acting rehearsal process and I for one can't wait to get started.
I look forward to meeting you all on the Co-Opera Co. Summer Development Programme and encouraging each and every one of you to 'open yourselves to comment' as you explore your potential as artists, and we bring the world of The Borough to life on the John McIntosh stage.
Co-OPera-Co Head of Music / Chorus Master
Grimes has a chorus like no other. It is the driving force behind the drama, gives the piece its character, and of course, has a tremendous amount to do. Simply getting to grips with the score will be a demanding job in itself, but there will be so much more to our work this summer. It is vital that every member of the chorus has their own identity, and is really performing as an individual actor, whist contributing to the team, and working within the constraints of an ensemble. Grimes is the sort of opera that shows that ensemble singing is something to be aspired to, and worked at, every bit as much as a leading role.
Having worked with Co-Opera Co. very nearly from the beginning, I have seen, and indeed benefitted from, the huge impact it can have on aspiring professionals. The access to artists at the top of their game is superb, and the chance to be involved with performances with such high production values is wonderful. But it is the company ethos that really marks it out. Whatever your role in the production, you are a vital member of the team, and if you grasp the opportunities available with both hands, you will come away with a wealth of experience, and a new perspective on your craft.
"The access to artists at the top of their game is superb, and the chance to be involved with performances with such high production values is wonderful"
My first encounter with Peter Grimes was with a fellow student from Durham University in the early '80s. I was utterly captivated from the opening bars seeing a whole community come to life before my eyes. The expressive range of the music was astonishing – from the eerie opening of the first interlude I could smell the pebbles on the beach, see the glitter of sunlight and feel the awesome power of the storm, The orchestra, chorus and principals were all excellent and the whole experience was crowned by the truly elemental and now legendary Grimes of Jon Vickers.
My second encounter was working on the piece with Kent Opera in the late '80s. Playing the score for rehearsals was a joy and whenever we reached the end I would gladly have started again from the beginning. I have very vivid memories of being backstage conducting the chorus in that production. Again it was an extraordinarily chilling first-time experience with the malevolent villagers, the foghorn and Grimes' agony on stage.
I was involved in the Irish premiere of Peter Grimes in Dublin in 1990 and over the years have enjoyed working with many singers on their roles. It was a particular pleasure to work with both Russell Smythe and Anthony Rolfe Johnson before their participation in the Scottish Opera production.
I am looking forward to being involved in the Co-Opera Co. project this summer. I hope the artists will be inspired by this great masterpiece and that we will explore the wide range of moods and emotions which it contains. Britten's Peter Grimes is a work of truly international importance whose genius radiates way beyond the isolated Suffolk village in which it is set.
As a British mezzo, Benjamin Britten is something of a hero to me; he writes so well for the voicetype and also creates challenging and interesting women. I have sung several of these and enjoyed each one for very different reasons; Lucretia, Mrs Grose, Mrs Sedley and Auntie.
Because I live in East Anglia I am lucky enough to experience the special light he paints so well in his music and often spend time walking along the coast, listening to the waves on the shingle, thewind and the gulls, and enjoying the huge open skies; all of which make it impossible to not havethe interludes of Grimes running on an ear worm loop the whole time!
I have been fortunate enough to be involved in two very different productions of Peter Grimes; the first early in my career in Trevor Nunn's production at Glyndebourne, where I played Mrs Sedley with the wonderful and very much missed Anthony Rolfe Johnson as Grimes, (and Johnny Graham Hall as Bob Boles). We were in a very colourful Borough with a realistic set and Victorian/Edwardian costumes. My Sedley was a very heavy Laudanum user whose marked skin was testament to this abuse. Although I was rather too young to play Sedley at the time, it gave me a wonderful insight into her character and also helped with my understanding of the character of Auntie! The Second was Phyllida Lloyd's iconic production for Opera North in which I played Auntie. I have also played Auntie in several concert performances; great fun. We were in a dark, claustophobic, windy place with modern, non-specific clothing and a Borough full of very interesting characters. Auntie and Balstrode definitely knew each other VERY well!
Auntie is such a wonderful person to get to know and play; intelligent, interesting, strong and more than a little bit naughty. Her relationship with the Borough folk , who are all so clearly
observed and written (we all know some of them, Iím sure) can be looked at from many different perspectives and because of this, each performance can tell a slightly different story as it develops.
I am excited to be able to rediscover this piece with members of the Co-Opera-Co. Summer Development Programme, and if I am able to share some of my enjoyment and experiences with Co-Opera singers who then, too, discover the joy of Britten, Peter Grimes and in particular, Auntie, I shall be very happy indeed.
"If I am able to share some of my enjoyment and experiences with Co-Opera singers who then, too, discover the joy of Britten, Peter Grimes and in particular, Auntie, I shall be very happy indeed"
I first performed in a production of Peter Grimes for Scottish Opera, directed by Joachim Herz and conducted by Sir Richard Armstrong, with the much-missed Anthony Rolfe Johnson in the title role... I was Mrs. Sedley in a pith helmet as Dr. Herz felt she might have a few souvenirs of her husband's life in India as a Nabob! Since then I have performed in many productions both Sedley and Auntie, and it's wonderful to have two such contrasting characters in the same opera for a mezzo!
All productions of this amazing work are memorable, but I would have to say that Richard Jones' stunning version in Milan (with John Graham-Hall as a wonderful Grimes) set in a northern seaside town in England in the l980's and the 'Grimes on the Beach' at Aldeburgh in the 2013 anniversary production miraculously staged by Tim Albery, stand out for me and were magnificent in totally different ways. In both of these I was Mrs. Sedley, quite different in appearance, yet the disapproving and neurotic character of her was to the fore.
I find Britten's music unbelievably compelling and never tire of it – the Sea Interludes of course are works of genius and conjure up the cold, silver light of the Suffolk coast which Britten seemed somehow to thrive on and the sea in all its moods, yet the characterisations of the village seem to leap off the page in their progress towards the shocking denouement, thanks to the setting of the text. Oddly there is a great contradiction in Grimes, as the two characters who seem most to hate Grimes and to be determined to ostracise him, Sedley and Boles, are the most righteous in their condemnation of a man seemingly incapable of kindness to the vulnerable children he takes to work for him, yet they are the ones we as the audience are most repelled by as they are so very flawed themselves (Boles is a lecherous alcoholic as well as a Methodist preacher and Mrs. Sedley is a laudanum addict very ready to judge and find fault with her fellow villagers). It's the contradiction in so many of the characters which makes them so fascinating. Somehow each of the characters in Grimes, every single person in The Borough, seems to be an echo of someone we've met – it's seems utterly English and yet universal in its representation of the human condition ñ a gift for any singing actor to get their teeth into.
I must say that I'm hugely looking forward to working with the members of the Co-Opera Co. Summer Development Programme cast to realise their roles and help them to re-create Britten's masterpiece once more.
I'm hugely looking forward to working with the members of the Co-Opera Co. Summer Development Programme cast to realise their roles and help them to re-create Britten's masterpiece once more