One of the musical activities I had been most excited about before arriving in Buxton was the series of Strictly Musical Theatre Masterclasses on offer; there were three in total, one for Opera, one for Operetta and Musical Theatre and one for Gilbert and Sullivan. All were taken by a leading lady from the Gilbert and Sullivan and operatic world; Valerie Masterson, Gillian Humphreys and Cynthia Morey respectively. These masterclasses were competitive and only two of the six singers in each went through to the Grand Final.
I had originally intended to participate in just the Opera masterclass, however a space arose in the Gilbert and Sullivan masterclass on Wednesday afternoon – and I couldn’t resist!
Working with Cynthia Morey on the aria I chose, “The hours creep on apace” from H.M.S. Pinafore was a truly rewarding experience. Cynthia helped me to integrate some essential movement into the song, which ultimately led to better development of my Josephine’s character. This aria is one of my favourites and I was delighted to come joint first in the masterclass, taking me through to the Grand Final!
The Opera masterclass with Valerie Masterson took place on Friday morning; there were some incredible performers involved and it was both fascinating to take part and to watch. I chose to sing Micaela’s aria from Carmen, “Je dis que rien ne m’epouvante”. Valerie’s instruction was invaluable and I found again that the movement she suggested to me (seeking a chair on the stage for strength in my most despairing moments and a simple kneeling pose at the end of the aria) allowed me to better my characterisation – and to produce a sound with meaning.
The Grand Final of Strictly Musical Theatre took place on Friday afternoon with the six candidates who had been picked from each masterclass by an audience vote. This was our final opportunity to demonstrate all that we had taken on board and to give a performance to wow! I came joint first with a graduate from the Royal Northern College of Music – and I was absolutely over the moon! A member of the audience, Jessica Lok, was kind enough to take a photo.
Following our win, we were invited to open the second act of a concert in the Pavilion Arts Centre, featuring professional performers from the ClassicFest cast of the Merry Widow (which had been touring in Buxton). It was an honour to take part and I delighted in performing my aria once more for the audience!
For a video of the performance, please go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qF-lFA1uC8