Opera North: The Peter Grimes Blog

Monday, September 04, 2006

Rehearsals begin

James Holmes, Jeff and Phyllida Lloyd I am finally in Leeds for the Peter Grimes rehearsals! In fact, we have just finished the first week, which has been full of music calls. I arrived last week, and had another day with Jim Holmes (see our interview on the Opera North website, with more pictures) and two days with my singing teacher Barbara Robotham at her home in St Anne's on the Fylde coast. These sessions with Barbara were the cement that sealed all the work I have done with Jim, Lionel Friend and Phillip Thomas. The relationship between singing teacher and student is of vital importance. It has to be based on honesty and trust above all else.

I first met Barbara at Lancaster University back in 1986, and went on to study with her at The Royal Northern College of Music as a Post Grad. She is highly regarded as one of the best singing teachers in Europe and has been my rock throughout my career. She is also my mentor and friend. It has been of the uttermost importance to me as a singer to have a constant but developing technique. To study with somebody who knows my voice better than I do, and is able to keep me on the rails. She travels to see me in opera performances through out the country, and often comes to dress rehearsals and takes many notes, which is wonderful. What is even more important and poignant in the case of Peter Grimes is that for several years she studied with Peter Pears. Britten used to play for some of her lessons, which she recalls with much fondness and respect. She is passing on to me the technical expertise Pears passed to her, and that is so inspiring! I will visit her throughout the rehearsal period to supplement and complement the work here in Leeds.

Giselle Allan, Jeff and Richard Farnes
Giselle Allan, Jeff and Richard Farnes

Opera North has gathered a first-rate cast for this show. Wonderful actors as well as singers, and the most fantastic colleagues. We were all a little nervous at the first music call together, but this was quite comforting.

Jeff and Richard FarnesIt is of course a great privilege to have Richard Farnes conduct Grimes. His energy and obvious love for the piece were evident from the word 'go'. His eye for detail and outstanding musicianship are linked with an incredibly clear conducting technique vital for a score like this.

Jeff and Phyllida LloydPhyllida Lloyd was also present this week, along with her assistant and the movement director. The climax of the week was a joint call with the unique Opera North chorus. I have known these people for many years now, and their support at this call was so lovely and appreciated. They are augmented for this season by a group of extra choristers. I am also lucky to know several of these very well indeed. Two members of this group, Dyfed Wyn Evans and his wife Caroline Jackson, were at college with me in Manchester. It is wonderful to be surrounded by such a support network. The chorus in Peter Grimes is in many ways the main character of the piece. It goes without saying that they sound amazing!!!

We begin production rehearsal next week. I hope the preparation over the last year bears fruit. The real journey for me is just about to begin.

Jeff and Giselle
Jeff and Giselle Allan



  • it took about 15 after last nights performance before the adrenalin subsided and 24 hours later we are still on a high. The whole experience was sublime, the vocals haunting and one of the most moving experiences of opera I can remember. Anyone who likes Britten opera must see this production. It is very special.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:48 pm  

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