Q&A with BPBO: Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea – Olivia Jarema

We are just over a week into our rehearsal period for our semi-staged performance of Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea as part of the Snape Proms on Saturday, and things are definitely falling into place! We have been working with a fantastic team of tutors who have really pushed our singers and players to the best of their abilities: Richard Egarr (conductor), index 1  Michael Chance (vocal director), Daisy Evans (stage dirindex 2ector), Ziggy Jacobs (production designer), Rita Dams (vocal coach), Paula Chateauneuf and Pavlo Beznosiuk (ensemble coaches). The whole project is a really exciting experiment for us, combining singers and orchestra, open rehearsals and two concerts, and a whole host of musicians from all over the world. Here is your chance to get to know some of them before you see them on stage this weekend!

Alice Rose Privett – Nerone

Tell us a bit about the character you’re performing in the opera.
201431Jul_2379I’m playing Nerone. It’s my first time properly playing a trouser role and it’s really interesting. I’ve always wanted to do it but, because I’m a soprano, there aren’t really many opportunities to do that and it’s really fun! We’ve got costumes, even though it’s semi-staged, so that really helps. Daisy’s put me in quite a louche-masculine style so it’s not super-macho but it works with who I am and what I look like, as well as the character. Nerone is a fantastic part because there are so many layers to him, he’s so complex – you know, such a psychopath! But he’s also kind of a lost little boy really, who’s desperate to prove himself in his position and he’s already got this very bloody past – he’s got a pile of bodies including his own mother behind him. And really, a lot of the opera is about him coming of age and growing into the really, truly dark side of his character.

What are the first three things you’d do on a day in Aldeburgh?
The first thing I have been doing is swimming in the sea, which pretty much all of us have done, which has been really fun. There are a lot of nice things to do, maybe having a coffee on the high street. There’s a great bookshop which I still haven’t been to because it opens just too late for me to get there – I’m looking forward to going there!

What’s your most memorable moment on Aldeburgh beach?
Probably the other night… We went swimming when it was pitch black and I didn’t realise there were phosphorescent plankton in the sea! It’s really beautiful, so you move your hands and it’s kind of glowing in the water and the stars were absolutely incredible.

Which course that you have attended has been your favourite and why?
I’ve only been on two courses here, including this one. I loved the last one here which was with Dawn Upshaw; it was French-American song. It was wonderful, I met so many people, a lot of Americans came over for that so I made lots of American friends! But this has been kind of a step up – it’s so fun doing staged work and the team here is really enabling us to push ourselves and go really far with the project.

Fernando Aguado
– Harpsichord

What is your favourite moment in the opera?
My favourite moment is when Littore comes in and finds Drusilla – of course he thinks he’s looking for Drusilla, but he actually is looking for Ottone dressed up as Drusilla – and she’s just waiting happily in the garden, rejoicing that Ottone is going to be (finally) her lover. This Praetorian guard of Nerone comes in and basically tells her “Shut up, you’re dead!” It’s hilarious, gets me every time!

What’s your most memorable moment on Aldeburgh beach?
Well the first day I was here, I woke up at 4.30 in the morning and I couldn’t get to sleep so I decided to go to the beach. I saw the sunrise there and I walked on the beach to the sculpture there, the scallop, it was fantastic seeing the sun rise. The weather changes so quickly so that suddenly a fog came in and so it was sunny and then completely foggy again, and then sunny. It was really, really beautiful – a great way to start the course!

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I started studying music in the UK. My mother was working here and I came here with her. I was a pianist. After, I moved back home to Spain, where I was born originally, and then got interested in the harpsichord, finished a degree in harpsichord and moved to New York to do a Masters at the Juilliard School. Now I’m continuing to studying in Amsterdam with Richard Egarr who’s fantastic, and I’m really hap201431Jul_2328py to be there.

Doug Dodson
– Ottone

Who’s your favourite composer and why?
My favourite composer is probably Handel, he’s the one I’m most familiar with. As a countertenor you have to do a lot of his music, or I should say you get to do a lot of his music! I’m really lucky because I do enjoy that repertoire, so I’m very lucky to be best suited to the music I enjoy singing the most. I think his music, more than the other opera composers of his time, had a much stronger sense of the drama, the flow of a piece… and that’s why his stuff is what we still do. There’s a lot of a forgotten composers from that period that we can’t be bothered with. I think that’s what he survived.

What did you want to be when you were younger and when did your aspirations change?
I originally wanted to do palaeontology. I was obsessed with dinosaurs. That eventually changed to archaeology, kind of an Indiana Jones kind of thing, I guess. I went to university for anthropology with the intention of becoming an archaeologist and then I found out that the actual act of doing archaeology is quite boring. I’d been doing music my whole life and I had told myself that it was something I didn’t really want to do as a career because I was afraid… Because it was something I really enjoyed, I was afraid it would ruin it for me – I was afraid that it would become ‘work’ and I didn’t want it to be drudgery, I always wanted it to be something I enjoyed. Then eventually I just realised that it was the only thing I was passionate enough about to want to pursue and devote my life to so I changed.

How did you first hear about BPP?
I first heard about the programme years ago – I didn’t necessarily know anything about it but I was aware of it. In the United States at least, for aspiring opera singers, young artist programs are a big big part of your career. It was always on my list of a programme that I was aware of and that I knew about. I did this programme because a friend of mine was auditioning and she said “Oh, they’re doing Poppea, they’ll probably need countertenors, you should apply too”, and I was like “Okay” and so I just kind of put something together at the last minute, and then I got accepted and she didn’t…! [laughs] So, thank you for that! So that was a little… sad for her, good for me… Oops.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I grew up in South Dakota in the United States in a very rural part of the country. There’s not a lot of classical music there but I was involved in choir and band in school and, like I said, when I went to college or university, I stayed involved in music and eventually when I decided I wanted to switch directions I already had a minor in music and so I just went on and got my Masters in Voice. People always ask me “when did you first become a countertenor?” or “when did you decide?”. I’d kind of been singing in that range my whole life and then I finally got this voice teacher who said “if you want to sing like that, that’s a real thing, there’s a name for it, there’s repertoire for it, you can do it!” And so I said “sure, let’s just…” It had always been the best part of my voice and so I went with it.

Mattia Corda
– Theorbo

What’s your favourite moment in the opera?
My favourite moment in the opera is when Ottone sings [sings] “in dolce fantasia” because it’s really groovy and the music represents the words beautifully.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
indexI’m from York area, born in Scarborough. I started playing the electric guitar and then I moved to classical guitar. Then I studied at the RNCM Classical Guitar and came across a wonderful instrument called the theorbo, which not many people have heard of, but when they have heard it and they have witnessed it, they will not likely forget it because it’s quite something to behold! So I started playing that, and then I started failing all of my things at college because I just started playing that all the time and didn’t really touch my guitar very often and then… here I am!

Who would you like to play you in a film about your life?
That is a great question… Jim Carey, because he’s absolutely bonkers and he just gets really involved in what he’s doing and I really like his sense of humour, so probably Jim Carey. And he has great hair, not that I am trying to have his hair, but it is cool.
If you were a musical instrument, which would you be and why?
It would have to be something with an unbelievable amount of bass, probably have to be a sousaphone or a double bass… or a tuba! Because they are just quite comical. But bass is what gets everyone going. In any concert, bass is always the best bit. Anything that’s got a big bottom is what I would be!

What are the first 3 things you’d do on a day in Aldeburgh?
Well, depending on the time of year, go and collect some plums, swim in the sea, and I think it’s too boring for me to say go and get fish and chips, so probably go on a walk and see all the beautiful houses and the beautiful landscape.

You can see Monteverdi’s Poppea on Saturday 9 August at 7.30pm in Snape Maltings Concert Hall. For tickets call our box office on 01728 687 110 or head to the Snape Proms section of the website.poppea-feature