PerformerUpClose: Tom Colwell

PerformerUpClose interwiew, 15 May 2016

Tom Colwell Baritone
OperaUpClose performer credits: Marcello in La Bohème, Dancairo in Carmen.

How did you end up in opera? 
My first singing teacher was a huge influence on my musical career, plus all my friends at the time were auditioning for music college so I thought that I'd just have a go.

What would you be doing if you weren't a singer?
I had quite a long break from singing after I completed college and even worked as a carpenter on the Isle of Skye. If I weren't singing now, I would definitely continue along those lines, but I would love to get into something more refined like furniture making, or even instrument making.

What would be your dream role to play?
It would be Dr. Oppenheimer in John Adam's Dr Atomic. His aria 'Batter my heart, three person'd God' is stunning.

If you were in charge of a festival, what would you programme, which singers would you programme and why?
In terms of what kind of music, I'd definitely programme some 20th Century repertoire. I am a huge fan of Britten and John Adams. Who? I would programme Gerald Finley. I think he is both a great singer and actor.

Tom starring as dancairo in  carmen

Tom starring as dancairo in carmen

Growing up, who was your idol?
I would say that my first musical idol was Jon Bonjovi. I remember clearly 'Slippery When Wet' blasting in the common room at school.

If you were able to time-travel to any period in musical history, where would you want to be?
Hands down, I'd travel to see Jazz in America in the fifties and sixties. It would have been great to see Coltrane and Miles Davis in New York.

What was the last thing you listened to?
'Plainscapes' by Vasks. A really beautiful and haunting piece I highly recommend.


Which opera would you recommend to someone who has never seen an opera?
It would probably have to be something by Puccini, Madame Butterfly or, of course OperaUpClose's La Bohème...

As a performer, you've worked with lots of other singers and directors. What's the most bizarre direction/tip you've ever been given?
I was once told to move around the room as if I were a puppet who's strings were being pulled around and shaken by a toddler. There were a few of us and a lot of flailing limbs!

Tell us a little-known fact about yourself?
I am actually a qualified Rope Access Technician. This pretty much means I can abseil off anything that needs fixing or cleaning. 


PerformerUpClose: Una Reynolds

Una Reynolds, Soprano
OperaUpClose performing credits include: Musetta La Boheme, Adina The Elixir of Love, and Belinda Dido and Aeneas.

This interview was taken in February 2014.

What's your favourite part of your job?
There is nothing quite like performing to an audience. Particularly with the intimate setting at the King's Head, you really feel the audience drawn in to the story and characters, which, as a performer, feels wonderful.

And your least favourite?
Gaps between opera contracts. Whilst it is part of the business, it is always tough to be a singer that isn’t performing.

How did you get into theatre/opera?
During secondary school I sang in choirs and musicals. However it was my singing teacher that introduced me to opera, firstly through operettas, hence my soft spot for G&S!

What is the best / most exciting/ inspiring theatre production you’ve ever seen?
I recently saw ENO’s production Satyagraha, an opera by Philip Glass based on the life of Mahatma Gandhi. The production combined stunning music with an innovative use of the set and props, puppetry and physical theatre. It was an inspiring production that showcased a very different and creative way in which opera can connect to an audience.

What is your dream role?
The first opera I ever saw was Opera Australia’s production of L’elisir d’amore, cleverly set in 1950’s Australian outback. Since then my dream was to play Adina, which I was able to accomplish with OperaUpClose's glamorous Hollywood version. Perhaps it is now a case of opposites attracting, as I’d now love to play a tragic role - and what could be more devastating than that of Lucia in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. 

What is the most embarrassing / funniest thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
In L’elisir a poor audience member nearly had his eye poked out when, during a dance move, my high heel flicked off my foot into the audience! It was an interactive show so I think I got away with it... just!

PerformerUpClose: Prudence Sanders

Prudence Sanders, Soprano
OperaUpClose performer credits include: Musetta La Boheme, Adina The Elixir of Love, and Violetta La Traviata.

This interview was taken in September 2013.

What’s your favourite part of your job?
The night before and then the first day of rehearsals - there's such a great sense of anticipation. I also really love the collaboration between directors, fellow cast members, conductors, musicians etc during the rehearsal period. 

And your least favourite?
Sitting at the piano and learning a difficult role when vocally you are not at your best. It's a real challenge and a tough thing to work your way through the technical problems and find your motivation again, especially if you are repeating the same phrase over and over again, trying to get it right. I have very understanding neighbours...

How did you get into theatre/opera?
I started music and theatre from quite a young age, and I was lucky to have a wonderful department at school with some very inspiring teachers, so it grew from there really. Apparently my great great grandmother was a French cabaret singer, so I'd like to think an element of the theatrical stemmed from her!

What is the best / most exciting/ inspiring theatre production you’ve ever seen?
That's a tough's an even pick between ENO's production of Peter Grimes back in 2009 or Don Carlos this year at Covent Garden. Grimes because of the superb energy and hair raising chorus, and Don Carlos down to Jonas Kaufmann and Anja Hartenos - some seriously sublime singing.

What is your dream role?
I'm not sure there is one particular role, but high on the shortlist is Anne Truelove and maybe one day, Ellen Orford. Violetta is also there, but soon I can say that I've sung it! the great thing about opera is that you can revisit your favourite roles more than once, and often, whatever you are singing at the moment will be your favourite. It changes all the time.

What is the most embarrassing / funniest thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
I've fallen down flights of stairs on stage, ripped off my skirt by accident and been dropped by people, but the most embarrassing was when I was quite young and entered a singing competition. I made a mistake at the beginning of my song, and burst into tears . Instead of stopping, composing myself and then starting again, I spent the remaining 3.5 minutes unable to make a single sound but instead mouthing all the words with tears rolling down my face. Horrendous.