PerformerUpClose: Philip Lee

Philip Lee, Tenor
OperaUpClose credits include: Remendado Carmen, Alfredo La Traviata, Nemorino The Elixir of Love, Rodolfo La Boheme, Arnalta The Coronation of Poppea, and the Marquis of Bath The Barber of Seville.

This interview was taken in July 2014. 

 What's your favourite part of your job? 
My favourite part of the job has always been the variety and, when it works in my favour, the unpredictability. I love visiting places that I may not normally travel to or learning material that I would not have previously considered. This past year I have variously found myself in Norway, Rome, and Beirut and performing lost Sondheim works to AA Milne via Verdi operas. I love the possibility of 'anything and anywhere' that this job offers more than any other and the sheer joyful unpredictability of what might be next.

And your least favourite?
Possibly the same answer! It can be tough not knowing where or when the next job will materialise from and the unpredictability can easily tip from excitement to frustration. But being self employed is tough in any profession and it is always weighed up by the joy of doing what you love for a living. 

How did you get into theatre/opera? 
I came into Opera through a less traditional route, I trained as an actor first before turning my hand at everything and anything as a graduate and slowly finding my way into opera which I love and which has been a great new learning and working experience for me. I always loved performing from a young age and was always passionate about music but making the step into turning it into an actual profession is a brave one but one I am always glad I took!

What is the best / most exciting/ inspiring theatre production you’ve ever seen? 
I saw Mark Rylance in Jerusalem a few years ago and that performance has stayed with me since. For sheer stamina and commitment it was astonishing, I have never seen anyone immerse themselves so fully in a role and with such electrifying effect. It was exhausting to watch and it was a weekday matinee. It was a masterclass in stamina and commitment that certainly put some singers schedules in the shade. I loved it.

What is your dream role? 
Apart from 'How do you learn your lines?' this is the question I am genuinely most often asked about my job and I have to say I never have a ready answer. I have roles I have loved and ones I would like to learn but none that fix in my mind as an actual ambition! As a performer I have no control of which shows are produced or how they will be cast and I much prefer to wait and see who or what I might be. Who knows what might end up becoming my dream role? I always like to think this is a better question for the end of my career, now there are far too many possible surprises and unknown roles for me to answer. But...as it stands Rodolfo is still by far the most satisfying role I have played and if I HAD to pick one for the future, for the beautiful score and the sheer eye rolling fun of playing it I'd love to have a go at Paggliachi... 

What is the most embarrassing / funniest thing that has ever happened to you on stage? 
You'd have to go a long way to beat Figaro's trousers falling down during our act one duet in The Barber of Seville (I have to confirm it WAS an OperaUpClose show!). We had mikes that were cutting out, wide eyed kids who'd optimistically misunderstood the 'festival' part of Arts Festival and Figaro's replacement pair of trousers fell down again in act two. It was a chapter of accidents but we pulled it round and the audience were on their feet by the end. The Barber of Seville has possibly never been so hilarious.

PerformerUpClose: Becca Marriot

Becca Marriot, Lyric Soprano
OperaUpClose credits include: Amelia Un Ballo in Maschera, Tosca Tosca

 The interview below was taken in May 2013. 

What’s your favourite part of your job?
Discovering the ins and outs of different characters really excites me. I also love debating their psychological states with anyone who will listen; this is usually my mother and usually includes a lot of red wine. I also love the moment when the notes seem to have found their way into my body and just fly out without me having to concern myself with shoving them out.  

And your least favourite?
I can't stand the thirty minutes before I am about to go on stage, or the whole day before I am about to go on stage when it's a press night. I cope with that by getting everyone around me to be nervous for me and by telling bad jokes.

How did you get into theatre/opera?
I have always wanted to be a performer of some sort but the route into opera was a bit skewed. I started singing aged 14. I love singing but I gave up aged 17 because I didn't feel I could ever get music 'right'. I did a lot of acting too and at University I was in a number of plays, Macbeth, Hedda Gabbler, The Cherry Orchard and The Guardians (a play about the war in Iraq by Peter Norris). Then I also started doing improvised comedy and musical theatre with a troupe in Oxford. This led to stand up comedy and more improvised comedy in London.  Then about 3 and a half years ago I was lucky enough to be asked to be a part of the extra chorus for Carl Rosa Opera's production of The Yeoman of the Guard at The Tower of London. Sitting in the Sitzprobe it was like I had come home. That was when I decided that opera was what I wanted to do with my life.  I started singing lessons and three teachers and numerous coaches later I was accepted onto the MMus course at Trinity Laban. Just before the course started I was offered the role of Tosca with OperaUpClose and the rest...is the future.

What is the best / most exciting/ inspiring theatre production you’ve ever seen?
Gosh!  What a question.  I am not sure that my first answer will be the right one but the one that comes to mind is a show called Lily Through the Dark which I saw at Edinburgh in 2010 (I think). This was a truly magical puppet show about a little girl who had lost her mother and was having nightmares. It was absolutely beautiful with amazing lights and costumes.  It was hugely sensitive about the child's grief as she tried to understand what was going on. There was also some great live music. I would love all theatre to have that sort of magic and wonder about it.

 What is your dream role?
Well, I think it was Tosca, but that ship has sailed so I have 3 that I would now love to do, in no particular order; 1) Magda The Consul 2)  Ellen Peter Grimes and 3) Violetta La Traviata. 

What is the most embarrassing / funniest thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
Well, the soles of my shoes fell off in the middle of Ballo two nights ago which was...amusing.  But not the worst.  While in the middle of an improvised comedy show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2009 I was in the middle of a scene that was getting particularly few laughs until I coughed and a very large bubble of snot came out of my nose.  I was mortified but the audience enjoyed it.