Thursday, 18 June 2009

Interview with Baritone Peter Sidhom

Just one more rehearsal session left before all the instruments get packed up on the trucks and we all head north!

In our first concert on Saturday we will be reprising Vaughan Willilams' A Sea Symphony, which we performed just at the end of the Season in Glasgow. The baritone Peter Sidhom will be singing with us again for this tremendous work; he kindly took time out to take part in the following blog interview...

We know that you are a frequent visitor to Scotland’s concert halls and theatres, but is this your first time at the St Magnus Festival, or indeed on Orkney? No, it's my second visit: I was up 3 or 4 years ago, when I sang in Dvorak's Te Deum; but otherwise I haven't visited Orkney.

It obviously is particularly apt to be singing in a performance of Vaughan Williams’ A Sea Symphony on Orkney. Have you experienced before other powerful connections between repertoire and place? Though not strictly comparable, it was an extraordinary experience to sing the seven baritone roles in Britten's Death in Venice at the Snape Maltings a couple of years ago, the first time the piece had been staged there in the 34 years since its premiere there in the composer's presence.

How do you find touring? Do you enjoy the experience of travelling as part of your job? As an opera singer, I'm away from home for about two thirds of the year, and I've been doing this for over twenty years! I've seen places I would never otherwise have visited, and love that aspect of the touring life. On the other hand, you're forever staying in anonymous hotels and apartments, often for weeks on end, and more often than not on your own - so you need to find a way to be comfortable in your skin and happy with your own company!

How do you find Vaughan Williams to sing? What other Vaughan Williams have you enjoyed performing before, besides A Sea Symphony? I adore his word setting, and it's a joy to sing in your own language - not something you get to do too often in opera! I've sung his Five Mystical Songs many times over the years, and I also love "Silent Noon" - a phenomenally difficult song to bring off, but absolutely beautiful.

How did you first get into singing? Did you at any point consider do anything different? I started as a boy treble at Westminster Cathedral, and as my voice broke I was fortunate in having an inspirational music teacher at school who programmed Messiah, Elijah and Gerontius in consecutive years - with me singing the bass solos. I studied Languages at University, and then continued to study voice; but my singing teacher Hervey Alan gently suggested that perhaps I should wait a while for my voice to become the dramatic baritone it now is. So I DID do something else: I joined BBC Radio 3 as a sound engineer (or Studio Manager, as they were then titled) and stayed fifteen years, gradually working my way up to be one of the 2 most senior people, entrusted with opera broadcasts and the Proms. Then I did the audition round of the opera companies, and things started happening...

Wow! had no idea about that.
Do you have a busy summer lined up? Will you have the opportunity to have a summer holiday?
I have a regular teaching gig in Italy every July, which is a holiday too in many ways. This year I also have a Prom in mid-August (Birtwistle's Mask of Orpheus) and then go to Frankfurt a week later to begin rehearsals for a double bill of early Puccini (Le villi) and Leone (L'oracolo).

Are you planning on seeing anything while you are here in Orkney? Has anything in the Festival programme caught your eye? Unfortunately I've just had an operation on my foot, which means I'm in plaster and will be until late July - so my mobility's pretty limited, and I'm dependent on the kindness of strangers to help me get around. Lots of things I'd like to get to, but I don't know how practical it'll be! I'm also the guinea-pig this year for Martyn Brabbins's Conducting Course, which I'm looking forward to with interest and a little apprehension...
Rest assured - we will all be looking out for you!

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