Meet the emerging artists who will be presenting our 2023 Young Artists production of Hansel and Gretel this year. Having worked as the Assistant Director of Opera Holland Park's 2022 production of Carmen, he returns this year as the Director of the Young Artist production.
What aspect of this production are you most looking forward to?
Can I say all of it? All jokes aside, this is the first production of Hansel and Gretel I will be working on, so I look forward to exploring this fantastic piece in-depth and inhabiting the world that John and Neil will create, along with Charlotte Corderoy, the YA Conductor, and the YA cast. Fairytales always allow plenty of creativity in rehearsals and trying off-the-wall things and breaking the rules of realism and reality – and luckily, without giving away too much, the world of this production will hold plenty of opportunity for exploration.
I am also looking forward to the challenge of rehearsing alongside the main cast and creating a version of the show that my fellow YAs feel ownership of, but which also fits perfectly within the principal cast’s production.
We have an incredible Young Artist cast this year, so I am very much looking forward to meeting them all and telling the story of Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel together to the OHP audiences.
You’ve done assistant directing work, including on Carmen at OHP in 2022 – what is something you have learnt as an assistant that you’ll take with you into this production?
Opera Holland Park has given me some fantastic opportunities that have allowed me to develop both as an artist and a person. I have had the chance to work alongside amazing directors, movement and fight directors, and experience first-hand how they lead a project, taking both the onstage and offstage team on a journey from day one which continues until the last performance of the run. As a director, I have learned that I am most interested in creating work collaboratively, so I look upon my role as someone who is there to facilitate, lead, provoke creatively and create a space where everyone can focus on doing the best work they can, showing where their talent lies. I have also learned to maintain a calm and leading presence even in the most tense moments – a particularly useful skill during tech and opening night!
What excites you most about directing opera?
As a director, opera is one of the most rewarding and challenging art forms. A big challenge is working on pieces that everyone knows and everyone watches with certain expectations.
However, opera is also rewarding on so many levels. One thing that excites and deeply interests me is movement and spatial dynamics and opera is a wonderful form to explore these. I cannot think of any other live performance art where you can get so many artists with so many ideas in a rehearsal room and on stage to tell stories of epic scale, filled with passion and emotions.
Do you have a favourite musical memory?
I am not sure if I could pinpoint a favourite memory, but I know that music resonates with me so much more than words, what a surprise I ended up working in opera! I remember that in kindergarten, I loved music and singing, so when my classmates were too shy to sing during school performances, I often stepped in and sang for two. I still have this love for music, although, luckily, I realised in time that my talent lies elsewhere and that I should leave the singing to people who are much better at it. Music, however, still has an incredibly strong effect on me – when I worked on a production of La bohème, even after watching the show over 20 times in two weeks, the musical section after Colline’s coat aria, when they all say their final goodbye to Mimì, made me cry every single time.
Apart from Hansel and Gretel, what is your favourite fairytale?
That’s a difficult question – but if I had to choose one tale, it would be ‘The Town Musicians of Bremen’…or ‘The Juniper Tree’. Or ‘Rumpelstiltskin’. Or ‘The Clever Girl’.
Growing up, I often listened to, and later read, the stories of the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen and Hungarian storyteller, Benedek Elek. These stories and the genre have followed me throughout my entire childhood and have quite possibly inspired me to choose a profession where I interpret and tell stories to other people.
Just before and during lockdown, I became particularly interested in the interpretation and reinterpretation of fairytales. As part of my research, I revisited many of my favourite tales when I got my hands on a copy of Angela Carter’s ‘The Book of Fairy Tales’ – what a powerful book! I also loved Philip Pullman’s retelling of the Grimm Tales and found contemporary reinterpretations, such as the book ‘A Fairytale for Everyone’, an inclusive reimagination of classic stories, incredibly exciting projects.