Young Artists Programme 2016

Every year, Buxton Festival runs a Young Artists Programme which offers young opera singers a professional platform to train, rehearse and perform alongside principals in our productions. This year, seven young singers from the Royal Northern College of Music performed in Beethoven’s Leonore. Here, they reflect on their time at the Festival.

Matt Mears Tenor

The Young Artist Programme at Buxton Opera Festival has been an amazing experience this summer. The opportunity to be involved in a professional production, working with such talented performers, production team and staff, is invaluable to us as young performers. I have particularly enjoyed working with the rest of the Young Artists this year, it’s great to work with so many friends on a project over a couple of months. Once we were in and around Buxton itself we could relax and enjoy performing in Leonore, as well as watching the other amazing productions. 

Matthew Palfreyman Tenor

It was an incredible privilege to be able to perform as one of the young artists in the Buxton Festival Opera this year. Working on a full opera from the start of the rehearsal process to the final performance was an enlightening experience and gave me an insight into many aspects of rehearsal, organisation and performance that I had not previously been aware of. As a postgraduate student the opportunity to work with a professional chorus was invaluable at this stage of my education. The experience helped me to develop a deeper understanding of professional opera and allowed me to make further connections within the industry. Working as part of Buxton Festival Opera gave me the confidence and skills to successfully audition for roles in other Opera productions. Leonore was an inspired choice of opera and to work in Buxton was a real delight. I would love to return to work with the Festival Opera.

Ranald McCusker Tenor

The Young Artist Programme offers a real insight into the professional world of opera. For a young singer, the programme is an opportunity to work professionally with experienced singers and accustomed musicians. I had a rewarding time with the company with some great colleagues. The performances will always be a highlight, and I feel I have left with more stagecraft experience and I am grateful to have worked with some great singers. I had some memorable times with great friends, and I hope to work with Buxton again at some point in the future. 

Henry Ngan Tenor

I graduated from the Royal Northern College of Music with a Masters. The Young Artists Programme is a great opportunity for us to participate in such a large opera and music festival, singing alongside world-class artists. This provided an essential platform for us to gain stage experience, responding to conductor and director’s command and our sense of space on stage. As a Young Artist, I also received some coaching sessions with different Festival music staff to assist with my learning and practice, and I became much more aware of my singing and musicality. Buxton is a very beautiful place and it was great to sing in the historical opera house, which is very elegant and detailed, like the music we produced. All the colleagues were nice and energetic, and together we created a warm and friendly atmosphere. I thoroughly enjoyed every part of the programme.

Ed Gaffney Baritone

My name is Ed and I have loved being part of Buxton Festival this summer as a young artist. I am currently a student at the Royal Northern College of Music and first experienced the Festival as an intern two years ago. I quickly fell for the charm of Buxton and was inspired by the talented artists and staff. Therefore, I was thrilled to gain a place on the Young Artist Programme (YAP) this year. The programme has offered me the opportunity to join a professional cast and crew and experience the creative construction of one of the Festival’s operas from score to performance. The YAP provides an insight into rehearsal etiquette and allowed us to fully integrate into the Festival Chorus. We also received coaching as part of the programme which was led by the hugely experienced and renowned music staff that work as part of the Festival. Being a Buxton Young Artist has been such an important step along my opera training path, providing me with a clearer outlook on the journey ahead. 

Matthew Nuttall Baritone

I auditioned for Buxton’s Young Artists Programme to gain professional experience in the opera world. The programme has been great, rehearsing and being on stage with such talented singers and musicians has been amazing. I have had an incredible time with colleagues old and new and I can only smile looking back on my experience as a chorus member in Beethoven’s Leonore. Being a Young Artist has had many rewards for me; the whole process has been fantastic and I have gained so much experience in the last month, watching, listening to and being involved with the production. My time at Buxton has been one I’ll never forget and I hope I can return again in the future.

David Cane Baritone

It has been a real pleasure participating in the Buxton Festival on the Young Artists Programme this year, performing in the chorus of Leonore. From the first rehearsal in London we were all made to feel very welcome by the production team and all the other members of the company. I loved the overall concept for the production and it was great fun working alongside the Festival Chorus, even if my knees didn’t enjoy it quite as much – what with all the crawling! During the Festival itself, it was fantastic to get to know Buxton as a town – and there was so much going on all over the place! What an amazing way to spend the summer – working with such talented and inspiring musicians and for such a friendly team!

 

An interview with mezzo soprano, Imogen Garner

The end of May marks the beginning of opera rehearsals in London. Before things get under way, I managed to catch up with Imogen Garner who will be joining the opera chorus this year. Imogen studied at the Royal Northern College of Music and has been a member of the Buxton Festival Chorus for the last few years. To read more about Imogen, click here.

Have you always known you wanted to be a singer, or did it develop over time?

I’ve always loved singing and as a child I was drawn to singing based films and programmes. I didn’t realise quite how important it was to me until I reached my twenties, I then applied for a postgrad at the RNCM and was very fortunate to be offered a place.

How did you land your first opera role?

My first operatic role was Annina in La Traviata for Wilmslow Opera.

What made you apply to audition for the Buxton Festival Chorus?

I’ve worked with lots of singers who’ve relished their experience of working in the Festival and so I went along to watch and really enjoyed the atmosphere and feel of it.

You are all covering a role in one of the Festival’s operas this year. Could you tell us a little more about the role?

I’m covering Irene in Handel’s Tamerlano. I’m really enjoying her; she enters the opera expecting to marry Tamerlano but after discovering he has chosen another, she disguises herself and vows to win him back.

How do you start learning a role? Do you approach a role differently each time?

I always intend to approach a role in a systematic way starting with the notes and the music and building layer upon layer but often it becomes less structured and more organic.

Is there a particular opera in this year’s Festival programme that you are looking forward to performing in?

I know most about Tamerlano so the production of that is most intriguing to me at the moment.

For people who are less familiar with opera, is there a particular album or show that you’d recommend?

My first experiences of opera in my late teens were La Traviata and La Boheme at Opera North which I loved.

What has been the most memorable opera production or concert that you have performed in?

I think the most memorable experience to date must have been The Mastersingers at ENO, the audience’s response at the end of the first night was overwhelming.

What would be your dream operatic role and why?

I’d love to have another opportunity to perform Mrs Grose in The Turn of the Screw.

Is there a particular opera singer you really admire?

Kathleen Ferrier. I admire her as she seemed to be someone who remained completely true to herself with very natural and effortless sounding singing and performing

The Tamerlano cover show is on Tuesday 19 July 2-3pm at the Palace Hotel.

Lily Bracegirdle Executive Assistant