Thursday, 7 November 2019

Backstage at the opera (gifted)

Before I watched Glyndebourne opera house's L'elisir d'amore at the Marlowe Theatre on Tuesday 5th November, I was very kindly invited backstage to go behind the scenes of the production. The 'Glyndebourne Tour' involves taking three operas on the road and L'elisir d'amore was the first opera of the tour to be shown at the Marlowe. Eleanor from Glyndebourne welcomed me backstage ahead of Tuesday's performance, showing me the costume departments, the orchestra pit and a sneak preview of the performance itself. Starting at 4:30pm a few hours before the performance, the tour started at stage door.

Backstage at the opera with Eleanor from Glyndebourne

Photo credit: The Marlowe Theatre

To a visitor, backstage at the Marlowe Theatre seems like a maze. Over multiple floors you have dressing rooms, production departments, the all important green room for the performers, the stage wings and the orchestra pit, all hidden from the eyes of Marlowe audiences. The tour started with an introduction to Glyndebourne, where I learnt about the origins of the opera house, the family who started it all and why the company decides to go out on tour every year. The goal of the Glyndebourne Tour is to make opera accessible to a wider audience and the Marlowe is one of the theatres that the tour stops at. Equipped with some opera background knowledge, I followed Eleanor into the backstage areas.

1940s costumes for Glyndebourne's L'elisir d'amore at the Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury

The female dressing rooms were full of beautiful 1940s dresses and it was here that I found out that the classic opera had been brought into a new era. L’elisir d’amore was to be set in 1940s Italy during wartime. Along the corridor from the dresses, wigs were being prepared for some of the other operas later in the week. Even the most natural of hair styles were being created as wigs and most of them were being made with natural hair.

Glyndebourne production wigs in one of the Marlowe Theatre dressing rooms

The orchestra pit was very busy as the musicians were doing some last minute rehearsals. We stood on the edge and heard the conductor in action, preparing the team for the evening’s performance.

The score for L'elisir d'amore

In the stage wings I was able to see some of the L'elisir d'amore props. Flowers, a pheasant and an Italian flag umbrella looked so bizarre lying at the side of the stage, but once I saw the performance they were a natural fit.

L'elisir d'amore props at the side of the Marlowe Theatre stage

Watching the singers warm up from the stalls was a highlight of the tour for me. This was the first time that I heard the opera sound live and I was amazed at the purity of the vocals. Unlike other performances I've seen at the Marlowe, Glyndebourne had opened up the orchestra pit, removing some of the front rows to provide enough room for the musicians and orchestral sound to rise through the theatre. The conductor ran through snippets of the opera with the cast and even this close to the performance start time, he was still offering last minute advice and critique. It was great to watch such attention to detail in action!

Glyndebourne's set for L'elisir d'amore at the Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury

A fantastic way to be introduced to the opera, I am so grateful to Glyndebourne and the Marlowe for the backstage tour. Taking three operas on the road is such a huge task and it was fascinating to see how quickly the opera house had made the Marlowe Theatre their own. Glyndebourne are based at the Marlowe Theatre until Saturday 9th November and tickets can be purchased here.

Thanks for reading my blog today.


Wednesday, 6 November 2019

My first time at the opera (gifted)

I'm a firm believer in the fact that you should try new things every once in a while so when a press invitation to the opera dropped into my inbox, I practically jumped at the chance to go! Glyndebourne opera house based in Lewes, East Sussex have been producing operas since the 1930s and every year since 1968 their 'Glyndebourne Tour' has been taking opera to the masses across the UK. Fortunately for me, the Marlowe Theatre is one of the venues that the opera house visits so I was able to go and see a piece of opera in the flesh last night. L'elisir d'amore is the opera I was invited to see and it forms part of a group of operas that the company are taking on tour this year: Rigoletto, L'elisir d'amore and Rinaldo. Originally penned by 19th century composer Gaetano Donizetti, the 2019 Glyndebourne revival of the opera is set in the 1940s instead of the original 18th century setting and is directed by Annabel Arden. Ahead of the performance I was invited back stage with Glyndebourne and after a behind the scenes tour and sneak peek at the rehearsals (coming to the blog tomorrow), I couldn't wait to take my seat for the real thing.

My first time at the opera - Kat Last

Excited by the opera fan chatter in the Marlowe hallways, I took my seat in the circle at 7pm with a spectacular view of the stage. The entire performance was to be in Italian and I was in perfect view of the subtitles board if I needed them. The performance started at 7:15pm and the awakening of the opera sound across the theatre instantly made me whisper "wow". To think that these performers could produce impressive volume without amplification was an alien concept to me. From the first musical bar, L'elisir d'amore instantly transported me back to 1940s Italy and enticed me into the world of opera.

L'elisir d'amore opera at the Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury

L'elisir d'amore is a romantic comedy set in a small town in Italy, with protagonists Adina (Benedetta Torre, Glyndeboure 2019) and Nemorino (Sehoon Moon) at the centre. Adina is the popular girl that everybody in the town is fond of and by contrast, Nemorino is considered the town fool with little aspiration. Nemorino is absolutely smitten with Adina and despite her putting him in his place many times, he will go to extreme lengths to earn her love. Throw into the mix a travelling "doctor": Dr Dulcamara (Misha Kiria) with an elixir of love, a rival for Nemorino: Belcore the soldier (Matthew Durkan) and you get quite an exciting 2 hours 10 minutes of entertainment.

The lead soloists had such great chemistry on stage together and I found myself smiling, laughing or feeling sorry for them (particularly Nemorino) many times throughout the performance. Even without spoken dialogue I was able to feel emotion towards the characters and this helps prove how music, body language and mime can evoke emotion in the audience to the same level that conversation can. The performers were always extremely animated and this really helped the audience understand what was going on, despite the different language.

Adina (Benedetta Torre) and Nemorino (Sehoon Moon)

Adina (Benedetta Torre) and Nemorino (Sehoon Moon)
© Glyndebourne Productions Ltd. Photo: Donald Cooper

The orchestra and performers worked together in harmony to create a joyful, funny and enigmatic piece of art. Every time the orchestra started playing a new piece of music, the chorus would appear on stage or move to a different location in time, portraying the townsfolk with great conviction. Sometimes melodramatic, each of them played a great part in recreating the gossipy culture of a small town or village. Many times throughout the performance the entire cast were on stage and at these moments, a wall of sound was projected across the theatre.

Nemorino (Sehoon Moon), Giannetta (Carrie-Ann Williams), Belcore (Matthew Durkan), Adina (Benedetta Torre) and Glyndebourne Chorus

Nemorino (Sehoon Moon), Giannetta (Carrie-Ann Williams), Belcore (Matthew Durkan), Adina (Benedetta Torre) and Glyndebourne Chorus
© Glyndebourne Productions Ltd. Photo: Donald Cooper

The set was just beautiful; an old Italian house with a courtyard protruding out into the audience. In Act 2 fairy lights were added to the set creating a wonderful, romantic atmosphere. It's the little details like this that helped prepare the audience for the evolution of Adina and Nemorino's story.

Adina (Benedetta Torre), Nemorino (Sehoon Moon) and Glyndebourne Chorus.

Adina (Benedetta Torre), Nemorino (Sehoon Moon) and Glyndebourne Chorus.
© Glyndebourne Productions Ltd. Photo: Donald Cooper

I had such a wonderful time watching L'elisir d'amore. It was so different to anything else I've seen, but that made the experience all the more exciting. The soloists and orchestra were able to create musical harmony together and take the audience on Adina and Nemorino's journey. Glyndebourne is at the Marlowe Theatre throughout this week, showing their three operas to audiences across Kent. Tickets can be purchased via the Marlowe website.

Outside the Marlowe Theatre on the Glyndebourne Tour opening night, Canterbury

A huge thank you to the Marlowe Theatre and Glyndebourne for the press opportunity and gifted tickets.

Thanks for reading my blog today.


Monday, 28 October 2019

Halloween at Disneyland Paris

Earlier this month, we headed to Disneyland Paris for the weekend and the start of the spooky season. The month of October is a pretty exciting time at Disneyland Paris as it's Halloween and for the entire month there are additional decorations, shows, parades and attractions. Travelling by Eurostar on Friday 4th October, we arrived in Paris for the second weekend of the month long celebration.

Sleeping Beauty Castle during Halloween season, Disneyland Paris

Halloween in the Disney Village

Halloween decorations in the Disney Village, Disneyland Paris

On the Friday night we ate dinner at Annette's Diner in the Disney Village, and after we'd finished went shopping in the village. There were Halloween statues, bunting and spooky lighting effects in the village and the shopping district came alive once it started to get dark. It was so nice to see the Disney Village seasonally decorated - it is an extension of the theme parks after all!

Pumpkins on Main Street

Halloween display above the Disneyland Park entrance, Disneyland Paris

We noticed the Halloween decorations on Main Street as soon as we reached the entrance to the Disneyland Park on the Saturday morning. There was a big orange display above the entrance to the park with a banner and Mickey pumpkin at the centre, surrounded by Halloween shadow sketches of Mickey, Minnie and their pals. Main Street itself certainly had pumpkin fever as each of the windows had a little pumpkin in front of them. There were ghost-like characters on the pavement and courtyards and Autumn bunting hanging from one side of Main Street to the other.

Ghost-like characters and pumpkins on Main Street, Disneyland Paris

At nighttime the Autumn bunting glowed, giving Main Street an extra element of dazzle at the end of the day. The streetlights had been supplied with orange bulbs and some of them even had witches hats on top. The attention to detail was marvellous! No wonder the parks are so popular in October.

Main Street at night during Halloween season, Disneyland Paris

Maleficent in Fantasyland

Maleficent's "vines" behind the castle in Fantasyland, Disneyland Paris

We spent a lot of time in Fantasyland over the course of the weekend. There was eery "mist" being pumped into the air throughout the theme park area and Maleficent's "vines" had started to pop up behind the castle. You could even meet Maleficent behind the castle; a rare character who only seems to appear for meet and greets in Halloween season.

Pumpkins and Day of the Dead in Frontierland

Pumpkin characters near Big Thunder Mountain, Disneyland Paris

Frontierland had the best Halloween decorations in my opinion. There were pumpkin head characters at the entrance to the land, shadow lanterns and fall-inspired floral arrangements. The Fuente del Oro Restaurante side of the land had received a Day of the Dead makeover with Coco-inspired statues and decorations. At nighttime the restaurant and the area surrounding was lit with beautiful purple lighting, helping to recreate the colourful after-dark ambiance of the hit Pixar movie and Mexican festival.

Day of the Dead displays in Frontierland, Disneyland Paris

Day of the Dead lantern in Frontierland, Disneyland Paris

Halloween Parade

Winnie the Pooh characters in the Halloween parade at Disneyland Paris

A cheery, harvest-themed parade set to a very catchy Country number travelled through Main Street at intervals during the day. Complete with Winnie the Pooh and haunted house-inspired floats, we really enjoyed taking a short break in the day and watching the unique parade.

As you can tell, there are lots of exciting additions to Disneyland Paris at Halloween time. There's a villains-themed show on the castle stage too, but with only 2 days in the parks we simply didn't have time for everything. If you're considering a Halloween Disneyland Paris trip, definitely aim to visit in early October. It's considered low - mid season and you can get some amazing deals for hotels and the Eurostar. The closer you get to actual Halloween, the pricier your trip will be.

What's your favourite time of year to visit Disneyland Paris?

Thanks for reading my blog today.


Saturday, 19 October 2019

Wanderlust Wedding Jewellery

Stuart and I are getting married in the new year and there are so many things you need to think about in the lead up to your big day. One of the things we haven't organised is our Wedding rings, so when Canterbury-based jeweller Iconic contacted me recently with an invite to their new Wedding collection launch, I absolutely had to say yes! A couple of years ago I attended one of their previous events and had a wonderful time learning about the brands they stock, so I couldn't wait to hear about their bespoke pieces of jewellery. Inspired by cities around the world, the Wanderlust Wedding Collection launches on Saturday 19th October in store in Canterbury, Kent.

The San Francisco ring at the Iconic Jewellery Store Wedding Collection launch in Canterbury, Kent

The launch was held at The Pound; one of Canterbury's stylish independent bars, located in the Westgate Towers. A former prison and landmark in the heart of the city centre, the building was a great location for the event. On arrival we were greeted by the lovely Laura from Iconic and taken straight up to the event. The room was adorned with promotional material, decorations and beautiful blue-lit tables, with each showcasing a ring from the new collection. One of the pieces immediately caught my eye, and it happened to be the San Francisco ring, an elegant and dainty ring inspired by somewhere I've always dreamed of visiting. I ended up hovering at this table for the majority of my time at the event, chatting to a couple of other local bloggers and learning about the collection.

Iconic Jewellery Store Wedding Collection launch at The Pound

Refreshments at the Iconic Jewellery Store Wedding Collection launch in Canterbury, Kent

After most of the guests had arrived, Laura introduced us to the collection, sharing some of the promotional images. Local blogger Victoria modelled some of the pieces for the launch shoot and it was lovely to see pictures of the wonderful jewellery out and about in town. Canterbury is a gorgeous city and it's great that Iconic kept their promotional content local.

Promotional images for Iconic's new Wedding Collection

Following the presentation, I wandered around the venue with my camera taking a closer look at the pieces. The Sydney inspired one was a personal favourite of mine as it was the perfect blend of dazzle and simplicity. Paris and New York were also featured in the collection, and every ring had a truly unique feel.

The Sydney ring at the Iconic Jewellery Store Wedding Collection launch in Canterbury, Kent

I'm so glad I was able to see the collection at the launch; it's left me feeling so much more prepared for choosing our Wedding rings. If you're local to Canterbury and looking for engagement or Wedding jewellery, why not head to Iconic and see which bespoke ring catches your eye?

Iconic Jewellery Store cookie at the Wedding Collection launch in Canterbury, Kent

Thanks for reading my blog today.