His company, The Grand Opera Thailand, is now working on a musical called The Workshop (A Dress Rehearsal for Life) to be performed at the Thailand Cultural Centre next month
Nickname: Depends on a few factors. Like who’s saying it and why!
Born and brought up: UK, Morocco and Spain. I was a GI brat and my father was in the United States Air Force.
Education: I went to kindergarten in Morocco, US primary grade School in Seville (Spain), primary proper and grammar school in Wembley (England), Escuela Superior de Canto in Madrid and Royal Academy of Music and Guildhall School of Musical and Drama London. I have also learned a great deal from success but far more from the failures that have adorned the path I have been merrily skipping down for the last six decades. Damn gave my age away!
Family background: Mexican-American father (Granny crossed the Rio Grande), Welsh mother and two brothers– one is a fine artist.
Your profession: Opera singer, voice teacher, opera director and producer.
First job: ‘Call me Madame’ with Noel Gordon (from TV soap Crossroads) at the Victoria Palace, London. She kept mixing up her lines so I had to learn all the possible combinations in order to answer whatever she threw at me. She had an endearing way of smiling behind her fan just as she lobbed you a wrong one.
Work experience: International opera singer – the youngest soloist at Saddlers Wells Theatre: Artistic Director of European Chamber Opera (midscale global touring company), Holland Park Opera (founded the resident company), London City Opera (ran tours to the USA with Columbia Artists), Opera and Concert Worldwide (tours to Gulf States and South East Asia), Grand Opera Thailand (Thai touring opera company), BYO (Bangkok Youth Opera ) for young singers from 12 to 22, The English Theatre in Thailand (specializing in musicals and plays). Organizer and teacher of international opera masterclasses in Europe. And specialist in corporate cohesion (how to get the most value from communication in the work force).
The project you’re working on today: Currently a simply wonderful musical called The Workshop (A Dress Rehearsal for Life). It plays at the Thailand Cultural Centre May 18, 19, 29, 30, 31 and June 1st. It stars Pete Pol and Yah Janya. Tickets from Thai Ticket Major.
Your company and what it offers: My Company is called The Grand Opera Thailand, (www.grandoperathailand.com). It was born out of my desire to teach Thai opera singers at post graduate level and beyond, making it easier for them to enter into the profession or indeed go onto to post graduate studies abroad. We perform in hotels, theatres, country houses, restaurants etc. And work for embassies presenting the songs of their countries.
Where do you live in Thailand? Bangkok.
How long in Thailand? Who’s counting – maybe seven year.
What or who prompted your love of opera? My mother, who was Welsh, insisted we three kids sing on long car journeys so we wouldn’t try to kill each other. I hated the fact the car journey had to end and wanted to keep going. She then had the bright idea of making us entertain the old folks at Christmas as part of the GI Wives’ Club initiative, and finally I had an audience that wasn’t made up of my immediate family and I was hooked.
At 15 I attended the Guild Hall School of Music and Drama as a young drama student and as I was walking up to the attic of the building to train with ‘Miss Peggy Bachelor’ I noticed singing going on in the other floors. So during a break from being a tree or some other such nonsense we used to do in Peggy’s class, I went downstairs knocked on the door of a venerable old professor of singing and said “Please sir, may I have singing lessons”…am very glad to say that approach was quite innocent and totally irresistible!
Do you have ‘off days’ with your voice and how do you remedy it? Cancel.
Is opera growing in popularity, with particular reference to young people? Here in Thailand it has grown in popularity enormously.
How good is local singing talent? Excellent. My Thai students are eager to learn and without doubt the one major characteristic of almost all of the Thai singers is beauty of tone.
Which institution here is doing the best job in teaching and promoting opera? The big universities that have conservatoires are all doing a splendid job.
Any advice for a would-be opera singer? Get a good teacher!
What’s your current state of mind? And health? Normal for an opera singer …extremely robust.
Your best friend in Thailand: I keep making new ones so I can’t really say.
Favorite all-time singers, operas, concerts, musicals: Any singer who moves me emotionally. I love singing Verdi, and practically any good concert. As for musicals, I saw Avenue Q on Broadway a few years ago and spent more time doubled up on the floor laughing than sitting in my seat.
Any singer we should watch out for? I have a new group called SIAM MEN – three incredibly talented guys who sing in English and Thai close harmony. They will be singing as part of a variety programme at the Thailand Cultural Centre March 24 in aid of the Rotary Club of Bangkok South. They are super talented and well worth a listen to!
Which country produces the best opera singers – and why? Italy and Spain are historically the most notable. Latin temperament I guess and very strong physicality.
The best concert you’ve ever attended: LIVE AID at Wembley Stadium as a guest of George Michael.
Best places in Bangkok to enjoy opera: Thailand Cultural Centre, the music conservatoires and some private houses. There is one in particular, the Villa at Chom Dong in Hua Hin. The owners, Varapoj and Pasherin Snidvongs, are wonderful patrons of music and regularly programme opera on the lake. The stage is literally on the water and has been reached by boat in some of the best opera scenes. Otherwise there is a walkway…less exciting but drier.
Can you play any musical instruments? I play the piano quite well.
Best singer you’ve ever worked with? Pass! Don’t want to push my luck! Opera singers can be dangerous you know.
Most interesting person you’ve ever met: Each person I meet has been an interesting experience ….some very positive and some extremely negative. I think much of my knowledge is a composite of interesting people and the valuable information they either hand to me directly or through my own research into them, dead or alive of course. Periodically I ‘taste’ my own conclusions via some sagacious pronouncement then realize I need a bit more seasoning and continue learning and refining.
How do you spend your spare time? 555555555! I laugh because right now I don’t have any.
Favorite vacation place: Now that I don’t live there any more I do love visiting London for a couple of weeks a year.
Your favorite restaurant in Bangkok: Quince on Sukhumvit is one of my favourites. It’s a Mediterranean mix of extremely delicious food!
Where would you most like to live (apart from Thailand)? I think I might put my feet up here for a bit.
What’s next for you? The Workshop (A Dress Rehearsal for life) at Thailand Cultural Centre, Small Hall, starting May 18.
Tickets from: Thai Ticket Major http://www. thaiticketmajor.com/performance/workshop-a-new-musical-2019-en.html (English version)
Any final thoughts? Well, I haven’t quite reached the end yet but I do believe as I nearly gasp my last I will think of all the things I have forgotten to do….get up, do them, and only then join the second tenors (baritones) in the celestial choir.