TO THE newcomer, opera can seem a bit daunting, but John Brancy, who is about to sing the part of Dr Malatesta in Glyndebourne’s Don Pasquale, urges any interested novices to give it a try.
“Opera has a way of reaching into our souls and absorbing our senses,” he enthuses. “If you’ve ever had ecstatic chills on the back of your neck after hearing or seeing something amazing, it’s basically that for a few hours.”
“In high school, my choir teacher and mentor, Jack Hill, was a great lover of opera and opera singing,” he explains. “He heard something in my voice beyond most of his other singers in the choir and decided to encourage me to pursue the art form.
“At first, it was hard to get me to shift gears away from playing American Football and directing films, but I quickly realised it was my calling.”
John is heading to Woking next week when the Glyndebourne Tour returns to the town for the 21st year running. The New Victoria Theatre is one of just five regional venues at which the tour will perform this winter, and John says if fans enjoy it as much as him, we’re lucky.
“Glyndebourne has been an absolute dream – from the music staff to the administration, to the grounds, the hall and living in Lewes and travelling the countryside for the tour,” he says. “I’ve enjoyed every moment of my time here and I look forward to having the chance to collaborate on more projects in the future with this stellar company.”
Used to a busy schedule in a career that has seen him star in concert halls across the globe, John says he will be well prepared.
“If it’s a show day, it’s game time,” he stresses. “It [show day] is full of lots of water, warming up and mental preparation. I like to make sure I review my notes and, especially, my lyrics. Once we come around to hair and makeup time, I am geared up and ready to go.
“I also like to limit my food intake before a show, to make sure I have optimal energy on stage without that feeling of being overly full. So fruit and a big breakfast are key.”
And what can those new to the opera scene expect from this power-production? “In the case of Don Pasquale, you can expect to hear something quintessentially Italian sung in the Bel Canto style. The story is mostly made up of comedia del arte [worth a Google search!] characters and the plot itself is a lot of fun.
“I think people can expect to feel a connection with the performers on stage and in the orchestra.”
The visit to Woking will offer an opportunity to see two very different productions. Director David McVicar’s version of Die Entführung aus dem Serail tells the tale of a clash of cultures between East and West and showcases Mozart’s delight in bringing Turkish colour to his music.
It will feature rising stars, such as tenor Benjamin Bliss – who makes his European and Glyndebourne debut as Belmonte. Die Entführung aus dem Serail is being performed on Tuesday (December 1) and Saturday (December 5), sung in German with English subtitles.
Director Mariame Clément’s production of Donzietti’s Don Pasquale combines great comedy with more sinister undertones. Making his Glyndebourne debut alongside John will be Tuomas Katajala, starring as Ernesto. Sung in Italian (with English subtitles), Don Pasquale can be seen on Wednesday and Friday (December 4).
Glyndebourne are offering free pre-performance talks to all ticket holders. Sessions begin at 6.15pm with Die Entführung aus dem Serail on Tuesday followed by Don Pasquale on Wednesday.