Blog

Are you ready for the Burning Sands?

  • Posted on: 24 July 2016
  • By: Chrissie Berridge

Taste the summer as Liffey Carverhill offers up the secret of the Burning Sands cocktails, served to cast during the Pearl Fishers run. She says, “I had a few requests for the recipe for Week 1's cocktail. It begins as a precise science, but as many of you will have seen, it ends up with a bit of sloshing and tasting.”

Pearl Fishers Poster

Alcoholic mixture (chilled – use as much as needed!)

300ml dark rum

200ml coconut Bacardi

200ml Crabbies ginger wine

150ml Pisang (banana liqueur)

150ml limoncello

100ml litchi liqueur

100ml chili ginger vodka

Pineapple sludge (all mixed and frozen)

Pulped fresh pineapple (one of your 5-a-day)

1 can of coconut water

Tot of rum

Juice of a lime

Litchi sludge (all mixed and frozen)

Pulped tin of litchis and juice (another of your 5-a-day)

Glass of litchi liqueur

Bottle of Peach bellini

Cans of lemonade 

Cans of ginger beer

Bottle of Prosecco (optional)

Mint (another of your 5-a-day)

A bag of ice

 

An Opera Newbie!

  • Posted on: 9 June 2016
  • By: Steve Smith

Last year I attended the Fairies, Phantoms and Fiends Heber Opera concert, mainly to watch my wife, Caz, perform. I had never watched opera before, and I guess I was thinking that I might not enjoy it very much, but nevertheless I was willing to give it a go!

I have to say I was extremely impressed with the whole performance and thoroughly enjoyed it. One of the things I liked the most was listening to Michael Withers give explanations to the background and positioning of each individual piece, which helped me to understand and enjoy the music in the correct context! This made me keen to attend the next Heber Opera production, The Pearl Fishers, to experience my first ever full opera performance. Being an opera newbie, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I certainly wasn’t disappointed! Whilst the principals were engaging and brought the story to life, the parts I enjoyed the most were when the whole ensemble sang together. The harmony of the voices combined with the passion of their performance made it a truly emotional experience, probably enhanced by the fact that the performers were so close to the audience due to Heber’s practise of performing in the round. In particular the betrayal scene in Act 2 where the voices rise to a crescendo, crying out to Brahma, made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end!

My first opera experience has been so positive that I would definitely attend further performances.   

From the first rehearsal to performance

  • Posted on: 24 May 2016
  • By: Jenny Letton
What does it take to get from knowing nothing of the Pearl Fishers (except the famous duet of course – for my money the one with the late Jussi Bjorling) to being able to perform it?   For me, as a member of the chorus, it takes a lot of hard work! ​ Rehearsal one, under the baton of Musical Director Michael Withers we start note bashing a section. We are rusty, it’s been a few weeks since we did any singing, sounds a bit ropey! Note bashing continues for a number of weeks, all accompanied by our marvelous pianist Tim Nail who has played for Heber Opera rehearsals for many years. We start to think we know some of it. ​ Well, all that note bashing then falls apart (for me at least) as soon as we start on production with Director Dorothy Withers. We begin by blocking moves in our rehearsal space, each of us frantically writing down what we are supposed to be doing and when in our scores. Musically, at this stage, everything gets forgotten as we use a different part of our brains to physically orientate ourselves. Tim is a great help as he instinctively knows what sections we are struggling with and plays our lines out. ​ Weeks follow with less music only time and more production. Gradually the music and moves join together in our minds and we are encouraged to put down our scores and work from memory. Some of us, myself included, like to write out the words along with the moves and cues in a notebook. This forces us to remember the tunes as only the words and moves are in the notebook. ​ Then the Sitz Probe: this is essentially the orchestra’s rehearsal. It is the first time we sing with the orchestra and our last chance to go through the whole show with our scores, although we try to use them only as a quick reference point and to note if there are sections that need revision. ​ Dress rehearsal – a whole new ball game! Now we have costumes to contend with, we are in a different space, there are new exits and entrances to get used to, the sound is different. Sometimes they say a poor dress rehearsal means a good first performance! Usually that is so because the dress rehearsal highlights bits we need to review, either musically or with movement and we go away and practise at home. ​ First night nerves kick in, we are all tense and many of us will have had a restless night going over the show in our heads. The tension of performance brings us all together and, at the end of that first show, we are relieved and pleased that it all came together. Always room for improvement in subsequent performances, of course! ​ After the show – we are bereft, those months of being part of the Heber show family are over, what to do with Sunday evenings with no rehearsals? ​ But then, it all starts again for the next production ………….

The glamourous life of the stage manager

  • Posted on: 24 April 2016
  • By: Chrissie Berridge

The props list for Heber Opera’s production of The Pearl Fishers includes oyster shells. It was my job to find them. This wasn’t a problem as I work close to English’s Oyster Bar in central Brighton. When I called in to ask, they were happy to save their leftovers for me. What I didn’t anticipate, however, was the work involved in cleaning them!

oysters

English’s customers had already enjoyed the best part of the process– eating the oysters. I have to admit however, that I am not a fan of seafood, and the proprietor of the establishment told me that I would need to remove the last vestiges of the flesh, before boiling the shells before use on stage. I can’t say that I was thrilled at the task but needs must.

When I got the shells home I set about prising away the fleshy remnants – with knife, and then teaspoon. Not without injury as the edges of the shells can be sharp as my fingers will testify. Soon I had a pile of grisly bits and a pervading fishy scent of the sea working its way through my house. But I got a production line going; removal of flesh, boiling of shells, draining and rinsing.

As I had to scrutinise each shell, I found them actually quite pretty and I can see that I will most likely end up hanging on to them. They can go with my scallop shells – and they’re still awaiting their turn centre stage!

All the way to India for Pearl Fishers costumes!

  • Posted on: 18 February 2016
  • By: Julie Emerton

During a recent visit to India I was on a mission to buy all the costume fabric for Heber’s upcoming production of ‘The Pearl Fishers’ at a fraction of the cost here in the UK.

A textile outlet in Jaipur was the first port of call for saris. The half-hour tuk-tuk ride to get there was the maddest I’ve ever experienced – crazy Indian driving in chaotic traffic in the dark (no headlights) – like a rollercoaster on the ground. Couldn’t stop laughing...

Our driver waited for the hour it took to find the least expensive saris in an amazing choice of colours and fabrics.

Finally, purchases made... just needed to complete the paperwork.

After travelling south our final destination before returning home was Cherrai Beach. The nearby town was not for tourists but had an abundance of clothing stores where I found lungis for the men at local prices.

Couldn’t resist some more sari fabric as well...

And this is what the (pearl) fishers might look like!

Back to Blocking

  • Posted on: 13 January 2016
  • By: Chrissie Berridge

Last night’s open rehearsal for The Pearl Fishers was in full swing when I dropped in with the first of the props on my list.

 

Michael was busy with the baton (with Tim doing the honours at the keyboard), while his wife Dorothy took charge with her directorial debut (stepping into Heber founder, Roger Clow’s well worn shoes). As Michael had bought his camera along I took advantage and took some shots of these early proceedings.

It was great to see some new faces joining in enthusiastically while the old hands simply looked delighted to re-enter the Heber Opera fray. At these earliest of rehearsals it can seem a confusing mix of music and movement. But everyone was taking their first footsteps with a determination to get a feel for what lay ahead. Whether it was the cake bought along for interval refreshment, or the lure of the pub afterwards, I wasn’t sure, but I’m pretty certain everyone will be back for more!

A Merry Heber Christmas at the Bluebell Railway

  • Posted on: 30 December 2015
  • By: Heber Opera

You might think that between the end of our production in November, and the start of rehearsals in January for our Spring production, we would take a break from singing.  But Christmas is a special time of year for singers and many of us are involved in other choirs and groups, gearing up for some of their biggest productions of the year.

Christmas is also a very important time of year for Heber Opera as it provides us with not only one of our most enjoyable events but also a key fundraiser for the company, carol singing at the Bluebell Railway.  For 9 nights this December, we entertained the guests of the Bluebell Railway on their Golden Arrow Pullman dining service.  Our job is to lead the Christmas carols as the train arrives at Sheffield Park station and while they de-couple the engine and move it to the other end of the train ready for the journey back down the track.

We love to sing Christmas carols, particularly the harmonised versions arranged by David Willcocks and John Rutter.  Many of the guests will leave the train and join in the singing and together we make a wonderful seasonal sound.  After working our way through a good number of carols, the train is ready to depart and the guests return to their seats before the train steams off back towards Horsted Keynes.  Then we can have a well earned mince pie or slice of Christmas cake before the drive home.

Fairies, Phantoms and Fiends!

  • Posted on: 30 December 2015
  • By: Heber Opera

Following on from our Myths and Legends concerts in May 2015, during November, we performed the second set of our 2015 series of concerts: Fairies, Phantoms and Fiends.

Heber Concert

Opera usually focuses on love and death but very often it is the supernatural influence that determines the outcome, so we were looking at the operas where witches meddle with fate and fairies plague mortals, and where heroines fall in love with ghosts and ghosts make unreasonable demands of heroes. Oh, and vampires!

Heber Opera's musical director Michael Withers guided the audience through all the excerpts during the evening with an informative narrative that  put the operas into context and provided fascinating background information about the works and their composers.

The programme included witches in scenes from Dido and Aeneas (Purcell) and Macbeth (Verdi), fairies as portrayed by Vaughan Williams, Purcell and Sulllivan, and ghosts from Sullivan's Ruddigore and Wagner's Flying Dutchman.

Heber Concert

Even vampires will be under the microscope as we included extended excerpts from a little-known opera by Heinrich Marschner - Der Vampyr.

As Michael explains:

When we watch an opera we are usually thinking about the love story or the power struggle that forms the main story, but the real stars are often the supernatural elements that drive the main characters: just think of the witches in Macbeth or Mephistopheles in the Faust legends! And very often these supernatural characters inspire a composer's best music.

Heber Concert

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