FINDING NORMA

  • Posted on: 25 September 2018
  • By: Chrissie Berridge

Chrissie Berridge explains how she came up with the design for Heber’s 2019 major production

I designed the poster for Heber Opera’s Rusalka in 2015 and have continued for each major production, plus their concert performances. I have developed a good eye for layout thanks to my time working in the publishing industry. For 14 years I was the editor for The Dolls’ House magazine. Creating a front cover design for the magazine was very similar to creating a poster for a musical production - working with images and words to both engage attention and get results!

Preparing for Heber Opera’s 2019’s production of Bellini’s opera, Norma, directors Dorothy and Michael Withers already had some ideas about how the poster should look. In an email they explained that they were after an ethereal image, maybe with Celtic and Roman references, possibly some blood (it is a tragedy after all). My design needed to interpret their vision.

Image and words

My starting point was to find the main image, the choice of which for any poster is crucial. It has to be striking enough to draw the eye, but not so complicated that positioned text is obscured or can't be read. I began by looking though my portfolio of photographs. Amongst these I found a classical statue of a female head that I thought might be a contender. I experimented with the image, overlaying it with a photograph of a Roman mosaic, positioning it in a plain background. I thought about the ‘blood’ element, but decided against it as I’d already referenced it in 2018’s Rigoletto. I wanted the Norma poster to be suitably distinct from previous productions.

 

Norma - Roman
An early idea using a classical statue with a mosaic overlay

Looking for an alternative I chose a painting by my sister, Paula Wrightson. Over the years Paula has produced a large body of work both painted and photographs. One painting in particular was of a confident Medusa-haired woman draped in a garment with stylised banding. I knew that the snake hair wouldn’t be appropriate but the rest of the picture had potential.

Medusa
The original Medusa painting by Paula Wrightson

Aside from the main image and title the Norma poster had to include information on dates, venues, prices and booking details, Heber’s logo, plus those all important social media contacts. These can be positioned on top, underneath or to the side of the base image. The font and point size make a difference too. So I spent a lot of time working on all these elements to find a best fit with each of my chosen images. It was then down to Dorothy and Michael for their thoughts on my initial designs.

The eyes have it!

After considering the designs, I was asked to concentrate on the portrait and discard the statue. One of the problems though with the painting was the dark eye area. They looked too dark without any real definition, could I rectify this? Back at my computer I played around with the eye area, working with a second image of real eyes overlaid and blended in to add clarity.

Following a conversation with Paula about my poster designs she sent me a photograph of herself, wearing an ivy circlet. It looked akin to an inspirational image that Dorothy had sent alongside her initial feedback. The photograph had been taken around the same time that the original Medusa was painted. The new image had clear eye contact with the viewer and was certainly ethereal. Could this photo replace the painting in a revised design?

I created a new interpretation using the text as already laid out. The new photo looked great, with a strong image and clear text, but there was a niggling doubt in my head. Would the audience expect to see this woman (Paula) as ‘Norma’ in our production? I didn’t want the image to be misleading. I knew that I had to go back to the Medusa painting and those troublesome eyes.

Medusa
Experimenting with the eye area and altering the colours of the painting

Result

Suddenly I had an idea - rather than try and make the eyes fit the design, I decided to avoid them altogether. I cropped the image further and there she was – Norma! By ignoring the eyes, the focus transferred to the lips. As a viewer we are waiting for those lips to open – the woman’s story to be revealed, just as it will be in the opera. Not seeing the whole face retained an air of mystery about the woman herself. With the added bonus of highlighting the stylised Celtic banding on the cloth and the Roman shield motif, the design was in the bag!

A word from our directors about plans for the rest of 2018

  • Posted on: 30 July 2018
  • By: Dorothy Withers

Greetings to everyone connected with Heber Opera whether singers or supporters – I hope you have all been enjoying the spell of summer weather even though is has been a bit on the hot side for some.

Well, “Rigoletto” has been finally put to bed – the finances have all been tallied up – huge thanks to Jenny Letton our Treasurer- and we actually came out on the right side of the balance sheet having made a small profit of just over £100. Of course we cannot be complacent because costs keep going up year on year.

Before I move on to plans for the remainder of this year and then 2019 I would just like to give a final huge thank you to everyone who was involved in Rigoletto making it such a fantastic show. The principals had a mountain to climb vocally and dramatically and achieved it 100%. The chorus too pulled out all the stops and I hope felt proud of themselves at the end of the run, they certainly deserved to. To the orchestra and everyone who helped behind the scenes a big thank you too. Bravo Tutti.

We are currently in rehearsal for our concert on 15th September as part of the Hurstpierpoint Festival . Tickets can be obtained from the Festival Box Office, please follow this link to the Hurstpierpoint Festival website and scroll down the page.

The programme will include some well known choruses along with some solos that you might not have heard before. Veronica Brooks ( our lovely Gilda from this year’s Rigoletto ) will be singing the famous “Casta Diva” from “Norma” by Bellini and this is a clue to our plans for 2019!! Watch this space !

After September we then start to think about (yes, it’s on it’s way..) Christmas !! We have been asked back to Brighton’s Royal Pavilion where we will provide a short entertainment for one of the prestigious dinners that are held there in December and then of course we don our winter woollies, hats and gloves to sing carols for the diners on the Bluebell Railway. We have been doing this now for what seems like for ever but is probably only about 35 years !!!, and the Christmas season just wouldn’t be the same without standing on a freezing railway platform singing Good King Wenceslas etc. David and Liffy Carverhill, stalwarts of our merry band, perform sterling work by keeping us all topped up with mulled wine and other warming beverages. We have about 13 sessions this year so who says we don’t suffer for our art?

Once the Bluebell carols are finished we have a very welcome short break with just enough time to whizz round and buy all the last minute presents, make the mince pies etc and prepare the food for the Festive season. A quick chorus of “Auld Lang Syne” and off we go again.

More information re 2019 coming soon….

A Fabulous Run for Rigoletto

  • Posted on: 3 June 2018
  • By: admin

Monterone

Another show draws to a close and the cast return to their regular day-jobs with the usual mixed feelings: relief that it all went off without a hitch and sadness that we won't get to do it one more time. And what a show it was, Verdi knew what buttons to press and something in his operas always seems to carry through to the modern era. Non more so perhaps than Rigoletto with its story of a vain and powerful man abusing his position to exploit the vulnerable.

Marullo

Verdi creates a cast of characters with real depth to tell his story, Rigoletto, Gilda and the Duke have most of the action but the assasin Sparafucile, his sister Maddalena and Monterone who's curse sets the story in motion all serve to bring the drama to life. Not to mention the chorus with its trio of leaders Borsa, Ceprano and Marullo whose spite and complicity bring about the disaster.

Duke

Our principals did not disappoint. Nick Forrest gave a masterful performance as Rigoletto, Veronica Brooks's Gilda was heartbreaking and Tim Crouch's Duke was a study in self-serving nastiness! The music was sublime and the Heber Ensemble delivered a fantastic performance every night as always. Each venue was busy and the audience as always were brilliant and played their part in making each performance special.

Rigoletto

Personally, I can't wait for next one - I hope we see you there next year.

Rigoletto & Secrecy

Verdi thought that one of the tunes in Rigoletto would be so popular they’d be whistling it in the streets – so he didn’t give it to the singer until just before the dress rehearsal. Want to know which one? Watch the video to find out.

Still time to buy tickets for the performances in May. See Box Office for availability.

David & Liffey Carverhill play Count & Countess Ceprano

  • Posted on: 10 May 2018
  • By: Dorothy Withers

David and Liffey

The Carverhills have sung with Heber for a while now - most recently in Faust when Dave was the air-raid warden and Liffey the landlady of "The Golden Calf". They are a lovely sociable couple and we really enjoy having them with us, not only for the enthusiastic way they enter into any given project but also because they regularly create cocktails for the cast dressing-room ( substituting this for mulled wine at our annual sessions of carol singing for the Bluebell Railway)!

Dave and Liffey tripped over each other in Zambia, where they were working for the copper mines. There they enjoyed an eclectic (aka random) theatrical experience including madrigal singing, barbershop and performing in and eventually directing a variety of shows including The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, The Wizard of Oz, Godspell and Oklahoma. They moved to South Africa where they continued to sing (Johannesburg Bach Choir) and perform in a musical theatre company. After 13 years in Africa, they finally became homesick and returned to the UK, where they have sung with Worthing Philharmonic Choir, Worthing Operatic, Wandering Minstrels and are now happy members of Heber Opera, Coro Nuovo and East Sussex Bach Choir (for a restorative dose of baroque singing).

Tim Nail - Our Accompanist

  • Posted on: 8 May 2018
  • By: Dorothy Withers

TNail
photo: Nick Ford

One person who Heber would be hard pressed to replace is Tim Nail our regular rehearsal accompanist.

A talented player and composer in his own right, Tim has been with us for some years now, through the good times and the days when things don’t go so well. Good repetiteurs are hard to find and always in much demand so we are indeed fortunate that Tim can continue to fit us into his busy schedule.

Sitting at the keyboard throughout every rehearsal Tim does everything from “note-bashing” individual lines during the preliminary learning process of a piece through to acting as a one man orchestra when we reach the stage of rehearsing complete runs of an opera. When we initially decide on an opera and present Tim with a score hot off the press he will often just remark “ Umm, there are a lot of notes! “ before sitting down and starting to play from sight. As someone who never mastered any instrument apart from basic recorder and the kazoo, I am in awe of such musical expertise.

Not only our valued repetiteur, Tim has also conducted Heber Opera performances of ‘Acis and Galatea’, ‘Savitri’ and ‘Suor Angelica’.

Tim was born in Wiltshire and grew up in Scotland where he studied music at Glasgow University. He went on to study music therapy at the Guildhall School in London before moving to Sussex where he now lives with his partner. Working extensively in the south east as a teacher, accompanist and repetiteur he also composes, and has written a Mass, a Requiem, a short one-act opera, several choral pieces and solo songs. He works with the Brighton Chamber Choir (who will perform Rossini’s ‘Petite Messe Solennelle’ on June 16th at St.Nicholas Church), the Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus for which he does a lot of arranging and also with Neil Jenkins and his ensemble the ‘NJ Chorale’. He has performed with Stefan Holmstrom and his ensembles ‘Resound’ and ‘Rebelles’ and recently accompanied Stefan for a song recital featuring the works of Faure, Sibelius and Vaughan Williams which was very well received. A regular pianist at ‘Jackdaws Educational Trust’ in Great Elm, Tim works with Penny Jenkins and these two will be performing at Bramber Church on June 3rd. Tim also works as the accompanist for Shoreham Oratorio Choir with their MD Marc Yarrow.

March 2017 saw the first performance of his ‘Stabat Mater’ by the Brighton Chamber Choir conducted by the composer. It was written for female voices and 4 instruments (cor anglais, french horn, ‘cello and harp) and was very well received.

Finishing Touches for Rigoletto

  • Posted on: 5 May 2018
  • By: admin

Tomorrow is our last full rehearsal before dress and we are putting the finishing touches onto the production. Don't forget to book your ticket for the venue of your choice - they are selling out fast!

Rigoletto & Duke with Ceprano
Rigoletto & Duke with Ceprano
Set - table ready for play
Set - table ready for play
Rigoletto contemplates the curse
Rigoletto contemplates the curse
Sparafucile the contract killer
Sparafucile the contract killer
Sparafucile explains his work to Rigoletto
Sparafucile explains his work to Rigoletto
A sleeping Gilda
A sleeping Gilda is unaware she is about to be kidnapped
Some fiendish plotting
Some fiendish plotting
Marullo dupes Rigoletto
Marullo dupes Rigoletto
Ceprano's revenge
Ceprano's revenge is in sight
Rigoletto blindfolded
Rigoletto blindfolded
Gilda taken
Gilda taken
Giovanna
Giovanna has not been doing her duty!

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