Corona Serenades: Q&A with Rebecca Louise Dale, soprano (UK)

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Meet Rebecca Louise Dale soprano (UK), singer for Corona Serenades.

Rebecca Louise Dale is a British vocal artist and opera director. She graduated as a soprano from Trinity College of Music. In 2011 she completed the opera course at the Advanced Performers Studio and has worked with leading directors, conductors and performers. Her operatic roles included Zerlina in Don Giovanni (Opera Vera), Adina in L’elisir d’amore and Papagena in Die Zauberflöte (Opéra de Baugé), Ninetta in La Finta Semplice (Opera at Home), Lucy in The Telephone and Gretel in Hänsel und Gretel (Open Door Opera) and Frasquita in Carmen (Impact Opera, UK Tour). During a period of transition Rebecca Louise was able to fall in love with melodies written by musical theatre masterminds like Rodgers and Hammerstein, Hart, Porter, Kern and Gershwin. Today Rebecca Louise Dale performs her “Golden Age Singer” program, which features music from the golden era of musical theatre, jazz and opera. As an opera director, Rebecca Louise has been praised for her sensitivity and fresh approach. Whether Rebecca Louise is on or off stage, her intention is to tell a story in its truest form.

How has the crisis affected you?

Home is now an extremely quiet, still place; a far cry from what the heart of London is usually like. It now resembles an empty film set patiently awaiting its major players to arrive. The usual soundscape has been replaced by what you would normally find in the country: birds, church bells, horses; a million miles away from the former buzzing Soho.

My week, like so many others, has changed quite dramatically; before the lockdown, I was out more than I was at home; part-time PA job, admin, rehearsing, performing, socializing, yoga, acting and dance classes; watching live performances and potentially a little too much late-night shopping! In the run-up to the lockdown I became very anxious, confused and concerned, not only for myself, but for my friends and family. In hindsight I was overwhelmed by what was going on and had no idea how best to equip myself and those around me, nor navigate my way through what was being reported in the news and flooding social media. On occasion it drove me into a frenzy and had there been enough toilet rolls for me to stockpile, I probably would have. Regrettably, however, there was still plenty of chocolate!

By literally having to clear the diary and spend more time at home, my awareness of self has definitely been heightened, which has mostly been a positive thing. Time alone to reflect has, curiously, made me feel a closer connection to others and value my relationships far more. I suppose tuning in and listening to myself has allowed channels ordinarily ignored to flourish, and it is most profound. I have a greater awareness and appreciation of how beautiful Mother Nature really is. I am reminded of this when going for my permitted walk. The vivid colours decorating the trees, the crisp blue sky, the brilliant array of birdsong… it’s as if I’m seeing and hearing everything for the first time.

What are your favourite operas and who are your favourite singers?

Puccini was my first hook into opera and whenever I hear anything from La Bohème I am immediately transported to fond memories of my early teens, studying the voice with the wonderful late Cynthia Jolly from her rather chaotic home studio. From my Soho apartment where all I see out of the window are rooftops and the beginnings of spring, I’m constantly reminded of Mimi and her introductory aria “Si, mi chiamano Mimi,” perhaps I should have put this one on my repertoire list….

I have been very fortunate in that I have seen many incredible opera productions but one that really struck a chord with me was the Met’s 2014 revival of Otto Schenk’s 1983 production of Arabella by Richard Strauss. The production as a whole was beautiful and all of the performers were so generous in their portrayals that it was pure magic! This was my introduction to the artistry of Swedish soprano Maylin Byström, who completely blew me away. Her voice is so full of colour. If she were a painter her canvas would resemble a Monet. It’s not just her voice though, it is her whole being, when she is on stage she is so innately present that you can’t help but be drawn to her. I actually saw her by chance last year at the Royal Opera House as a friend kindly offered a ticket last minute to see the Kasper Holten production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni which was a truly unexpected treat. Whilst I have performed in a number of Mozart operas, I ordinarily avoid going to see them, mostly due to the copious amounts of recitative one has to wade through before getting to the gems of musical brilliance; with that said, the singing and production were so brilliant I hardly noticed the chatter. If ever the opportunity presented itself to work with Es Devlin, I’m in; her set designs are out of this world.

There are so many incredible singers past and present but those who have influenced me the most are the late Mirella Freni for her portrayal of Mimi, which was the first I ever heard; Anna Netrebko for her ability to embody character; Joyce di Donato for her insane coloratura; Renee Fleming for her word painting; Diana Damrau for the most incredible portrayal of Rosina; Wallis Giunta for making mezzos and redheads cool and Nadine Benjamin for not only the most incredible pianissimos I have ever heard but the authenticity she brings to every performance.

I have been lucky to have been surrounded by so many incredibly talented singers for most of my adult life and have certainly been inspired by each and every one of them at one time or another. I am very excited to be among many of them on this rostrum and serving the wider community in this wonderful initiative.

Could you name your favourite musicals and interpreters?

The Golden Age era of musicals is where my heart really sings and I have so many favourites. My very first on-stage experience was within a junior school production of The Sound of Music where I played the role of Gretel. This show will always be very special to me.  The experience was as if a whole new world opened up, like a magical treasure trove; within each rehearsal or performance, time would just stand still and I was able to play, sing, dance and discover characters that I would fall in love with.  From there I would go on to take part in many school musical productions and festivals and in order to learn my role or song I would spend countless hours in front of the TV watching VHS videos immersing myself in some of the finest musical performances of all time, performers such as Judy Garland, Doris Day, Deanna Durbin, Kathryn Grayson, Tommy Steele, Frank Sinatra, Fred Astaire, Julia Foster and Barbara Ruick, to name a few. They were all so special and brought so many amazing attributes to their individual performances. I had them all on repeat praying that the ribbon wouldn’t get eaten up by the machine, so often it did and I had to find some inventive way of winding it back up. Thank goodness we now have the luxury of YouTube, Netflix and Amazon prime!

There are so many amazing shows from the early part of the 20th century that it’s hard to pick favourites. However, Showboat by Jerome Kern and Kiss Me Kate by Cole Porter are definitely up there along with Pal Joey by Rodgers and Hart, Carousel and Oklahoma by Rodgers and Hammerstein. I have to do a shout-out here to the John Wilson Orchestra who without a doubt have brought these incredible shows to life in recent years with semi-staged interpretations at the Proms, concert performances and recordings. This orchestra is absolute magic. I remember when I first heard them live at the Royal Festival Hall; I just wept with joy the entire way through; the sound world created was like no other I had ever heard.  One of my favourite composers of this period is the phenomenal Ivor Novello, who in my opinion is very underrated considering his contribution to the film and theatre world at the time. Notably, Novello wrote for Mary Ellis and Vanessa Lee, both successful artists of the time, each offering a quality of sophistication and optimum elegance. Whilst it’s tricky to find full versions online of their performances, it is possible to see snippets on YouTube and some recordings. So, if you have a moment do take a look. I’ll be performing a number of Novello songs throughout May on my Facebook page The Golden Age Singer. Please do feel free to tune in.  It’s amazing how relevant Novello songs are, especially in this challenging time. “Although you’re far away and life is sad and grey I have a scheme, a dream to try. I’m thinking, dear, of you and all I meant to do when we’re together you and I. We’ll soon forget our care and pain and find such lovely things to share again.” This is the opening to “We’ll Gather Lilacs” from Perchance to Dream. I just adore all that I have learnt so far about this remarkable man, his life and work. He would definitely be someone I would want to travel back in time to meet!

What are your favourite jazz songs and interpretations?

Jazz is something I have come to quite late and have still so much to explore and learn. Since moving to Soho I have had the privilege of witnessing some incredible performances at some brilliant venues such as Ronnie Scott’s, Crazy Coqs and Cafe Boheme. I love the intimacy of these venues and the ambience they create. It’s very special and something I’m missing very much at the moment.

I love many songs mostly from the American songbook. Probably my ultimate favourite has to be “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.” I adore Jo Ann Greer’s vocals on the original soundtrack to the film Pal Joey, where she dubbed Rita Hayworth. However, I do love interpretations by Ella Fitzgerald and Lady GaGa, both offering a masterclass in vocal and artistic freedom. I have also recently stumbled across the album The Girl I Knew, an incredible recording of Novello & Kern songs by Lorna Dallas.

What movies, television shows and books do you recommend?

Music is definitely my medicine and for me right now I need music that’s going to fill me up with joy and energy. So I hit the play button on a big band Spotify playlist most days and have a dance. This is where I feel I can release all negative energy and discomfort. I have also found it really beneficial to tune into live performances online, it’s amazing what you can find and how this really raises the spirits and helps one stay and feel connected with others.

I’m not the best reader so I tend to opt for audio books. However, I have literally just picked up a book that has been sitting on my shelf for a little while called Ultimate Energy by Tricia Woolfrey. It outlines simple strategies that you can start applying straight away to help lift lethargy, which I have felt more so this week. It’s been the little boost I’ve needed.  It’s amazing that often what you need finds a way of showing up without your having to search for it.

I don’t actually own a TV so I have been relying on Netflix, BBC iplayer and Amazon Prime. If you haven’t yet seen The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel you are in for a treat, three seasons of pure brilliance starring Rachel Brosnahan. This series would make an amazing stage show… Whist it’s not strictly TV (could be!), it’s definitely worth a mention that Nadine Benjamin has been running a live 30-minute program from her Facebook page every weekday morning from 9 to 9:30 a.m. since we first went into lockdown. This has been extremely helpful, also very reassuring, that I know every weekday at 9 a.m. I can see a familiar, loving face. The show is full of useful tips about how we can stay well in mind, body and spirit. Nadine has recently been joined by some fascinating guests sharing their gifts and expertise.  It’s definitely worth checking out. You can find all previous live sessions on her Facebook page.

Why did you join Corona Serenades?

I think this is a brilliant initiative and it would be my absolute pleasure to share the gift of music with as many people as possible in this challenging time.




This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)


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