Claire Barton: From London to Dunedin

My daughter perks up when she hears me rehearsing my music for The Magic Flute. I’m not surprised, really. The last time I sang the role of the Third Lady, I was living in South East London, travelling a two hour round trip to Camden for rehearsals and in the early stages of pregnancy. Luckily, I wasn’t yet suffering from the all-day morning sickness which made travelling to rehearsals for my next operas so…challenging.

Claire with her daughter Margaret
Claire with her daughter Margaret

It’s a bit ironic to come home to Dunedin after so long, only to find that, lo and behold, the first opera role I take on is one that seems to have followed me in my three years living in the United Kingdom. I studied the role of Third Lady at Trinity, work-shopped it with director Simon McBurney, and sang it English with Brent Opera.

The Three Ladies are fascinating characters to play. These women are seething with lust towards Tamino, but they are constrained by their work from doing anything about it. Mozart does not give them names; they have no place in the opera beyond their servitude to the Queen of the Night. This means that directorial interpretations of these characters can vary wildly.

In Opera Otago’s production, the Three Ladies are traders on the international commodities market. I’ve been part of a trio of ladies who have been glamourous 1940s figures. I’ve sung a Third Lady dressed in harem pants and dancing Bollywood-style. In one scene while work-shopping, our director suggested the Three Ladies were almost Maenad-like, and had the three of us attempt to tear an unconscious Tamino limb from limb. The theme running through all of these different interpretations is that normally, the three ladies are doing something fairly energetic on stage…

Handy then that I can keep fit by running after an energetic 14 month-old.

Post by Claire Barton, Third Lady

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