An interview with Robert Lindsay: Sarastro

Your editor had a 20 minute interview with Robert to discuss how rehearsals are going, what he’s working on, and his insights on the production so far…

Editor: When did you start rehearsing?

Robert: Probably about a month ago, maybe more. We started from the start and walked through everything, with everyone there.

E: How often are rehearsals?

From left: James Adams, Sophie Sparrow and Robert Lindsay in rehearsal

From left: James Adams, Sophie Sparrow and Robert Lindsay in rehearsal

R: We have calls on Wednesday and Friday nights, Saturday, and Sunday afternoon. You’re never needed for everything though, depending on what scene we’re up to. I don’t have anything today, for example.

E: Where are you up to now? What have you been working on?

R: We are up to the second run through now, tonight we’re about halfway through the second Act. We are critiquing and improving on each scene as we go through them, with John guiding us.

E: What about yourself? What are you working on?

R: At the moment, I’m focussed on developing my character, particularly portraying Sarastro as an old man, which is a challenge at 19! I’m getting there though, and it’s getting easier.

E: What have you enjoyed most about rehearsals so far?

R: I’ve loved the acting side, particularly with John’s [English] dialogue. It’s quite a funny dialogue, although there are some quite dramatic parts too. Most of the stuff I’m in is pretty dramatic actually. Papageno is the comedian of the group, Tyler [Neumann] is a perfect fit, he’s very funny. I’m also enjoying the camaraderie of the cast, and making some new friends. It’s a great group of people.

E: That’s wonderful. We’ll look forward to Tyler’s contribution to the blog then! What has been the most challenging thing for you?

R: Learning all the music and dialogue has been quite hard. However, the fact that it’s in English really helps! It makes it easier for me to connect with the arias and songs when it comes to performing them. [Robert Lindsay played Sarastro in the University of Otago Music Department’s Magic Flute Moments (Aug 2014)  where he sang an abridged version of the role in German] E: So where have you been rehearsing? R: We’ve been in the Music room at the Teacher’s college. It’s great for us that it’s on campus.

E: And when do you move to the theatre?

R: I think it’s at Queen’s Birthday Weekend? About two weeks before opening night.

E: Fantastic. Are you looking forward to being in the theatre?

R: Yes, I can’t wait! It’s going to be quite stressful too though, because our exams start around then.

E: Yes I bet. How have you been finding juggling rehearsals with study?

R: It’s been ok, fairly stressful, but you just have to be really organised. I’m a bit behind in my singing repertoire, but it will be ok because Magic Flute actually counts towards my assessment for the year. It’s definitely worth it for the experience anyway!

E: Of course! So have you got lots of fans booked to come?

R: Yes actually, and lots of friends who have never been to an opera before, including my flatmates. Unfortunately my mum is going to be overseas, but she’ll hopefully be able to come to a dress rehearsal. My dad and my brother will be coming up from Invercargill for it though.

E: What do you think the audience is going to love?

R: I think the audience will love how well the story has been transformed into a modern context. It comes together extremely well, and makes the story easy to relate to.

E: That’ll be great for your opera first-timers. So how does your character fit in to this modern context?

R: Sarastro is a greenie, excluded from modern society. He believes that people should find their own pathway themselves. I guess he’s a hippy really!

E: What about your Priests? Where do they come in?

R: The traditional ‘Priests’ are now ‘Followers’ and are part of the greenie group. They spend their time studying the writings of their leader – me! [laughs]

E: Are there any surprises in store?

R: Monostatos is played by Ben Madden, and his aria is pretty interesting…the words are…well you’ll have to come see! People will love his aria, I thoroughly enjoy it every time I hear it.

E: Wow, sounds intriguing! Is there anything else you’re looking forward to?

R: I’ve heard a lot about the lighting and projections that will be used. I’m pretty excited to see how they turn out in the theatre – they sound awesome!

E: Yes, we’ve been hearing lots of rumours! We’re just about out of time Robert, do you have any last thoughts?

R: Tell everyone you know to book their tickets!! We can’t wait to be performing at The Mayfair, June 13, 15, 17 and 19.

Introducing Tamino: A fresh angle on a well worn character

Enter Tamino, pursued by a serpent. In the original version, this is the opening action of Mozart’s Magic Flute. It’s the usual sort of thing handsome princes have to put up with, along with falling in love at the drop of a hat, and going on a quest to rescue a maiden in distress, both of which Tamino goes on to do in remarkably short order.

Tamino is attacked by the serpent in Sarasota Opera's 2004 production of The Magic Flute (Stage Director: William Gustason Set Designer: Troy Hourie)

Tamino is attacked by the serpent in Sarasota Opera’s 2004 production of The Magic Flute (Stage Director: William Gustason
Set Designer: Troy Hourie)

But what if you’re not a handsome prince?

What if you’re a bookish, naive young lad on a walking holiday, and you just happen to find yourself in the middle of a fairytale?

John [Drummond]’s renovation of the Magic Flute puts Tamino in an entirely new set of shoes. A quest might be de rigueur for Prince Tamino, but it’s scarily unfamiliar to Tamino Prince.

It’s a fresh angle on a well worn character, and it’s a welcome challenge for me. The “handsome prince” is a well known trope, and it’s easy to fall into a stereotypical pattern; the new Tamino demands a new look at the character, reassessing his place in the drama, the way he responds to the challenges in front of him, and how he changes as a result.

A remarkable thing, though, is going back to the music with fresh eyes…to find that Mozart, from 200 odd years ago, is way ahead of me. The excitement, doubt, resolution of the character is all there – I’m sure the “handsome prince” was already a familiar idea in 1791, but Mozart’s handling of his music shows an attention to character detail that indicates he, at least, had no truck with stereotypes.

As always, Mozart’s elegant music is deceptively demanding.  Each rehearsal, we find another nuance, another layer of character, another technical demand to come to grips with – everything opera should be. Just without a handsome prince…

…Well, at least he’s still handsome. If I say so myself.

Post by James Adams (Tamino)

Spotlight on our Stars: Meet the Principals

Sophie Sparrow: Pamina  - 2014 Graduate: BMus Honours in Classical Voice at Otago University  - Lexus Song Quest Masterclass 2014 with judge Kathryn Harries; finalist Dunedin Aria  - Enjoys the outdoors and travelling; plays Hockey for the University of Otago “This has always been a dream role of mine. I enjoy singing Mozart's music - at times, it can be technically challenging, but it is an amazing opportunity!  Rehearsals have been great and well-structured, we have got through the blocking. I look forward to developing my character more through understanding the inner-workings of Pamina.Sophie Sparrow: Pamina

Sophie Sparrow: Pamina

  • 2014 Graduate: BMus Honours in Classical Voice at Otago University
  • Lexus Song Quest Masterclass 2014 with judge Kathryn Harries; finalist Dunedin Aria
  • Enjoys the outdoors and travelling; plays Hockey for the University of Otago

“This has always been a dream role of mine. I enjoy singing Mozart’s music – at times, it can be technically challenging, but it is an amazing opportunity! Rehearsals have been great and well-structured, we have got through the blocking. I look forward to developing my character more through understanding the inner-workings of Pamina.”

James Adams: Tamino - Dunedin-born, but has been in Wellington for the last 10 years. Recently returned with his wife to be closer to family – in time for the arrival of their now ten-month-old baby! - Has a degree in performance from NZSM - he completed it as a baritone - Played ‘Samuel Marsden’ in Opera Otago’s production of Anthony Ritchie’s This Other Eden in 2014 “John’s ‘renovation’ brings a new angle to Tamino – he’s not a prince anymore, but more an everyman who falls into a strange and unexpected situation. It’s a new way of shaping the character that I’m really enjoying.”James Adams: Tamino

James Adams: Tamino

  • Dunedin-born, but has been in Wellington for the last 10 years. Recently returned with his wife to be closer to family – in time for the arrival of their now ten-month-old baby!
  • Has a degree in performance from NZSM – he completed it as a baritone
  • Played ‘Samuel Marsden’ in Opera Otago’s production of Anthony Ritchie’s This Other Eden in 2014

    “John’s ‘renovation’ brings a new angle to Tamino – he’s not a prince anymore, but more an everyman who falls into a strange and unexpected situation. It’s a new way of shaping the character that I’m really enjoying.”

Ingrid Fomison-Nurse: Queen of the Night - Originally from Canterbury - Age 25 - Studies privately with Judy Bellingham “I am incredibly excited to be singing the role of the Queen of the Night. The music is of course magical, and the Queen’s arias are fantastic to sing: challenging but incredibly energising and rewarding.Ingrid Fomison-Nurse: Queen of the Night

Ingrid Fomison-Nurse: Queen of the Night

  • Originally from Canterbury
  • Age 25
  • Studies privately with Judy Bellingham“I am incredibly excited to be singing the role of the Queen of the Night. The music is of course magical, and the Queen’s arias are fantastic to sing: challenging but incredibly energising and rewarding. Rehearsals have been lots of fun with a great group of people. It’s really exciting to watch characters forming and the story becoming real.”
Benjamin Madden: Monostatos - Born and bred Dunedinite, Otago Boys educated - Recent Graduate: BMus (Classical Singing) and BA (Philosophy) - Currently enjoying the challenges of teaching and directing choirs, whilst balancing a busy performance schedule around the country “I’m looking forward to seeing the many aspects of this production come together – particularly some of the rumoured hi-tech wizardry!”Benjamin Madden: Monostatos

Benjamin Madden: Monostatos

  • Born and bred Dunedinite, Otago Boys educated
  • Recent Graduate: BMus (Classical Singing) and BA (Philosophy)
  • Currently enjoying the challenges of teaching and directing choirs, whilst balancing a busy performance schedule around the country

    “I’m enjoying the challenges of inhabiting a nasty character, Monostatos. I’m also looking forward to seeing the many aspects of this production come together – particularly some of the rumoured hi-tech wizardry!”

Robert Lindsay: Sarastro - From Invercargill - Age 19, this is his first operatic role - In his 2nd year of voice studies at Otago University, studying under Judith Henley “Playing an old man at 19 is definitely a challenge, but I’m really looking forward to the performances. It’s going to be a great experience!”Robert Lindsay: Sarastro

Robert Lindsay: Sarastro

  • From Invercargill
  • Age 19, this is his first operatic role
  • In his 2nd year of voice studies at Otago University, studying under Judith Henley

    “Playing an old man at 19 is definitely a challenge, but I’m really looking forward to the performances. It’s going to be a great experience!”

Tyler Neumann: Papageno - 3rd year physics and classical singing student at University of Otago - Musical background of musical theatre and choral singing - Singing ‘Papageno’ is his first operatic role “As a cast composed of nearly all Otago music students, there is a huge sense of comradeship that has been a tremendous pleasure to be part of.”Tyler Neumann: Papageno

Tyler Neumann: Papageno

  • 3rd year physics and classical singing student at University of Otago
  • Musical background of musical theatre and choral singing
  • Singing ‘Papageno’ is his first operatic role

    “As a cast composed of nearly all Otago music students, there is a huge sense of comradeship that has been a tremendous pleasure to be part of. Papageno is such a fun character to play. His simple wants and quirky nature, putting him so firmly at odds with his morally-driven counterparts, places him at the heart of this opera’s comedic nature.”