Henrietta Bredin

Wit of a hunter-gatherer

Over the years Chris Beetles must have made the pencil-wielding fingers of Quentin Blake and Ronald Searle itch with a desire to draw him. He presents a vigorously compact figure, possesses a pair of appropriately beetling brows sheltering an extremely shrewd gaze and sports an unabashedly splendid set of bugger’s grips. Standing in the doorway

A passion for music

Henrietta Bredin talks to the Earl of Harewood about a life in opera In his memoir, The Tongs and the Bones, the Earl of Harewood ruefully quotes his uncle, the Duke of Windsor, remarking, ‘It’s very odd about George and music. You know, his parents were quite normal — liked horses and dogs and the

Anthony Whitworth-Jones: Garsington on the move

When is a country-house opera not a country-house opera? When it no longer has a country house attached. This is what is about to happen to Garsington Opera, which is moving, lock, stock, barrel and picnic basket, from the exquisitely planned and intimate gardens of the Bloomsbury-redolent Garsington Manor near Oxford to the wide-open rolling

Guiding principles

What are the ingredients of a good audio guide? Henrietta Bredin investigates These days you’re more than likely, at any museum, gallery, exhibition or public building of interest, to be offered an audio (or even a multimedia) guide with which to ‘enhance your visitor experience’. There will probably be a small cost involved and you

Molière with a US accent

Matthew Warchus tells Henrietta Bredin why he is directing an American play inspired by Molière Rehearsing is an extraordinarily intensive, exploratory, deeply engaging business and director Matthew Warchus, emerging from a long day’s work on his new production of La Bête, by David Hirson, takes a while to change gear, blinking slightly dazedly as we

The great communicator

Conductor Marin Alsop talks to Henrietta Bredin about sharing a concert platform with Bernstein Last September there was a Mass Rally at the Southbank Centre in London. For an entire day the concert halls and foyers overflowed with shoals of people — children lugging instruments, parents rushing after them, singers clutching scores — all gathered

In the firing line

Henrietta Bredin goes backstage at the Royal Opera House and finds a stash of weaponry I am standing outside a heavily reinforced metal door somewhere in the furthest flung recesses of the labyrinthine corridor-tangle backstage at the Royal Opera House. A painted shield has the word Armoury picked out on it in gold lettering and

A view from the pit

Henrietta Bredin talks to the leader of ENO’s orchestra about working ‘in the trenches’ ‘Working in the trenches’ is how some people describe their lives in the orchestra pit, playing for opera performances. The traditional opera house has a horseshoe-shaped auditorium and the musicians are accommodated below stage level so that, ideally, the sound they


Henrietta Bredin on boats, trains, planes that transport singers around the stage Opera, so they say, has the power to transport the listener on wings of sound to places beyond the imagination — on a good night, at any rate. But just to keep singers, and directors, on their toes, a number of composers have,

Communicating through music

Henrietta Bredin on how Music for Life can help overcome the isolation of dementia sufferers I am looking at an elderly woman, tiny in a huge armchair. She has not spoken for months, she has not maintained eye contact with anyone for even longer and she has developed a nervous compulsion to keep one hand

Dallas bucks the trend

Henrietta Bredin talks to Spencer de Grey, architect of the new opera house in Texas There can’t be a gesture much more brave and defiant than building a new opera house in the current doom-laden financial climate. Deep in the heart of Texas, in the centre of its freshly revamped arts district, Dallas has done

Ready for anything

Henrietta Bredin talks to Simon McBurney about his latest challenge: doing Beckett for the first time I am standing in Simon McBurney’s kitchen, discussing pigs (he’s not only kept them but also slaughtered them, butchered them and made over 20 different sorts of salami), memory and language (both capacious and exact in his case), watching

A colossal achievement

There is a slightly odd but pleasingly old-fashioned feel to the design for the dustjacket of this book, with its early London Underground style of lettering and a painting of the Coliseum at night, as viewed from Trafalgar Square, in 1905 — some decades before the building became home to English National Opera. There is

Behind the scenes at the Coliseum

I do wish English National Opera would remember what it’s called and, mindful of its status as the only English-language opera company we have, translate opera titles into English as well as singing them in that language. There was no reason for Kaija Saariaho’s L’amour de loin not to be given as Love from afar,

An ‘intelligent spectacle’

Henrietta Bredin talks to David Pountney about running the Bregenz Festival Back in the days when David Pountney was director of productions at English National Opera, his so-called office was a tiny broom cupboard of a space carved out of a backstage cranny of the London Coliseum, with a single grubby window overlooking a narrow

A close engagement with music

Sean Rafferty tells Henrietta Bredin how an abbot persuaded him to make his first recording Six minutes to go before the daily live broadcast of BBC Radio Three’s In Tune goes on air and the atmosphere is full of a sort of supercharged alertness, of tension expertly controlled by a small team of people who

‘A sticky, sweaty play’

Henrietta Bredin talks to Ruth Wilson about her role as Stella in the Donmar’s Streetcar If Ruth Wilson doesn’t very soon become a major force to be reckoned with, as an actress, director, producer, screenwriter (probably all four), I’ll eat my entire, quite extensive collection of hats. She is bursting with talent and possesses a

Dangerous territory

Henrietta Bredin talks to Janis Kelly about her role in Rufus Wainwright’s first opera, Prima Donna Anyone less like the clichéd idea of a prima donna than Janis Kelly would be hard to find. She is known and loved as a singer and consummate actress with a conspicuous lack of airs and graces who will

Grecian jewel

I am sitting in the town square of Hermoupolis, capital of the Greek island of Syros, when I am approached with great courtesy by a gentleman carrying a bundle of papers, on the top of which I can make out the words Notenbüchlein für Anna Magdalena Bach. I am sitting in the town square of

Godot time

Get home from the theatre to find my laptop flashing a notice at me saying: ‘Godot: overdue’. Which indeed he was, patiently, achingly, endlessly waited for in an extraordinary performance by Messrs Stewart, McKellen, Callow and Pickup. Difficult to single out particular moments but possibly the best piece of advice for all of us in