Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Hello Malaysia Vid from last week

Here is a little video I filmed last week at the press conference here in Kuala Lumpur, and edited last night. Took some short clips of our singers and MD at PJ Arts' office, and you get four different languages: hellos and soundbites in English, Polish, Welsh and Swedish. (oh, and Kiwi!!!!)

I guess it would've been useful to have Mandarin and Malay in there as well. Next time!

Monday, 26 November 2012

Malaysia tour day 8 - KL Monsoon

I'm sitting here in my hotel room looking out at the most colossal downpour and thunderstorm.
Quite something, and on an intensity we never see in Britain. Half of the Merry Opera peeps went off on a sightseeing walk to Chinatown. Right now, I'm quite glad I didn't.

This snap is of the storm brewing:

My first show, on thursday in Penang, went very smoothly. Considering we haven't performed this since July I was happy with it.

On saturday morning, before the bus trip back to KL, it was time for....drum-roll.....jet-skiing. I'd never done this before, but I have to say, it was an absolute blast. Those things can certainly move, and the adrenaline kick is equivalent to at least 5 Lavazza espressos.

We did nearly lose Stephen Hose, our musical director, who got ultra-exuberant and went off around a distant headland to explore the coast. When we took the jet-skis back to the beach he was nowhere to be seen, and they had to send one of the hire companies employees off to find him. For a second we feared the worst...that he had made a mad escape dash for Indonesia and we would end up doing the rest of the tour without an MD and pianist, but in the end he came trailing back into view.

Georgetown, Penang is an interesting town, and on friday afternoon I got the chance to explore it. Well, at least the historical quarters, which is a World Heritage Site due to the amount of colonial architecture on display. The whole place has a faded colonial glory about it, and mixed with the eclecticism of typical asian city life, with hindu, buddhist and taoist temples, plus islamic mosques all rubbing shoulders, it is an absorbing place to visit if you look in the right places i.e. beyond the ubiquitous shoreline high rise office and condo blocks.

One of my favourite pastimes when in asia is photographing shrines in temples, so here's a few taoist examples coming at ya. As you can see, there is no single, large figure of a teacher or deity on taoist shrines, but there are scripture blocks/strips and smaller gods:

These taoist shrines have a remarkable, primal feel to them, being quite dark and with heavy, earthy incense filling the air. I like them immensely!

Back in KL on saturday evening we settled in a the Boulevard Hotel again, and, although we have everything we need here and the hotel is a cut above, we probably all felt that a few more days of beach life wouldn't have gone amiss. Oh well! We are here to work after all.

The first show was yesterday afternoon, and played to a nearly full house. As usual I had my camera on stage for the last scene of Act 1 in the club, "Lovely lady...", and snapped merrily whilst falling around in a drunken stupor. You never know quite what you are going to get with these dangerous opera singers:

Tomorrow, my KL debut as Germont. "Hello Kuala Lumpuuuuuuuuur!!!!!"

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Malaysia tour day 4 - first show day

On tuesday we had a press conference in KL at JP Arts, where we will also be performing. Joe, Anna and I sang a few numbers (Die Provenza from moi) before posing for photos for the press and answering questions. All pretty easygoing really and it was great to meet the team at JP Arts who are putting this tour on.

Here are some pics from the photoshoot courtesy of JayaOne (on Twitter):

In Malaysia there is a fruit that stinks. The Durian. And believe me, it positively hums! 

We were given a piece of durian after the press conference, and as we cracked it open a pungent, eggy odour surrounded us. A bit like used gym socks left in a cupboard for a month. It has actually been banned on some forms of public transport and hotels in Malaysia due to the whiff.

Inside the hard spiky shell are the kidney-shaped fruit which are supposed to taste nice. They must be an acquired taste then, as Joe, Anna, Claire and I all agreed that it tasted pretty rank. One thing I can say though is that the flavour is not the same as the smell. It is a combination of sweet and savoury, like dates mixed with a stock cube and with a sticky, thick slimy texture. 

No thanks! I don't think any of us will be trying that again in a hurry.

In the evening we picked up the rest of the party, who travelled two days after us, from the airport, and then had a night-ride by bus to Penang where we are performing the two first shows. Penang is an island in the northwest of Malaysia, about 5 hours from KL by road.
We got there at 5 am. Luckily I managed a few hours of sleep on the bus, and woke to see the glorious sight of Georgetown's skyscrapers approaching at night from the very long bridge over from the mainland. 

Now, I don't want to make you folks jealous, but when I got up the next day this is the sight that greeted me from the hotel:

Not bad, I'm sure you'll agree. The hotel is on the north coast of Penang and we are here for several days...back to KL on saturday afternoon. The day was spent lounging around before we went to the Penang Performing Arts Centre for an evening rehearsal. The theatre is very nice actually. Not a traditional theatre with a proscenium arch, but a more modern performing space. 

Here is our three piece band, being led through their paces by Stephen Hose our MD: 

We got through the rehearsal despite the effects of jet lag being clearly in evidence in various members of the cast, and afterwards, although it was late, we headed to the night market next to the hotel for some wonderful (and wonderfully cheap) food and some cold lagers at midnight. 

Here is a bit of last minute music swotting going on next to the pool two hours ago, with Gemma Morsley (Flora) and Matt Duncan (Baron):

In the next post I hope to bring you some video footage of the Durian Experience of Tuesday, and some interesting facts about Malaysia. I know you can hardly wait!

Today: show number 1.....bring it on!!

Monday, 19 November 2012

Malaysia tour day 1 - Relax Day

So, after arriving to KL airport at about 10.30 last night, today is a relax day for me. The journey went without a hitch. I travelled from Gatwick at 20.20 on Saturday evening with Matthew Quirk (Germont) and his partner Peddy, Claire Egan (Violetta):

Anna Jeruc-Kopec (Violetta), Toscia (Anna's two year old daughter), seen here enjoying their iPad:

Preece Killick (Assistant director and tour manager) and Robin Bailey (Alfredo):

The show is double cast, in case you're wondering. Yepp, I'm Germont too.

The rest of the cast plus music director are travelling from Gatwick tonight, to meet us for the trip to Penang tomorrow night.

We travelled with Emirates, a most excellent airline. Friendly, good food (ish), and most important, of course, a mammoth selection of movies to watch. We all got through a few, but I think Robin and Claire took the prize with 5 movies each.

I particularly enjoyed Beasts of the Southern Wild, an amazing film about a 6 year old girl and her father in bayou territory in Southern Louisiana around the time of Hurricane Katrina. Or is it? It is timeless in a way, including elements of magical realism and a virtually post-apocalyptic feral way of life in extreme poverty but with guts, real community and soul at it's core. A film with grit and heart, and I'd love to see it again without aeroplane noise etc.

We had a three hour stop at Dubai airport to transfer and in my search for coffee (this was the about 3am for our body clocks, remember) I had to swallow my pride and drink (aaaaarrrghhhh!) Starbucks coffee. Tastes like cardboard, but kept me going for a few more hours.

We were met at the airport by Richard and Natalie from Gardner and Wife, the promoters putting on the tour here. After the 45 minutes trip from the airport to the Boulevard Hotel where we are staying, I had a beer with our party and the tour team in the bar, before, absolutely exhausted hitting the sack at about 1.30am.

Claire, Robin and Matthew had to get up at 6.30 or so to go and do a Breakfast TV interview for Malysian TV and a Radio Interview. I am rather glad I got a bit of a lie in and didn't have to do anything of any use today. The hotel breakfast was wonderful, and my room is very nice too. This sure beats Travelodge.

It's rainy season here, and it has been pretty wet and cloudy here today. I've explored the MegaMall and the Gardens Mall (a bit posher and flashier) which are here in the same complex as the Hotel. And now for the gym!!!!!

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Malysia tour 2012

So, today I head off to Malaysia with the Merry Opera Company for a three week tour of La Traviata.
We will be spending several days in Penang at the start of the tour, then decamping to Kuala Lumpur for the majority of the remaining shows, with one show in Ipoh and one in Malacca as excursions.

Dim Sum and Petronius Towers here we come!

I will be updating this blog regularly on this tour, so keep your eyes peeled!