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PUBLISHED: 14:04 29 February 2008 | UPDATED: 13:13 24 August 2010

Actress Jean Hornbuckle

Actress Jean Hornbuckle

Jonathan Goldberg 07958 229 037

by Will Davies For Jean Hornbuckle, a lifetime on the stage was inevitable. Growing up in a family obsessed with Gilbert and Sullivan, she was singing in choirs almost before she learned to speak. And with a name like Hornbuckle, a more

by Will Davies

For Jean Hornbuckle, a lifetime on the stage was inevitable.

Growing up in a family obsessed with Gilbert and Sullivan, she was singing in choirs almost before she learned to speak.

And with a name like Hornbuckle, a more conventional career was never really an option.

Now after 40 years' singing in the chorus of some of Opera's greatest productions, she appears in a limited two-week production in Puccini's masterpiece Tosca at the Royal Albert Hall, the year Puccini celebrates his 150th birthday.

Controversially for some, it will be sung in English. But for Jean it makes it all the more accessible. She said: "The purists would say you should never do it, but in London we have the Royal Opera House which does opera in its original language, and the English National Opera, which does it in an English translation. You've got to make it understandable.

"It's so sad opera has this elitist picture, particularly Covent Garden. But I'm hoping people will come with an open mind and see it for what it is. And with clever designs and costumes, and clever lighting, it can be tremendous - it really can."

Accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, art, love and politics form a catastrophic triangle in this heartrending tragedy. Set in 1800 as Napoleon Bonaparte marches on Rome, the villainous Chief of Police, Baron Scarpia, secretly covets the famous opera singer, Tosca, and summons her to his palace. On hearing the agonising sounds of her lover being tortured, she offers herself to Scarpia in exchange for his life.

Tosca sings the famous aria Vissi d'arte as her world crumbles around her. The tragic principal characters, most famously portrayed by Maria Callas and Luciano Pavarotti, are some of the most celebrated in operatic history.

At the age of 20, Jean came to Kilburn to study at the nearby Royal Academy of Music, and she has since enjoyed a life working with the great soloists of the age. She said: "I've lived here ever since. It's just very much my home and I love this area."

Performing alongside a world-class company of singers, musicians and artists, it promises to be an unforgettable production of one of Puccini's best-loved operas.

lTosca is at Royal Albert Hall from Feb 28 to March 9. Box office: 020 7838 3100.

w.davies@archant.co.uk

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