Q&A with Harry Thatcher & Thomas Isherwood | The Marriage of Figaro at the Royal College of Music
Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro at the Royal College of Music
We spoke to Thomas Isherwood and Harry Thatcher ahead of their performances as Count Almaviva at the Royal College of Music.
Both baritones are at the early stages of extremely promising careers and are already in demand throughout the UK. Thomas recently starred as 'Mark' in the Olivier Nominated 'Best New Opera' La bohème at the Trafalgar Studios with King's Head Theatre and Harry has performed a number of roles for Grange Park Opera and Glyndebourne Festival Opera including Curio in Giulio Cesare.
Our Q&A with Harry & Thom
How long have you been preparing for this role? (all your life is a reasonable answer) - how is it different preparing for a role at the RCM as opposed to outside of a conservatoire?
Thomas: I have been preparing for the role since the beginning of summer just gone, this is my first full role in Italian so it has been a huge learning curve to try and get to grips with the language in a relatively short space of time. There were a couple of months where I was too afraid to open the score for fear that I just wouldn't be able to do it! I would say that preparing for a role should be approached in the same way wherever you are working, whether it be at the RCM or any other venue. If it's your role then you have to treat it with respect and make sure your work is good enough to bring something to the table/stage that enhances the teamwork and creative process with your colleagues. The only main difference is the level of support we are given to help us learn and interpret the music correctly from the incredible team of repertoire coaches at the college.
Harry: Count Almaviva is the biggest challenge I have faced so far. I’ve been learning the role for six months but I’m having to draw on all the experience and training I have had over the last six years at the RCM.
Most people see the Count as the bad guy, have you found any good in him?
Harry: Haha.. I think at heart the Count is just a man who is lead by his desires. Those desires being money, power and women. He is a complex character who I am trying to unravel more and more during the process.
Thomas: I think any true good in the Count died at the end of The Barber of Seville. He's bitter, jealous, narcissistic, brooding, manipulative, angry, potentially violent, unreasonable... I could go on! What is tremendous about this character is that there is no shortage of this kind of person in our world today, just look at the current US President, so there are lots of very exciting ways to bring him to life that might be relatable to an audience in 2018. There is the famous moment where he begs his wife for forgiveness in the finale of the opera, although I believe this plea is genuine, I think we're all of the opinion that he'll be back up to no good ten minutes later.
Working with a legend like Sir Thomas Allen must feel like a dream, what can you tell us about this experience?
Thomas: Sir Thomas Allen has been one of the biggest inspirations to me as a young baritone, he has an amazing ability to tell stories, whether that be through music or just speaking, there is something about him that grabs your attention immediately. Working with him has been a daunting but very rewarding experience, learning from a man who has performed the role of Count Almaviva all over the world and is widely recognised as one of the greatest living interpreters of that role is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I don't think I will ever forget it. Nevertheless, it has been some of the most intensely focused weeks of my life and it can be a lot of pressure not wanting to displease one of your idols!
Harry: Any baritone would want to have the guidance of Sir Thomas Allen while learning this role for the first time. During rehearsals he is inspiring and his wealth of knowledge about the opera is vast. On top of that he is just a lovely man.
If you could swap characters with anyone else in this opera, which would you take and why?
Harry: It has to be the man I oppose throughout, Figaro. His character is complex in other ways to the Count; showing compassion, true love and resilience.
Thomas: I would swap with my wife the Countess Almaviva, she's almost a polar opposite to the Count and is trapped in her marriage to him which was initially so full of promise. She is an incredibly accurate and three-dimensional character within one of the most beautifully detailed works ever written, she gets to sing two of the most beautiful arias ever written and the famous letter duet in act three, what's not to love?
What would you tell someone coming to see The Marriage of Figaro for the first time?
Thomas: Stick with it, it's long, but so so worth it. The first time I went to see Figaro I didn't really understand the construction of a Mozart opera and I wasn't sure it was for me, it can seem like an incredible wall of notes and a whole lot of recit (the talky scenes in the opera, accompanied by harpsichord) but now after listening to it nearly non-stop since June I feel like I have a better understanding of the true genius of what Mozart and Da Ponte managed to achieve with this piece. It's about real people, and you can see/hear them come to life right in front of you, it's utterly amazing and no matter how many times you see/hear/perform it, there is always something new to be discovered.
Harry: I would say come and don’t miss it. It’s a story that anyone can relate to and with so much ground breaking music and comedy you wouldn’t want to see anything else. It will get you hooked. See you there!
This production has now sold out, but you can read more about the production here.