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Reflections on Song: Ian Bostridge with Sir John Tusa - Festival blogger review

Festival blogger Melanie Spanswick attended our Reflections on Song event with Ian Bostridge.

The Festival has held a series of events at The Hub focusing on singers, hence the name ‘Reflections on Song’. I was fortunate enough to hear Tenor Ian Bostridge interviewed by Sir John Tusa who was Managing Director of the Barbican Arts Centre and BBC World Service amongst many other major appointments.

Ian Bostridge began his singing career aged 27 after studying modern history at Oxford University. He was supported by YCAT (Young Concert Artists Trust) and he also won the National Federation of Music Societies Award. He has sung in most major venues worldwide and has made many recordings. Bostridge also writes and presents too, and was made CBE in 2004.

Sir John had clearly given much thought to his questions which were wide ranging and definitely brought out the best in his subject. He began by asking Ian exactly what he did before he walked on stage; ‘paced up and down nervously’ was the very quick reply. Ian spoke succinctly on many facets of his career.

I was amused by the intrusion of phlegm in his life – a familiar hazard for a singer. Also interesting was the discussion of many physical aspects of singing and how the sound is produced. Like many singers, Ian is aware of the feeling of the sound he is making rather than relying on purely listening to it. This is an effective way of overcoming difficult acoustics and stops the urge to force the voice.

Even singers of Ian Bostridge’s calibre feel they need to have a teacher or mentor; he discussed the various voice coaches he had studied with over the years and particularly noteworthy were the references to Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, who was a hugely inspirational figure in his life. 

Bostridge talked about his love of opera although he was specific about the roles he would undertake in the future, and he spoke of Benjamin Britten’s operas and their importance in British music. After talking to Sir John for 30 minutes, the audience then had their turn at proposing a few questions. This concluded a worthwhile and fascinating insight into the life of a very successful singer.

Read more from Melanie on her blog, or follow her on Twitter @classicalmel

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