Recent Young Artist graduates and Magic Flute tour veterans Nathan Morrison and Eoin Hynes took the time out to chat to us about their time on the programme and on the road…
Nathan Morrison Eoin Hynes
OTC: What is your outstanding memory of the OTC Young Artists' Programme?
Eoin: My outstanding memory of the YAA programme is the master classes that I received from Ann Murray, Robert Dean, Dennis O’Neill, and Sir Thomas Allen. I learnt a great deal from all four. I was very honoured to be in their presence.
Nathan: Yes - and also the trip to La Monnaie/De Munt, as well as the professional performance opportunities.
OTC: And what do you feel was the most important lesson you learned from your time on the programme?
Nathan: Being part of such a dynamic, professional and encouraging company at this formative stage of my career was inexplicably invaluable. I realised that the only thing separating me from being a student and from being a professional is my own attitude.
Eoin: I think the most important experience that I got from this programme was the opportunity to tour with OTC in a professional environment. This is what I needed to explore, to help me understand the touring experience, and the world of opera.
OTC: Tell us more about your professional performance experience.
Nathan: I spent my year on the programme wearing costumes ranging from 18th century wigs, through barbour jacket and wellies, to a vicar's collar, theatre scrubs, a fat suit and skin-tight long johns!!! All part of my first national tour as a notary in Pasqual€, performing for European Opera Days and for Temple Bar Cultural Trust’s Made in Temple Bar Festival as well as national tours of Bastien & Bastienne and, of course, the unforgettable Magic Flute.
Eoin: To perform on a professional, national tour was an invaluable experience, but also, the opportunity to perform the role of Tamino at Downpatrick, last minute, due to the lead singer suffering with illness: I have to say, I was very touched that OTC had complete faith in my ability to cover the role that night. (read a reviewer's comment on Eoin's cover experience here)
Eoin: I definitely see and feel a difference having done a tour of this nature with OTC. I’ve gained more confidence as a performer, that’s the main difference. I’ve also learnt that I can cope with pressure, having been told in the space of a few hours that I had to sing Tamino at the performance in Downpatrick as well as performing my other three roles.Nathan: Yes!! The breadth of experience gained is impossible to quantify. Touring, dealing with different venues, different productions and their own rehearsal periods, learning a revival production, being efficient, managing myself, dealing with colleagues and their diverse personalities, music preparation and performing consistently - the list could go on and on. I didn't have any of this experience previously.
OTC: The Magic Flute was a long tour, any anecdotes? Any survival tips? Any outstanding memories?
Nathan: Touring can be difficult - I think it's important to relax and have fun – worrying (about being tired or having to adapt quickly to a new acoustic etc.) is a waste of time. You have to stay positive.
Eoin: The tour was long, and yes I think I learned a few survival tips!! Touring really opened up my eyes. Opera singing is physical: we are athletes to an extent. The only way I could get through it was to make sure I got a good night’s sleep, ate well, and did some form of physical exercise – you need to have the energy to perform well physically and vocally and, when you haven’t an understudy, you’re aware that you need to watch your health. You need great stamina to get through a long tour. Equally, you must also try to switch off and have a social life within reason. Touring can be intense, demanding, stressful etc. so it’s important to get the balance right.
Nathan: My main memory will more than likely be of the cast. OTC could not possibly have assembled a nicer group of people!
I also loved the production for its beauty and dramatic intensity.I really enjoyed watching the performance from the wings - I watched it every night.
OTC: Your roles involved a greater engagement with the audience than
traditional stage roles - was it more difficult to stand, in character,
Front of House, than to sing?
Nathan: We'd always rehearse that 'scene' in a straight forward manner but it was only when there was actually an audience there that its challenges became apparent. Would they laugh? Would they 'boo'? Would they be completely silent? Would they feel awkward or uneasy? The possibilites of how they could react didn't matter, as as soon as the house lights dimmed we had to burst into the auditorium. Eeeek!! I found it challenging standing Front of House, night after night, different venue, different audiences (each with their own attitude and 'vibe').
Eoin: For me, I found the whole standing Front of House more difficult than singing on stage because I felt self-conscious even though I was still in character. On stage, I had that ‘comfort’ and almost that feeling of ‘power’. What I quickly noticed while standing in the Front of House was the way the audience had the ‘power’ to say, or do anything while I stood there in character: I was vunerable.
Eoin: I experienced a few funny moments during this part, holding the ‘Men Only’ sign!! One night at the Samuel Beckett Theatre in Trinity College Dublin, a woman commented on my leg and began rubbing it. Her friend was appalled at her behaviour saying “You wicked woman” following with a laugh.
Another bizarre experience happened in Cork, involving a woman again. I saw her looking at me in an almost ‘seductive’ way!! She approaches me with her tub of ice-cream and says to her friend “I wonder will he eat some ice-cream? I’m sure he’s hungry”
I started to panic! I immediately thought to remain in character, and not to open my mouth. While it was tempting to taste the ice-cream, the sharing of the same spoon wasn’t going to happen!!!! She proceeded to walk closer and direct the spoon of ice-cream towards my lips, I stepped back and refused to be targeted like that and it was all in the body language as I wasn’t allowed to speak. She stopped, and decided to approach my colleague beside me instead!
Nathan: I honestly found it quite hard not to laugh being asked questions ranging from: 'what time does the show end at?' and 'where are the toilets?' to: '(Woman): I've bought a ticket, are you trying to tell me I'm not allowed in?!', and even 'What lodge are you from?'.
Eoin: Standing outside in the foyer in complete silence was a totally different experience, even though I was still performing. At times, I used to dread going out once the interval began because I wasn’t sure what I’d be faced with out in the foyer. I made sure that the audience didn’t pick up on that, because it makes you a vulnerable target. It definitely helped my confidence as regards engaging with audiences.
Nathan: It was interesting hearing audience members discussing the production among themselves - some with profound insight and genuine praise and others making banal 'stock' sweeping generalisations. Some audiences were more vocally appreciative of the humour before act 2, others were more internalised in their enjoyment, which can seem scary.
Another thing that was hilarious was that the bulk of the rest of the cast didn't even know we did that during the interval until the final few performances after I convinced them I was not making it up!
OTC: Thank you Nathan & Eoin and best of luck in the future: Toi, toi, toi!