Showing posts with label Lesley Garrett. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lesley Garrett. Show all posts

Saturday, February 23, 2013

My first opera...

I've enjoyed taking a trip down an operatic memory lane for Sinfini, plus talking to a range of celebs about their first experiences of opera and what got them hooked - among them ballerina Zenaida Yanowsky, actor Henry Goodman and comedian Rainer Hersch. Read the whole thing here:

What follows is a further ramble on the topic...

Thinking back, I owe my whole opera thing to my parents, who never talked down to me about music when I was a kid. They seemed to know how to encourage an enthusiasm without piling on undue pressure and when I picked up that Magic Flute box (tempted by the picture: left) and wanted to know what was in it, my mum showed me how to follow the translated text as if it was the most natural thing in the world (it was the classic Klemperer recording, in German, without dialogue). It was good of them to put up with my unfortunate singalongaluciapopp tendencies, too.

I’m not surprised they bought me an alternative. This was easier: just one LP, in English, much of it positively designed for singing along. It was The Little Sweep by Benjamin Britten: the story of a group of children and their nanny who rescue a small boy chimney sweep from his abusive employer. It was easy to follow and impossible to forget. Nobody ever seemed to perform it, though. At the time, I had no idea there could be anything sinister in a song about a boy in a bath and I still find myself humming that syncopated, swingy waltz melody now and then. I’ve never once seen this opera live. A footnote: one of the child singers on that recording turned up in my year at university and we used to have a whale of a time playing violin and piano music together (he’d swapped the voice for the fiddle long before). I enjoyed the notion that I’d cut my musical teeth by inadvertently listening to my duo partner singing.

I fell for Eugene Onegin on the car radio, but seeing it in the theatre aged about ten (starring a young soprano named Kiri Somethingorother) left me colder than I'd hoped it would. It was all a bit static, it was hard to hear the words and I couldn't work out why on earth Tatyana fell for Onegin in any case, as he wasn't exactly an appealing kind of chap. 

Eventually live performance did enchant me – but not as you might expect. It was comedy, courtesy of English National Opera. The gods in Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld perching on their clouds; Lesley Garrett stripping off as Adele in Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus; and above all, the sight of my father reduced to complete screeching, weeping helplessness over the nuns in drag in Rossini’s Count Ory. This could only happen in the theatre. And when it happened, there was no point resisting. 

Interesting to see that while a lot of my interviewees cite Mozart and Puccini as their ways in to opera, Ed Gardner thinks those aren't such a good place to start. He plumps straight for Shostakovich and Janacek. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Lesley Garrett to play the spy who sang to Hitler

We interrupt the seasonal festivities to bring you news of a film in production based upon the extraordinary story of Margery Booth. An opera singer from Wigan, Booth became a spy during World War II and apparently sang to Hitler while state secrets were hidden in her knickers. Imperial Film Productions is developing the project with screenwriter Ralph Harvey, director Xavier Koller and, in the leading role, the one and only Lesley Garrett. The cast is also to include Udo Kier as Hitler.

More information about Margery Booth: The Spy in the Eagle's Nest can be found at Interested co-producers are urged to get in touch via the website to share the bringing of this fascinating story to the screen.

Ralph Harvey writes:
Margery Booth – The Opera Singer who spied on Hitler
It was her beautiful mezzo-soprano singing that melted the heart of one of the most evil men in history.  From humble beginnings in Wigan, Margery Booth, by sheer determination and armed with the magical gift of a magnificent singing voice, rose to be one of the top opera stars of Europe.
Courted by Ernst Ströhm, a wealthy business man and heir to a brewery fortune, Margery succumbed and eventually married him.  Although the union was initially successful, it ultimately proved to be a disaster and after the war in Europe ended Margery eventually divorced him.
Through her husband’s contacts in high society in Germany she rose to the top, and her highly acclaimed performances drew the attention of none other than the Führer himself, Adolf Hitler, who on one occasion personally delivered 200 red roses wrapped in a swastika flag and, totally enamoured of her, continued to ogle her throughout her performances from his private box.
Margery had, however, been recruited by MI6 whilst MI9 had also recruited John Brown, a former but now disillusioned member of Mosley’s infamous Fascist Blackshirts, and through the SOE arranged for him to be captured on the Normandy beaches so that he could work as a spy in a PoW camp.
As a guest in Hitler’s Wolf’s Lair, Margery rubbed shoulders with the top ranking Nazi hierarchy and, now totally trusted by Hitler, she was allowed to visit PoW camps where she not only sang but was able to contact John Brown and collect secrets for passing on.
Margery was suspected at one stage by the SS who moved in to search her, but John thrust some secret plans down her dress when they weren’t looking.  They escaped their search unscathed, but henceforth she was forever known as Margery the “Knicker Spy”.
In the closing days of the war she was arrested again but escaped during an Allied bombing raid just as she was about to be tortured, eventually reaching the American lines.  Then nearly shot, but fortunately it was her accent which miraculously saved her as an American soldier recognised it, having had been in Lancashire before the war.
Margery Booth’s story is one of the most amazing – and until now untold – stories of the war, and I have been privileged to research and write it for Imperial Film Productions and now on IMDb as Margery Booth: The Spy in the Eagle’s Nest.
This then is her story. 
Ralph Harvey – screenwriter.