'Prague: a Rumpelstiltskin shadow play'


I usually spend about 80 per cent of the year travelling: music is a sort of movable feast and singers move with it. Basically, it's a case of have concert opportunity, will travel and that takes you all over the world.

I have gone through a fair number of passports in the past 30 years. Most recently, I went to Spain and Germany doing concerts with the Hamburg Orchestra. Just before that, I was in Amsterdam and Lisbon and before that, Australia and Brunei. I'm a bit of a gypsy. If you're not one to start out with, you become one.

I loved being in Australia recently. Years ago, when the opera house was first built in Sydney, most of the Australians who I was working with in the UK returned home. So, during this trip I managed to meet up with a lot of these fellows whom I hadn't seen for years and years. A wonderful experience.

When you travel with an opera you usually settle down in a place for two or three months, so you make it home and get to know the back streets - Florence, Madrid, or wherever it might be. I usually get to know the cities quite well, but I feel most at home in Australia.

I enjoy being in New York very much, too, but I'd like to go back to Australia as soon as possible. The people are wonderful. I only realised this when, as a cynical Brit, I found myself trying to work out what the catch was. You know, why are they being so nice? Well there's no catch. They are just nice people and it makes you realise what a convoluted society we live in over here.

I was in Prague recently with Channel Four Films doing a documentary called The Real Don Giovanni. We had one hell of a schedule. My first call was at midnight on the first floor of the Italian Institute. I had to put on a mask and climb out of a balcony, down on to the ground floor, clobber an old man with an iron bar and run up the street and escape.

I must have done this 20 or 30 times, working well into the wee small hours. We didn't have a budget for star treatment - flash trailers or anything like that - so it was a hard week in some pretty cold weather.

But I love Prague, it's one of the great cities of the world. It has got more colour than it had previously but it's definitely not spoiled. One of the wonderful things about Prague is you realise what the 18th century was like without it having to be reconstructed. Sitting in the restaurant of the Intercontinental Hotel overlooking the rooftops of Prague is fantastic. With the towers, steeples and minarets, it's like being in a Rumpelstiltskin shadow play or something.

Vienna is not a place I would want to hurry back to. I find it quite parochial. It sounds an awful thing to say, but it is so folksy. I always expect an oompah band to be playing around every corner.

A number of years ago I was there in a production of the Barber of Seville. We had just one day of rehearsals and it was a complete disaster. The set was a complicated dolls' house with multiple floors, entrances and staircases. I spent most of the times chasing the other baritone around the house, missing cues. It was like performing in a Rubik's cube. At points like this the blinkers come down and your experiences mar your perception of the country.

In South America I spent a lot of time amusing myself as the production I was in kept being postponed. The orchestra didn't like the temperature of the pit, so they wouldn't play. Sometimes this is justified and the orchestra doesn't play.

Early in my career I was on tour doing Cosi fan tutte with the Welsh National Opera. We were in Rhyl in a theatre on the sea front which was undergoing some serious renovations. The back wall had come down and unfortunately nobody had thought of putting a replacement one up.

Consequently, there was a howling Irish Sea gale blowing though the place, the candles on stage were blowing into the audience and when the orchestra did play, they had to wear overcoats and fingerless mittens.

Thomas Allen will be singing in two performances of Leonard Bernstein's 'Candide' with the London Symphony Orchestra on 18 and 19 December. Tickets are available from the Barbican Box Office (tel: 0171-638 8891).

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
techResearchers recover 100s of nude photos from second-hand smartphones
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
peopleJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Volunteer Digital Marketing Trustee needed

    Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Corporate Events Sales Manager, Marlow,Buckinghamshire

    £30K- £40K pa + Commision £10K + Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly expandin...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice