INTERVIEW: Charles Rice - in English Touring Opera's Albert Herring

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By kentsussex | Friday, October 05, 2012, 13:03

English Touring Opera will be performing Albert Herring in Tunbridge Wells at the end of October. TunbridgeWellsPeople spoke to one of its leads, Charles Rice, about his childhood in Wadhurst, how he got into music and what he will bring to the role of Sid.

Albert Herring @ Assembly Hall Theatre, Tunbridge Wells - Tuesday, October 30, 2012 - http://www.assemblyhalltheatre.co.uk/albert-herring-english-touring-opera

ETO is also hosting The Emperor of Atlantis the previous night: http://www.assemblyhalltheatre.co.uk/the-emperor-of-atlantis-english-touring-opera 

What was it like growing up in Wadhurst?

Idyllic. I was very lucky. My family has a long connection with Wadhurst as my grandfather David Rice was Vicar there 50 years or so ago. I grew up in the Vicarage (now the Old Vicarage) in which my father was himself born. My parents still live there and the house still has that same feeling, that I enjoyed so much, of being the centre of our family.

What first got you into performing opera?

There are many factors involved with propelling somebody into being an Opera singer; discovering you have a good voice or a talent for acting. These are pre-requites for an opera career. But my passion for opera was given to me by my parents. It was of course nutured by other important people, singing teachers, directors fellow singers, along the way. But there is no substitute to being taken to opera's from a young age. I'll never forget being going to the ROH aged no more than 10 and watching Don Giovanni eat his last supper off a naked woman. There and then I resolved "THAT, is the job for me!"

What are the best and worst things about being a touring artist?

This is my first ever touring project. I have done shows all over the country but that is a very different thing to taking the same show round the country and seeing it evolve and it's relevance change in the face of different audiences. I'm really looking forward to the experience.

How does it feel to be performing again so close to where you grew up?

It fills me with huge pride really. I have sung at Glyndebourne in the past couple of seasons but singing in Tunbridge Wells is a completely different kettle of fish. I remember seeing Sooty and Punch and Judy at the assembly hall when I was very young. But the main thing for me is that my younger brother, Tom Rice, is a resident at the seven springs care home in Tunbridge Wells. Knowing that he will be in the audience with the friends he has made at the home makes me incredibly happy - he is looking forward to it so much!

Tell us a bit about the show you're in.

It's a charming story about he coming of age of Albert Herring, the title role. He lives in a quintessentially English village where gossip is rife and bad behaviour immediately becomes the talk of the town. When Lady Billows, the self appointed bastion of virtue of the village, decides that no girl is fit moral fibre to be voted May Queen this year, the meek Albert is voted in as a male alternative. Irronically, with a little help from his friends, he breaks free from the unwanted bonds of virtue and his mother and goes for a night on the tiles.

Your character is called Sid. What's his story?

Sid is the local butchers boy. He's a little bit of a wide boy - but he is kind hearted. He enjoys his freedom and being Albert's mate  - just wants to see his friend live a little and enjoy some of the same pleasures of life that he does. So when Albert gets landed with the unwanted title of May King - Sid decides enough is enough and takes matters into his own hands. He is not going to let Albert be molded into the village goody-goody.

Are you yourself an avid theatre goer? If so, what's the best thing you've seen and why?

Living in London it would be rude not to be! There is just so much at your doorstep. Just on my street is Hoxton Hall, where the Rolling Stones played their first ever gig and now home to a all sorts of shows from Ibsen plays to Cabaret. I love seeing more establised productions too from watching Shakespeare at the Globe (Only £5!) to seeing Akram Khan dance at Sadler's Wells. He is an amazing artist. But if you were to push me on one of my favorite evenings in the theatre I would return to Opera. I saw Janacek's The Makropulos Case at Glyndebourne 10 or so years ago and I was blown away. It's actually quite rare that everything from the music, story, direction, set design and performances marry up without you liking one aspect and not another but just felt like every part contributed so massively to the whole. I helped that I had amazing seats too!

Opera isn't the most popular of the arts. Why should more people make the effort to go out and see it?

I actually think that Opera far from being some dying breed of art is in a very healthy place indeed. It is very well supported in this country so much so that the larger houses have started screening live to cinemas to stay in line with demand and these have been a great success both for the art house cinemas and for the opera houses. Regionally too there are very good small Opera companies putting on shows. Tunbridge Wells is a great example of this with the Wetherspoons Opers House now back putting on Operas. But those involved in Opera are always working tirelessly to bring Opera to a wider audience. Not, I believe because they wish to make an increased profit, but because those involved in the art form believe passionately in it. At it's best Opera is the pinnacle of Language, Music, Drama working in sybiosis to create extraodinary moments. 

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