We arrived to torrential rain - not the idea start to a week rehearsing and performing on Greece's sunshine island, but a huge relief to the locals, who must have thought we were some sort of band of English rain gods, having had no rain all winter - the venue for our performance was the extraordinarily beautiful Ναός Αγίου Πέτρου Δομινικανών, or St Peter's Church, right on the coast overlooking blue seas and billowing storm clouds.
It's both an intensely spiritual church and an archeological site. The acoustic is that of an ancient echoing monastery, the scene was set for a magical and ground-breaking performance of Puccini's all female opera, Suor Angelica, in which I was singing the title role.
The Greek Orthodox Church, historically, has a musical tradition of unaccompanied male voice sing-chanting. Staging an all female opera, with piccolo, piano and organ in an orthodox venue was pushing social and religious barriers. Not only that, but as the first opera to be staged on the island, we would be opening up cultural horizons. It was huge privilege to be part of this adventure.
For both shows we had full houses, plus extra people standing at the back. Over two days we shared our work with over 600 people, many of whom would never have seen an opera before, and including the priest of the church and Heraklion's mayor who stated to local news: "The success of the event proves that there is a public in our city that thirsts for quality cultural events throughout the year. It is our duty to offer them and in this way to attract visitors to Heraklion, even during the winter months."
This project was a huge achievement for me personally. The role of Suor Angelica is iconic within Puccini's canon. It requires a huge amount of vocal flexibility from celestial pianissimi to frenzied musical screaming as she pleads with first, her ice-cold aunt and finally the Virgin Mary. It was a magical week and I believe the results were outstanding.