December 21, 2021 - By Lama Almugbell
In this new season of Humans of the World, Marco and Erica sat with one of Britain’s finest character basses, Graeme Danby for a lovely conversation about his story and Cameron Menzies’s production of La Bohème for Northern Ireland Opera
In our new season of Humans of the World, our presenting duo Marco and Erica went to Belfast and met some of Northern Ireland Opera most talented performers. Graeme Danby is one of them, he is widely recognised as one of Britain’s finest character basses. Graeme told Marco and Erica everything from the first time he sang Opera, his recent perfomances and everything in between.
An Opera Singer and a Professor of Music
Graeme was born and raised in Newcastle, Northern England. He started singing when he was only 6 years old at Newcastle Cathedral, and that is what he has done ever since. He travels all around to perform for the World’s most well known Opera houses. At the time he met Marco and Erica, he had been in Belfast for 5 weeks to prepare for La Bohème.
He also told Marco and Erica that his parents are both singers and love singing and they put him to this at a very young age. Graeme also played piano as he loves music. In addition, he loved and played sports like rugby and football when he was young.
As someone who is into sports, Graeme is a competitive person, not with other singers, but with himself. Graeme described himself as perfectionist as he wants everything to be perfect when he sings. “I spend hours on my voice and on the pieces that I sing” Graeme said “I do character roles, so I do a kind of support cast to the main cast”.
What is more interesting, Graeme is a music professor. Which means he does not only help and support cast on stage, but he also teaches others.
Graeme lost some weight during the pandemic, which affected his voice and he had to change his vocal techniques. Want to know how he did that? More on this in the upcoming episode of Humans of the World with Graeme Danby.
On Stage Performing La Bohème
As Graeme performed in La Bohème, Marco and Erica were curious about how many hours he spent on rehearsals. “I am only in act 1 and act 2. So, it is not about the hours of rehearsal, from my perspective, it is the quality of the work,”. Said Graeme and added that the roles he plays are impact roles “So you come on, BANG, off”.
Graeme has performed in La Bohème several times. Yet, each time he has to be a blank canvas, for the director. “You do not come in, this is how I do this, this is how I do this” -said Graeme. That is because each show is different from the other. Although it is one story, each show has a different director and it is performed in different venues.
“We have created, as a team, something very special. And I am privileged to be a part of that” -Graeme
Erica also explored how the artistic director, Cameron Menzies influenced Graeme for this show. Graeme said that Cameron gave him ideas about both of his characters, Benoît and Alcindoro, and let him run with it. An approach he absolutely loved, because it means trusting someone completely -explained Graeme.
Our new season of Humans of the world is coming to you soon and you will get to discover more about how Cameron let Graeme run with the roles, but with guidance.
“Every show is different from the one that comes after it the next day” – what Makes Opera Different in Graeme’s Eyes?
Graeme loves the fact that every show is different from the one that comes after it the next day. In Opera, singers do not have to be in the same spot every single show, they can move and grow as performers and as characters.
He also told Marco and Erica that they do not use microphones, that is why they do not perform every night “It is humanly not possible to sing big roles every night”. He then told them about the show he had in Tel Aviv last year, The Barber of Seville, and how he felt beyond exhausted after doing 5 performances in a week.
As Graeme mentioned at the beginning of the interview, he joined Cameron and the cast of La Bohème in Northern Ireland Opera to make Opera for Northern Ireland and not just for Belfast. Cameron chose a great cast who love Opera so much that they want everyone to love it too! Stay tuned, Graeme’s interview will be on Humans of the World new season.