Meet Suzuki: Claudia Huckle Q&A

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We catch up with Claudia Huckle to ask about her upcoming return to Glyndebourne to play Suzuki in our first ever production of Madama Butterfly.

Claudia Huckle is a familiar face at Glyndebourne. She appeared in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as Hippolyta in Festival 2016 and played the title role in The Rape of Lucretia in Tour 2013.

How does it feel to be returning to Glyndebourne?

I’ve just spent the summer at Glyndebourne singing Hippolyta [in A Midsummer Night’s Dream], so I feel at home in this wonderful place. Glyndebourne is defined by its ethos of hard work and high standards – whether at home or on the Tour.

As a contralto you really stand out in opera productions as it’s such a rare treat to hear your vocal type on stage. How do you feel about singing a traditional mezzo role such as Suzuki in our new production of Madama Butterfly?

Even though the contralto repertoire is most comfortable for me, there are some mezzo roles that fit very well too – especially ones from the late romantic era where there’s a big orchestra and a darker colour is appropriate.

For example, Hänsel in Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel is a role I’ve sung many times with great pleasure. Many famous Russian roles also work for a contralto or for a low, dark mezzo.

Suzuki isn’t a high part – Puccini famously didn’t like mezzos! – and there’s a case for having a voice that sounds very different from Butterfly’s.

Claudia Huckle as Lucretia in The Rape of Lucretia, Tour 2013. Photo: Richard Hubert Smith

After the performances at Glyndebourne this autumn the Tour travels to Milton Keynes, Canterbury, Norwich, Woking and Plymouth. What are the challenges of preparing for a performance while you’re on the road and rehearsing in different spaces?

The biggest challenges for me are organising good childcare for my two little girls while I’m away on tour, and keeping fit and healthy while on the road.

I try to prepare meals in advance to take with me on the long train journeys – I’ll be commuting from my home in Bath – and enjoy taking a nice walk before the show, in whichever town we’re visiting.

Claudia Huckle as Hippolyta and Michael Sumuel as Theseus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Festival 2016. Photo: Robert Workman

After Tour 2016 what’s next for you?

Although there aren’t so many operatic contralto roles, there’s an abundance of concert repertoire, which I’m really looking forward to!

After the Tour I’ll be singing Handel’s Messiah [in Liverpool and Huddersfield], Elgar’s Sea Pictures with the Hallé and Sir Mark Elder, Mahler’s Symphony No 3 in Spain and the UK with Paul Daniel, El Amor Brujo with the Britten Sinfonia and Schubert’s Mass in Ab Major at the Berlin Philharmonie.

Further ahead I’ll be returning to the Royal Opera House for their Ring Cycle and debuting at Welsh National Opera.

Madama Butterfly is on stage at Glyndebourne from 14 October-3 November, before travelling to Milton Keynes, Canterbury, Norwich, Woking and Plymouth as part of Tour 2016.