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Jake Arditti: a Glyndebourne homecoming

We caught up with countertenor Jake Arditti to hear his memories of working here as a child and what we can expect from this autumn’s performances of Rinaldo…

Glyndebourne Tour 2019 is something of a homecoming for countertenor Jake Arditti.

Jake is playing the title role in Rinaldo but he first performed at Glyndebourne as a child in the 1999 classic Graham Vick production of Pelléas et Mélisande.

We caught up with Jake to hear his memories of working here and what we can expect from this autumn’s performances of Rinaldo

How does it feel to be back at Glyndebourne?

This is my 20 year anniversary of performing here at Glyndebourne. The first time was in 1999 in Graham Vick’s production of Pelléas et Mélisande. I sang the role of Yniold, and what an amazing experience it was. It was my time at Glyndebourne that really confirmed my love for singing and performing opera.

To do a dream role like Rinaldo, a title role, both here at Glyndebourne and then on tour to various UK cities, is really very exciting. Being back at Glyndebourne after all this time is hugely nostalgic, overwhelmingly so at times. It really hit all of my senses; just walking back into the theatre, the smell backstage, was like, ‘WOAH!’

Jake recreates a moment from Pelléas et Mélisande

How did you get the part of Yniold back in 1999?

Even though both my parents are musicians, it was by chance that I got into singing opera. A next-door neighbour happened to be a chaperone at ENO and enquired as to whether any of the Arditti boys (there were three of us) could sing, I was pushed forward. An audition was arranged with the head of the children’s choir and he put me in my first opera, I was hooked! If I remember correctly, I gave them a pretty good rendition of, Michael Jackson’s ‘Ben’. In hindsight, probably not the best choice of repertoire. My foray into the world of opera was in Tosca with the ENO, a couple of chorus roles and a one liner or two followed.

I was already having singing lessons on a regular basis, when my teacher heard that Glyndebourne was looking for a child to play Yniold in a new production of Pelléas et Mélisande. A handful of young hopefuls auditioned, and I was lucky enough to get the part.

Jake with Sir John Tomlinson in 1999’s Pelléas et Mélisande

What can you remember about the opera?

Even though I looked younger than my 12 years, I was old enough to now have very strong memories of that time in my life.

The stage sets were amazing; I had never seen anything like it. A huge spiral staircase was a feature of the incredible set. In one of the scenes, I had to slowly walk down, after witnessing Mélisande’s hair being cut in a terrifying manner. Things didn’t always go exactly to plan, and I remember one particularly violent performance where tables got knocked over, so that my props that I expected to be in a certain place, ended up not being there. I must have had a pretty good sense of stagecraft, as I had to frantically freestyle, stuffing a very large pair of scissors into my little pocket instead of the little key of the drawer that had been knocked over, never a dull moment!

Did you keep any mementos from the production?

I have one lone sheep collecting dust, on a shelf in my parent’s house; I can’t bring myself to throw it away.

How did you go from child performer to training as a countertenor?

After Yniold, several other opportunities arose, including a huge TV production of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast. I was also successful in an audition for the role of Miles in The Turn of the Screw for Festival d’Aix en Provence the following summer of Yniold. However, as my trip to the South of France loomed, that’s when my voice began to change. I reluctantly had to pull out and I remember being devastated!

On the advice of my teacher, I stopped singing for a good two or three months to allow the voice to settle. There was always a chance, that even though I had sung for several years as a boy treble, that I wouldn’t automatically transition to an adult voice of any worth. Singing had become a big part of my life, so it was an anxious few months. By chance, whilst messing around on the piano with family members, bashing out the Bach prelude, I discovered my high counter tenor voice, it felt so comfortable and right, even then. I went on to study singing for four years at the Guildhall School of Music and drama, followed by three years at the Royal College of Music.

What’s Rinaldo all about?

This production is a little bit Harry Potter, rather than being completely literal. It takes place as a fantasy of a young boy at school, who’s a bit of a misfit. He has a huge crush on his school friend, who, in his fantasy ends up being the daughter of a Christian crusader. It’s essentially all about winning the battle, and the hero getting the girl!


What’s your favourite part of Rinaldo to perform?

I always love singing recit, to me that’s where the story is told and where the drama is. But in terms of arias, it’s banger after banger. There are so many beautiful arias and duets. ‘Venti turbini’ and ‘Or la tromba’ are always crowd pleasers, especially in this production. They’re exciting, thrilling and funny – the audience seem to love ’em!

What’s coming up for you after Rinaldo?

Next up is another title role for Teatro Real, Madrid, in a rediscovered piece by Francesco Corselli, called Achilles in Sciro. I’m also excited to reprise the role of Rinaldo in a new production for Pinchgut Opera, Sydney late 2020. But before that, I finally get to sing in Aix-en-Provence next summer in a new production of L’incoronazione di Poppea as the tyrant, Nerone. I’ll be reuniting with the amazing Jacquelyn Stucker, who will be singing opposite me as Poppea. We’ve been poking fun at one another in the rehearsal, that she’ll be the title role next time!

Rinaldo is on stage as part of Tour 2019. See it at Glyndebourne and in Canterbury, Milton Keynes, Liverpool, Woking and Norwich.

Photo credits: Pelléas et Mélisande, 1999, Photographer: Mike Hoban | Rinaldo rehearsals, 2019. Photographer: James Bellorini | Jake Arditti in the Old Green Room. Photographer: Andrew Batty

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