Monday, 25 July 2011

Friday, 11 June 2010

Marmite - Yes or No?

It's been an eventful week for the Miles family. Firstly there was Jono's TV appearance with his band The Arrangement in the third semi-final of Britain's Got Talent. They did a fantastic job but failed to garner enough 'phone votes to proceed to the final. This has obviously been a big disappointment especially since the response from the studio audience to their performance was so enthusiastic and easily outdid that given to any of the other acts that evening. Was it just me who sensed a certain froideur on the part of the judges, as if they had received instructions not to be too positive in their comments whatever the audience reaction might be? Very possibly! They all said some lovely things about Jono being a wonderfully charismatic frontman, but I'm afraid I took exception to Piers Morgan's sententious appraisal of their musical (and Jono's vocal) abilities. Whatever euterpean credentials Piers has collected over the years - and I doubt he has any, unless possibly you include grade one recorder at age seven - he's kept them very well hidden!
Simon Cowell wasn't much better. His comments regarding the divisive merits of Marmite seemed designed primarily to insult Piers rather than give any cogent critique of the band. And I thought his use of the word "despise" particularly unfortunate: he said people would either love them or despise them - just as they would Piers or Marmite. Sorry Simon, but aren't you being just a tad hyperbolic here? You might justifiably despise politicians for their cant and hypocrisy, just as you might fat-cat bankers who have single-handedly ruined our economy and then demanded tax payer bailouts because they're too big to fail. But honestly, what is there to despise about a bunch of teenagers who have shown considerable perseverence, courage and yes, talent, in getting so far in a nationally televised competition? It's not as if they've gone out and desecrated the local war memorial for f****'* sake!!
At the moment of writing it doesn't look like they've made it on to the BGT Tour either. Shame, as they're a great live act and would bring something edgy, funny AND very musical to the shows.
So back to my own activities over the past week which seem rather prosaic in comparison! It was the premier of Medea in Corinto here in Munich last Monday, and a great success it was too. Until, that is, the curtain call for the director, whereupon the atmosphere shifted instantaneously to the noisily negative. If you like your opera stagings full of violence and a final body count to rival the worst excesses of Tarantino, then this show is for you! I have to say I relished my role. Not that I have a great deal to sing, but as King Creonte of Corinth I get to limp around the stage hamming it up uproariously as a kind of Nosferatu/Quasimodo/Crespel hybrid, complete with luxuriant Jimmy Page-style wig and huge hunchback. Great fun!
And finally, I've been asked at the last minute to step into the breach for Glyndebourne as the Commendatore in their imminent new production of Don Giovanni (opens July 4th). This will involve some hectic commuting between Medea performances so I only hope my constitution is up to it. The Commendatore isn't a big role either, of course, but when he's on stage you certainly can't miss him and for the supper scene to be truly terrifying, it has to be sung with maximum power and conviction. I've been told I have to stay in a coffin for forty minutes prior to this scene so it could be quite a challenge....  Please wish me luck!

Get a new e-mail account with Hotmail - Free. Sign-up now.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010


OK, it's time to come clean. The DNA tests are conclusive and I'm sorry to disappoint everyone. They prove beyond reasonable doubt that JONO MILES from Britain's Got Talent band THE ARRANGEMENT has no genetic connection whatsoever with Boris Johnson, the blond-bombshell Mayor of London, and every connection, I'm glad to say, with me.

I did nearly ask my wife in as playful a way as possible if she'd ever met Boris. After all, she loved to trip the light fantastic at some very swish London night clubs when she was single, and has admitted sharing the dance floor with several celebs including the notorious Jack Nicholson. My courage failed me, mainly because she was wielding a rather intimidating frying pan at the time.

To say I'm proud of Jono would be a massive understatement. But he's still got his A levels to sit, damn it, so we're trying to keep his size tens on the ground and gently persuade him to do some work between TV and press interviews.

Still, he owes me - big time. About 12 grand should cover it. This is the very nice fee I lost out on by cancelling some concerts in Portugal the week after Jono's BGT audition, to which I went along. Sitting in the 3500 strong audience at the Hammersmith Apollo, I shouted so loud and wrecklessly in his support that my voice was shredded and it frustratingly failed to respond to restorative treatment in time. Waddamistake-a-tomake-a!!

Anyway, a bi-product of Jono's fame is some attention being focused in my direction. I don't think it entirely coincidental that on the day I was 'outed' as Jono's "famous opera singer dad" in THE SUN, my website's daily hits rose from a modest average of 8 to a comparatively impressive 45!

So there we are: popular recognition at last after 25 years - but Jono's achieved even more in just 2 days.....

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

I don't suppose there are many Brits who can claim...

I don't suppose there are many Brits who can claim to have sung the national anthem on the stage of La Scala, Milan. Well, perhaps uniquely that honour was mine last night at the premier of Rossini's Il Viaggio a Reims. The character I play happens to be English, an aristocratic army colonel called Lord Sidney. Near the end of the opera each character is called on to sing a song from his/her own country and Sidney, professing an ignorance of all things musical, which conforms to the national stereotype of 'Das Land ohne Musiek', admits to just one ditty in his repertoire: 'God Save the King'.
Admittedly the words are different and in Italian, but the tune's the same albeit with a couple of Rossinian harmonic and melismatic twists which jazz the thing up a bit - and, boy, does it need it!
All in all a fun evening but with a serious purpose: it was announced before curtain up to appreciative applause that all proceeds would be going to the Abbruzzo Earthquake Appeal, including contributions from the cast.

Share your photos with Windows Live Photos – Free.

Monday, 29 September 2008

I wrote the following piece earlier this year as a result of receiving somewhat mixed reaction to my performance of Calatrava/ Guardiano in Verdi's La Forza del Destino at the Vienna Staatsoper.
To err is human; to boo bovine
Last Saturday I sang in the first night of a new production of Verdi's La Forza del Destino at Vienna's Staatsoper. The performance, all things considered, went very well and I was happy with the way I sang. I say 'all things considered' as a way of acknowledging the strange creature that is a first night. It's the performance which has the most pressure attached to it. For the first time the paying public get to view and hear the results of six weeks of rehearsal, and the critics, god bless'em, get to practise their craft and earn their crust in a parasitical mirror-image of what you as a performer are also doing. Jules Renard once said about his profession of writing that it was one of those occupations in which you have to keep proving your talent to people who have none: singing is another. In this instance we had in addition the not insignificant matter of a live TV broadcast to contend with, as if the usual first night nerves were not enough!
As a seasoned operatic pro of course I'm used to having to deal with these situations and the pressures they necessarily impose. However, it remains a fact that first nights are rarely if ever the best performances, partly because of the aforementioned pressures but also more obviously because one hasn't yet performed the piece often enough to feel totally comfortable with its varying demands (both the soprano and baritone were essaying their roles for the first time, as was I). There's not much anyone can do to alter this status quo, unless a 'preview' system were instituted similar to what holds sway in the straight theatre - an impractical solution for a run of maybe only six performances. Most of my colleagues would share my opinion that first nights are to be endured rather than enjoyed, before things settle down and normality returns for the rest of the run.
The Viennese public are a discerning bunch and difficult to please. They take their opera very seriously: I can't think of another country which would issue a commemorative stamp to mark a production's premier, as was the case with this one! A heavy hand of tradition hovers somewhat malevolently over proceedings at the Staatsoper. Many punters have been opera-goers for 40 - 50 years and have a huge 'back catalogue' of performances to compare you with, and inevitably nostalgia for the 'good old days' tends to favour the names of the past over their modern counterparts - well, that's my excuse anyway!
Another thing happened to me on Saturday: I was booed. Now in the whole scheme of things there are many fates that could befall one infinitely worse than a few saddos making strange noises at ones curtain call, so I don't want to get this out of proportion or sound too self-pitying. At least (ungenerous as this may sound) I wasn't the only one to receive an aural thumbs down: the same vote of thanks was given to the tenor and the buffo-baritone, and the production team were all greeted by the now depressingly familiar fusillade of booing as reward for their efforts in updating Verdi's arguably most problematic oeuvre.
This, I must admit, unsettling experience - as I'm not used to beeing booed, honestly! - got me thinking. What kind of person boos and why, or more specifically, what makes a person believe it acceptable behaviour to give voice to their displeasure? Is it the only-to-be-expected corollary to the action of applause and shouting 'bravo' where praise is deemed appropriate? (When Pavarotti was asked by Larry King why opera audiences booed he replied: "Because they applaud so much"....) Do booers believe that by paying for a ticket they have carte blanche to express their opinions in any way they see fit, just as if they were at a football match or other sporting event?
As a performer I would never dream of booing someone else, but more importantly as a human being with, I hope, an adequate sense of goodwill towards my fellow men, I would never consider it either. So here goes: in my admittedly partial and typically 'middle-english' opinion, it is a boorish, rude, crass, obnoxious affectation which has no justification in 99 out of 100 cases. A Viennese friend and regular operagoer since the war admitted to me that she has only ever booed a singer once in that entire time, and only because it was blindingly obvious to all that the wretched fellow was completely drunk!
I cannot offer inebriation as an excuse for my reception unless it was the booers who were squiffy, but I remain perplexed as to why I was treated in this way. In Italy, again in 'the good old days',  it was expedient to pay off Signor Claque to ensure a favourable reaction from the 'loggionisti', but I didn't think such traditions still existed least of all in organised and gemuetlich Vienna!
If you're not impressed with a singer try the following: SHUT UP. You don't even have to revert to the default position of unenthusiastic clapping. Keep your hands apart until someone better appears from behind the curtain.
Without wanting to antagonise certain elements of the opera-going public any more than I apparently have done already (certainly here in Vienna), can I posit the possibility that those who boo are suffering a kind of mental illness? In adopting a different aesthetic standard to the vast majority of their fellow audience, and whilst 'applauding' their right not necessarily to follow the general consensus, is there not a touch of hubristic megalomania in their actions? I'm only asking....
Of course we all have off days and the opportunites for something to go wrong on the opera stage are perhaps more numerous than any kind of live performance, baring tight-rope walking, lion-taming and knife-throwing! 'There's many a slip twixt conductor and lip', you might say. But I'm always struck by the irony that, after spending an evening trying to make the most beautiful sounds possible, one can be greeted at its conclusion by some of the ugliest.

Get Hotmail on your mobile from Vodafone Try it Now!

Monday, 18 August 2008


Setting up this new blog - something more interesting than this later!