24 August, 2009

Interview with Elin Manahan Thomas

Image: The Return of Ulysses. Photo: Johan Persson

Elin Manahan Thomas is the soprano in The Return of Ulysses, a production by The Royal Ballet of Flanders. The Return of Ulysses plays until 24 August at the Edinburgh Playhouse.

You have sung from an early age, when did you decide to pursue singing as a career?
I've sung since I was 7 and remember having lessons down the road with a lovely dame of a lady who never let me have the sweets that were on top of her piano! I sang at school and university but I never intended to be a singer. Throughout college I thought I'd be a teacher or Civil Servant but by chance, as I was doing my MPhil, I was invited to audition for Sir John Eliot Gardiner. I got a place on his big tour of 2000, singing all of Bach's cantatas around Europe, and I got hooked! I've been singing professionally ever since and frankly I still pinch myself, to this day, when I realise how lucky I am to do my hobby for a living.

How do you feel to be performing with the Royal Ballet of Flanders and how does it differ from your usual performances?
I can't wait to sing with the Royal Ballet. I've sung with ballet companies before - notably the Rambert - but always from offstage. Being up there with them all will be awe-inspiring, and such a pleasure to be part of a fantastic creative process. My only worry is looking like a heffalump alongside all the beautiful dancers.

What drew you to become involved with the production The Return of Ulysses?
The musical aspects of the show are fascinating , they take us through many ages and certainly along many emotional roads. The Purcell excerpts I'll be singing are some of my favourite arias and they're very beautiful and personal moments. But singing them as part of a larger cast will be a whole new experience and I'm looking forward to fitting in with everybody and everything on stage.

Have you been to the Edinburgh International Festival before? If so, what have your observations been of the Festival?
I've never been during Festival time - I can't wait! I come to Edinburgh regularly as my goddaughter lives here and I grab any opportunity to visit. So my memories of the city mainly involve museums, shops and the zoo, and it'll be nice to see its cultural side and the fun of the fair, as I imagine Festival time can be. I've sung here many times too of course, as a soloist and with the Dunedin Consort: I'm always struck by the musicality of the city and the warmth of the audiences.

You regularly perform all over the world, do you feel excited when you have the opportunity to bring your performances back to the UK to an audience such as that of the Edinburgh International Festival?
I'm excited for many reasons. I love coming to Scotland because, being Welsh, there's a small element of 'coming home' to another Celtic country. The audiences in Edinburgh are always welcoming and I particularly think that this show will be eye-opening and memorable and a real experience.

Why do you think people should come and see The Return of Ulysses at the Edinburgh International Festival?
It's such a fabulous combination of performance elements, with comedy and tragedy and colour and light and beauty for the eye and for the ear. I'm going to enjoy it, I can tell you that!

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