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Sunday 10 June 2012

St Bernard's girls excel in Mozart's Don Giovanni

Sisters Sophie and Mary Bevan delight opera audiences

By our reporter Amanda Fox

Two former Slough school girls have been wowing opera audiences in picturesque rural Buckinghamshire.

Grant Doyle as Giovanni & Mary Bevan as Zerlina

Sisters Sophie and Mary Bevan played key roles in Mozart's Don Giovanni, staged by Garsington Opera and Chorus at billionaire Mark Getty's estate at Wormsley, near Stokenchurch, on June 2.

Both singers are former pupils of St Bernard's Catholic Grammar School in Langley Road, Slough. They are from a family of ten, devoted to music.

Sophie, who plays jilted Elvira, says:

The amateur dramatics that we did at St Bernard's was a great starting point for a career in professional opera.

I am always grateful to the school for what they taught me.

Mary says:

The biggest problem I had was playing Zerlina as an Essex girl. People said I was too posh. I had to chav down for the part.

So I pulled a huge piece of chewing gum from my mouth just before I sang my first aria, and stuck it on the side of a table, right in the middle of the stage.

Then I retrieved the gum after the piece, and started chewing again. That works well for the first song. But you can't use the same gag twice. So I had to push the gum to one side of my mouth for the next big aria. It was rather awkward.

Grant Doyle as Giovanni, Mary Bevan as Zerlina & Sophie Bevan as Elvira.

The audience included BBC Radio presenter Melvyn Bragg (Baron Bragg of Wigton) and former ITN newscaster Anna Ford, both of whom enthusiastically applauded the Bevan sisters at the end of the event.

Giving Mozart's classic opera a contemporary setting, complete with mobile phones and tablet computers, may be controversial. But the staging complemented the newly completed hall in the Getty estate perfectly, giving an extra element of realism to a work more than two centuries old.

That meant some of its themes - such as domestic violence and promiscuity - were all the more relevant, and therefore shocking and disturbing.

Among the world class performers, Joshua Bloom's incredible bass voice was both inspirational and thrilling in the role of Leporello, the side kick of serial philanderer Giovanni, exactingly sung by Grant Doyle.

The generously sized seats meant it was pleasure rather than an ordeal to sit through the whole performance, allowing the audience to be lost in another world for a few short hours.

Many of the punters brought along picnic hampers to enjoy in the intermission. It was an extraordinary evening of magical world class opera in the sedate and sumptuous landscape of rural and beautiful Buckinghamshire. Truly, a night to remember.

Pictures by: Mike Hoban

Mary Bevan plays Pamina in Mozart's Magic Flute at West Green in North Hampshire on July 21 and 22. www.westgreenhouse.co.uk.

Mary is also due to make her BBC proms debut this summer.