Man in the mask
IT seems likely that Michael Clifton-Thompson has inadvertently offended the powers that be at Wales National Opera.
The chorus member has, over the years, had the spotlight trained on him while dolled up in a transvestite's garb to dance, he has sported not much more than a jock-strap and a Chancellor of the exchequer-style red briefcase. And for La Boheme, he will sport a monkey mask and a fat suit to play Parpignol.
But he is nothing if not a trouper. And since he used to walk the beat as a policeman in Newport, it is probably a good thing he won't be recognised by too many former colleagues or arrestees in the audience at Swansea's Grand Theatre.
The Puccini masterpiece of love, consumption and the tear-jerking Che Gelida Manina, goes ahead next Thursday as part of Swansea Festival of Music and the Arts, with the WNO season beginning on Wednesday with Jeptha.
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Michael says: "You're right, I probably have offended someone without knowing it.
"I am quite an energetic performer and when they need someone to do something a bit unusual they tend to think of me.
"But usually Parpignol is quite a small part and now, since we have gone to all of the trouble with the mask and the makeup I get more time on stage and I get to join in the dancing as well."
Technically of course singing through a rubber mask is no easy task, and it is an exhausting proposition, he says.
"Getting into the look isn't hard work for me. I sit in makeup while two lovely ladies put the mask and makeup on for me. Then on goes the fat suit.
"But performing in the suit is very hot work and when I take it off I look like I have gone for a swim.
"And singers use the bones of the face to create the voice, so with the face covered by this simian mask it does have an effect on the sound."
But he says the show will still score in the drama stakes.
"It is a traditional production of La Boheme but updated to Edwardian times.
"And there are some modern touches in that there are stills projections which serve as a backdrop."
#The WNO season begins on Wednesday with Jephtha, while La Boheme unfolds on Thursday, Cosi Fan Tutte on Friday and La Boheme on Saturday, all from 7pm.