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Bath Lives Bath lives Isobel Buchanan


Q. What’s the best bit about your job? A. I get the chance every day to explore and play with the most amazing music and to unravel all the possibilities that I think the composer intended. It’s thrilling to use my brain and voice in this way and to be able to share my discoveries with an audience to bring to life whatever I’m singing. Q. Any downsides? A. To sing well, you have to be on top vocal form which involves managing one’s energy. I try to keep fit with walking and yoga and I won’t drink alcohol or talk much when I don’t have to. Not too much socialising either when I’m near a performance date. Ho-hum! Q. Which musicians do you most admire? A. Carlos Kleiber, one of the most astonishing and self-condemnatory conductors who ever lived – a genius. Pablo Casals, the most compassionate of cellists. Daniel Barenboim, a musician who has used his brain as well as his musical talent as a healing power. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, in my opinion the best lieder singer of all time. Eileen Farrel, a singer who could sing everything from jazz to the best opera and French song I’ve ever heard. And so many more! Q. Who have you most enjoyed working with? A. Carlos Kleiber, Plácido Domingo, Joan Sutherland, John Copley,

114 Bath Life

who taught me so much about acting onstage and so many of my colleagues, especially those in the Australian Opera where I started off. And, of course, Glyndebourne where we are like a big family. Q. Tell us about the upcoming Bath Music Festival event, In Flanders Fields? A. This is the first time that Jonathan Hyde, my husband, and I will have performed together and we were asked by the wonderful Alasdair Nicolson to devise a programme round the events of WW1. We have chosen songs and poems/readings to reflect the atmosphere in Europe and Britain before, during and after the War, so there is a wide variety of works which are poignant, angry, funny, bitter and so on. We don’t want our audience to think it’s an evening of doom and gloom, though it is a serious subject, of course. Q. Finest hour (so far)? A. Performing with Domingo and Kleiber at the Vienna Staatsoper, my debut at the Sydney Opera House at the age of 21, and my debut as Pamina at Glyndebourne in the Hockney/ Cox Magic Flute. That’s three finest hours and there were quite a few more involved in giving birth to my two beautiful daughters. Q. Where’s home in Bath? A. We live in central Bath, a few dangerous doors away from our favourite bookshop, Topping and Co. It’s so hard to keep on walking!

Top: Plácido Domingo Middle: Allium Brasserie

Bottom: Isobel finds it difficult to walk past Topping & Co

Q. Apart from singing, what are you good at? A. I’ve always loved making things and used to make loads of clothes and knit jumpers, but I don’t do that now. I was a gardening freak when we lived in Devon and had five acres, but here in Bath it’s a few pots on the roof terrace. I’m good at teaching singing, which I love. Q. How do you relax? A. I walk, do yoga and read, my favourite pastime. We have just had a projector put in our basement and, since Jonathan is a member of BAFTA, we get all the screeners so that he can vote, so lots of movies and documentaries to watch. Q. Share a favourite spot in the city? A. Sydney Gardens and the canal towpath where I walk a great deal. I love the atmosphere there with the Holburne Museum and its excellent new extension. Q. Top restaurant, shop and pub? A. The Porter, Allium and Jamie’s Italian. I love the clothes at Square and Lyn is so helpful. I have my hair cut at Melanie Giles in Walcot Street, and I don’t go to the pub – only after the theatre to see old actor pals, so the Garrick’s Head. Q. Most treasured possession? A. My wonderful family. Jonathan who has stuck with me since 1978, and our two daughters, Willa and Georgia, both actresses, and my darling mother. Jonathan is shocked I haven’t mentioned my diamonds! Ha ha! Q. Where’s your ultimate place to unwind and what music would you be listening to? A. At the Cotton Club, sipping a dry gin martini and watching Louis Armstrong and his band enjoying every note they play and sing. That’s how performing should be: uplifting and inspiring. Q. What’s next after this? A. More concerts, more teaching and plenty of travel. Jonathan is currently filming a TV series with Guillermo del Toro, shot in Toronto and we spent four months there this year. We’ll be going there again later this year. And I’d like to set up a summer school for singers here in Bath. Anyone interested? BL

In Flanders Fields is on 19 May at the Guildhall;

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