Welcome to my blog!
My name is Toshi and I’m a third year History of Art & History of Music student at Edinburgh University. I have singing lessons with Scott Johnson at the RCS, and I’m a choral scholar at Paisley Abbey. I also sing with the Rodolfus Choir and Ralph Allwood.
I was at Ampleforth College, where I sang in the Abbey Choir. I used to be dismissive of opera during my school years, thinking it was formalised and reduced to a few notable, catchy tunes, without any real expressive power. I played double bass in youth orchestras, and I used to worship symphonic music as the peak back then (along with the Bach concertos). I was already beginning to collect recordings, with huge stacks of CDs in my room that my friends would trip over.
I was stupid enough to voice this opinion to a friend I met on the Eton Choral Course (http://etonchoralcourses.co.uk), who turned out to be a massive opera fanatic. She slapped me in the face and enchanted me with her blue eyes, talking with such passion about the drama of the Bach Passions, Peter Grimes, and the comedy of Mozart. She forced me to go and see Fiona Shaw’s production of the Marriage of Figaro at ENO, which turned out to be life changing (Not realising that we were in the best seats, I turned up wearing jeans and a t-shirt of Queen’s A Night at the Opera. Perhaps not wholly inappropriate.) It was in English, and yet that made it easier for me back then to be involved with the action on the stage, communicated with such immediacy. I loved the gorgeous music lavished onto the Countess, how she could express so many emotions at the same time. The sextet seemed nothing short of a musical miracle, and the recitatives weren’t boring at all, but fizzed with drama!
Since then, I went through the standard operatic repertoire in a year, and I have been avidly listening to and collecting opera as well as instrumental music. The Monteverdi operas and his sensuous eroticism, Handel’s opera serias with fiery coloraturas or heart-rending laments, Mozart’s sheer beauty and sincerity in his vocal writing were all duly absorbed to my recording collection, as well as Strauss (silvery soprano writing) and Wagner (highly addictive, who needs drugs when there’s Tristan?), or the sparkling wit and joy of Rossini, to the drama of Verdi and Puccini. Tchaikovsky and Janacek’s Slavic operas showed me new ways of approaching their instrumental music. Peter Grimes and Serenade for Tenor and Horn also sparked an obsession (hopefully lifelong) with Britten, and it was an amazing opportunity to be a Hesse student at the 2014 Aldeburgh Festival.
I intend to study singing further at a conservatoire after my degree. It’s almost comical, when I used to vehemently consider opera as pretentious, elitist, and not worth listening to. Because of my ‘conversion’, I thought it would be fun to write articles introducing operas, in the same manner as Tom Service’s weekly guide to symphonies on his Guardian blog, that would hopefully introduce more people to opera and argue why this medium, considered outdated by some (idiots…) is still relevant today. Of course, not everything will be your cup of tea – I still cannot express enough disgust at Gilbert & Sullivan – but I hope to convey the message that there will be something, definitely something in there to your liking.
I continue to play double bass and bass guitar in orchestras and ensembles around Edinburgh. I also conduct in public, which embarrasses my friends, and they make me walk ahead of them (in my defense, it’s good to practice your stick technique). In my spare time, I am a stress baker (Get set, ready, bake! I love Paul and Mary.), leading to midnight cakes as essay deadlines approach.