“Call me a groupie…” an AESA Trustee goes to the opera in 2023
It was a cold, sunny day in Edinburgh when I went to meet Louise in the Foyer Cafe of the Festival Theatre for a quiet lunch early in 2023. Scottish Opera had brought their acclaimed production of Puccini’s II Trittico to the city and Louise was performing in two of the three short operas. As it turned out, lunch was anything but quiet. As pedestrians went past the plate glass windows Louise would wave and say “Oh that’s … he’s playing Gherardo”, “Oh that’s … he plays the flute. Such a nice man…” “Oh look, that’s my make-up girl”. We were soon joined by a very jolly chap who turned out to be Louise’s stage husband, the drunk stevedore in II Tabarro.
There was quite a buzz in the theatre that evening. The show had received high praise in the press. II Tabarro is a dark opera, spinning a tale of jealousy and murder. Louise was cast as an old bag woman who had been out on the streets scavenging. In an extended aria she sang of her dream to live in a cottage in the country with a fruit tree in the garden. A touching moment.
After a well-earned rest during the second opera in the trilogy, Louise returned as Zita (I think she has a dog of the same name) in Gianni Schicchi. As mistress of mayhem, the audience was in stitches as she read the will to the expectant relatives.
The cast of Gianni Schicchi in Scottish Opera’s 2023 production of Puccini’s Il Trittico. Far left Louise Winter. IMAGE JAMES GLOSSOP
Little-by-little they realised that they had been left nothing. As the plot thickens, the desperate relatives take what they can, with Louise grabbing an old portable typewriter.
Garsington is one of the premier “country house” opera venues with its new glass and steel building facing out across a lake to the Chiltern hills. It’s summer and all is pretty frocks and champagne. Louise was here to play the role of Hata in Smetana’s The Bartered Bride. Dressed in a plum-coloured, boxy two-piece suit, accessorised with a large Margaret Thatcher-style handbag, she cut a formidable figure. When she walloped the tenor with said handbag he required no acting skills to show his astonishmentand pain. There was a roar of laughter (or was it a cheer?) from the audience.
The dark nights of autumn 2023 took Louise up to Opera North’s production of Verdi’s Falstaff in which she was to play the role of Mistress Quickly. Who could forget her entrance, dressed in a mid-length tennis skirt with a school tie holding her hair (or wig) in place. Flourishing an old-fashioned wood-and-gut tennis racket, the cry might have gone up “Anyone for tennis, Dahling?” It set the scene for yet another fun evening.
So, doing a quick tally for the year I make it four different roles, three opera companies, two handbags and one winded tenor alongside all the teaching — oh and let us not forget the founding and organising of the Ashburnham English Song Awards. I am left quite breathless.