Alison Buchanan Interview

My first encounter with Alison took place at the bar in Rebecca Hossack Art Gallery, we were joking with the barman before we even introduced ourselves. She is an extremely warm, personable and charming lady with a fantastic sense of humour.

As Artistic director of Pegasus Opera Company, it soon becomes clear to see why Llyod Newton would have bequeathed it to her with the vision that she was to continue with the work he had begun in 1992.

The evening in question had been extremely busy for both of us and I sadly never had the time to sit face to face and ask the questions directly. Our transcripts that follow were all done via email.

What was the personal background of Llyod Newton for deciding to start Pegasus?
Lloyd was a tenor who found it hard to find work. While participating in the critically acclaimed production of Porgy & Bess at Glyndebourne Opera. Lloyd met many British black singers who also found it hard to get work in general. So he decided to start a company that would address this imbalance and provide opportunities for singers of colour.
How many BAME performers do you estimate have been through Pegasus?
I would say the majority of classically trained singers in the Uk have had some dealing with Pegasus over the 27 years that the company has been in existence. unless they are quite young of course then they may not have, but we continue to keep an eye out for up and coming artists. Of course, there are exceptions.

What other productions do you do besides Opera?

Apart from the Opera productions we also produce concerts, education work, community outreach and hire singers for those projects. Extending our working shills across the arts industry.

Why did you decide to work with director Louise Bakker? You appear very similar to your humour for sure.

I Love Louise, Alison said. She had been introduced to us last year. I loved that she was a young, up and coming, vibrant female director. The producers of the show also fell in love with her when they met her. Last year we had used a male director. We feel it is important to change each time and bring new fresh input and ideas into our work.

Watching your body language do you consciously internalize the music as you perform?

Once I am comfortable with the music I try to let the music dictate my direction. I never really plot things out, I try to connect with the text and the emotion, sometimes it comes easily other times not so much. I always try to be honest in my delivery. In opera, of course, the director will often dictate where you should be when in that case it may not feel so organic but it is important that we find the way to internalize and make it as natural as possible.

How and when did you first meet Llyod?

I met Lloyd Newton in 1986 the first year we performed Porgy & Bess at Glyndebourne. Trevor Nunn our director put us all into family groups and Lloyd was my brother in law in my family dynamic. He called me ‘Sis’ from that time

When did Llyod die and you then took over his legacy?

He died in 2016. His death was a big blow to the company and myself. Before he died from his cancer he would tell me he wanted me to run Pegasus when he went. I had always refused him ‘no way I would say’. So it was a shock to me that he put in his will anyway that he wanted me to run Pegasus. I felt I could not refuse that! Thankfully he worked with Sonia Hyams at that time who had been his project manager and helped me with keeping Pegasus going. Sonia is still with the company as an executive director and we also have some really nice board members who helped me a lot while I found my feet.

Sonia is still with the company as an executive director and we also have some really nice board members who helped me a lot while I found my feet.

What is your vision for the future moving Pegasus forward?

We need to take one man’s vision and institutionalize it. We build a lasting, sustainable legacy. I see Pegasus continuing to be at the forefront of opera that is multicultural ‘harmony in diversity!’I would like to do some new takes on well-known opera’s, be a champion of opera’s and other music by composers of the black diaspora, to commission new works, to support and nurture upcoming and current BAME Artists. To continue our amazing education and outreach work with the community, to take more performances on tour, to continue inspiring and empower through music. In all honesty, the list is endless!

Where do you find sponsors and donations to help run the company from?

Sonia is a God Send she has put in several successful grant applications, the sponsor of this opera are friends of mine from America I feel very blessed that they are giving us a chance to put on wonderful productions. Then there are the usual avenues like the arts council. Having lived in America and understanding how organizations cultivate relationships with many private donors. I think this is one of the ways forward for Pegasus.

Then there are the usual avenues like the arts council. Having lived in America and understanding how organizations cultivate relationships with many private donors. I think this is one of the ways forward for Pegasus.

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