The Forum talks with Michael Chance CBE


For those locally who are not familiar with the voice of Michael Chance CBE all is about to be revealed. An Etonian and Cambridge Graduate Michael Chance started singing opera at the age of 28 and is now one of the world’s greatest Countertenors. He has sung in most of the prestigious opera houses from Sydney, New York, Salzburg, Milan and Florence, to Covent Garden and Glyndebourne.

He is also a successful recording artist with one hundred and forty five albums to date. He was awarded the CBE for services to music in 2009 and has also been awarded a Grammy.

Michael’s passion for singing and opera means that he not only holds teaching positions of the Royal Academy of Music where he is Professor of Music but also at the Hague where he tutors Master Classes for young singers from across the globe.

It was from The Hague that Michael telephoned to talk about a further exciting development in his already impressive musical career, that of becoming Artistic Director of the newly formed “The Grange Festival” opera company at The Grange, Northington, here in Hampshire.

Michael explains, “The Grange is such a special place and over the last seventeen years under the direction of’ Grange Park Opera’ it has become renowned for staging interesting operas as well as the more classic and well known. But things inevitably change and having created an excellent legacy the company ‘Grange Park Opera’ have moved on leaving the new opera company at The Grange known as ‘The Grange Festival’ to forge ahead building yet further on the excellent reputation we have and ensuring there will always be opera at the Grange. I was delighted and honoured when asked by the Baring family, owners of the Grange, and their fellow Board members to become Musical and Artistic Director for the Grange Festival commencing in 2017.” Michael is no stranger to Hampshire.

“I have been coming to Winchester Cathedral for the past thirty years and regularly sang as a guest soloist in oratorio with the Waynflete Singers and the Cathedral Choir there.”

Does he find the thought of directing The Grange Festival daunting?
He laughs, “Well yes of course I do. But I have worked in the arts for over thirty years and have a huge number of good friends and contacts many of whom have already stepped forward in support of this exciting new venture. I am deeply honoured in the level of trust and support that the Board of The Grange Festival have shown and placed in me, but you do have to have a touch of madness too though! I have a fantastic and experienced team and I am thrilled to announce that from the 1st February Michael Moody joined the Grange Festival as General Manager, which is fabulous, we’ve become great mates. And Rachel Pearson, so successful for many years in fund raising for Grange Park Opera, is now doing the same for us. We are starting from scratch in some areas of course, but from all the conversations we have held with past participants and supporters it is abundantly clear that people have not only a huge desire to see opera continue and flourish at The Grange but have an overwhelming love of the place itself.”
2016 will be the final season for the outgoing ‘Grange Park Opera’.

So what plans does Michael have for the 2017 Season for The Grange Festival?
“It will be incredible. We are currently planning three operas with the possibility of a further two. The first of which is the spectacular ‘Carmen’. Secondly, the classic opera by Monteverdi,’ Il ritomo d’Ulisse in patria’ -‘ The Return of Ulysses’. It’s an opera that I have very strong associations with so I’m delighted to putting it on in my first season. We have two very important singers famous for their success in these roles joining the cast, soon to be announced. Tim Supple, who directed a renowned version of a ‘Midsummer Nights Dream ‘ at the Round House will direct this new production. He was Director for many years of the Young Vic. Finally there will be Britten’s ‘Albert Herring’ and we are very and excited and fortunate to have John Copley directing, who has collaborated with Britten many times during his fifty years at Covent Garden, and Steuart Bedford conducting, probably the greatest living interpreter of Britten’s operas. In terms of the orchestra we are currently in discussions and are very excited regarding the orchestras that will hopefully be working with us, I can’t say any more than that at the moment”

“In June 2017 we are extremely excited to welcome a young visiting operatic company from Perm in Eastern Russia, Musica Aeterna, for a Gala performance of Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte” before they travel direct to the prestigious Salzburg Opera Festival, so that is an extraordinary coup for The Grange Festival”. Their conductor is Teodor Currentzis, a brilliant Greek ball of fire. The fifth is still only a possibility. But if it comes off, we will be putting on a completely new opera and nurturing its creation.”

Being so very busy how does Michael stay buoyant when facing difficulties?
“I believe one should be open to learn from ones mistakes and not shut down if things go wrong. We all make them after all. I certainly will in this new job. There’s a good analogy with sport. If you drop a crucial catch in cricket, it’s how you respond and recover afterwards that really matters.”

So what next for Michael Chance and The Grange Festival?
Michael is utterly enthusiastic,“ So many plans for ‘The Grange Festival’. The very word ‘ festival’ implies variation – an umbrella under which all the arts flourish and are celebrated whether it be opera, musical concerts from a variety of cultures, poetry, plays, Shakespeare and seasonal arts events throughout the year perhaps – the list and the possibilities are infinite! I’m keen to open the Grange up to the community, in particular local schools and colleges, encouraging young people and also older to be involved in the arts- we are working with so many wonderful ideas at the moment! I truly believe the arts in all their forms are at the very heart of what it is to be human.”

I wonder what music Michael listens to?
“ Oh I hate lists! The Bee Gees! Perhaps my favourite is Bach- no Schubert- no actually Bach! I must have a hundred or so favourite composers and musicians. An open ear and an open mind lead to all sorts of surprising musical passions”.

And finally with Michael’s hectic schedule, what three things can’t he live without?
“Only three? Well family, my wife Irene and two children of course. Cricket – well most sport, to be honest! And live performance. May I add a fourth? Laughing with friends.”

With the delightful Michael Chance heading the team at the new 2017 Grange Festival season there can be no doubt that live musical performance will be part of an extraordinary cultural experience at the Grange for many years to come.

For more information contact:
[email protected]

Written by Gill Grant