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Meet the Soloist: Alex Otterburn (Baritone)

We recently interviewed Rebecca Bottone who will portray The Soul in this Saturday’s performance of Ethel Smyth’s The Prison at North London Chorus’s Spring 2024 concert. Now it’s the turn of Alex Otterburn who will take on the role of The Prisoner.

NLC: Hi Alex, thanks for taking time out to talk to us ahead of Saturday’s performance.

In his pre-concert email to our supporters, our Musical Director Murray Hipkin described you as a former ENO Harewood Artist. That sounds important, can you tell us a bit more about that? How has it impacted your career?

AO: The ENO Harewood program provides singers at the start of their career with invaluable support and performance opportunities. It gives you a substantial platform from which to hone your craft through coachings, auditions, classes and main stage roles. I most recently sang Ned Keene in Peter Grimes which marked my tenth role with the company. Without the program, I’m not sure where I’d be!

NLC: In her interview, Rebecca Bottone who plays The Prisoner’s soul said “I love the dramatic text, you can decide what it means to you, which as an artist creates a golden opportunity for individualism in interpretation.” How have you interpreted The Prisoner? Is he innocent or guilty, or does it matter?

AO: I prefer to think of it as an allegory than a literal prison. He is wrestling with his own internal struggles of mortality and possibly past misdeeds, as his Soul hints at regret for a life not best lived. We can all relate to feeling insignificant in the face of mortality.

NLC: How do you normally approach learning a new work? The Prison is so rarely performed and there are a limited number of recordings; does that make a difference?

AO: Listening to a recording can be very helpful to get a scope of the orchestration. To learn it, it’s always best to do it yourself, otherwise you could end up presenting a reflection of the recording and not your own interpretation.

NLC: What else have you been doing recently and what have you got coming up?

AO: In 2023 I had my debut at Royal Opera House in Wozzeck, my Glyndebourne debut as Starveling in Mid-Summer Night’s Dream, as well as Ned Keene in Peter Grimes at ENO. This summer I return to Glyndebourne for two roles – Morales in Carmen and Cascada in The Merry Widow – followed by reviving Laurent Pelly’s Dream in Lausanne and Japan in the 24/25 season, and a return to ENO to be announced.

NLC: We’ll round off the same final question we asked Becky. What would you say to a potential audience member who is wondering whether to give our concert a go?

AO: Do it!