2 months ago

This Wonderful Little Place … The Fordwich Arms, Kent

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London-based Irish mezzo-soprano Patricia Bardon has found her favourite food haunt in Kent

Between productions and performances, I try to get home to Ireland, where I am artist-in-residence at Technical University Dublin, three or four times a year. Otherwise, weekends are often spent walking in the Kent countryside where a decent hike is followed by a good pub lunch. Music and eating go together: my husband and I are complete foodies.

Throughout my career, I’ve travelled all over the world and sung in many incredible theatres. I’ll never forget my debut performance in Covent Garden aged 22, or at the Metropolitan Opera, New York a few years later. Other incredible venues include La Fenice Venice, possibly the most beautiful theatre in the world.

I have also performed in the vast La Scala in Milan, and at Glyndebourne, with its perfect acoustics. The Paris Opéra at the Palais Garnier in all its 19th-century splendour was also memorable, as was singing at an opera festival in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in the middle of the desert. I was privileged to sing for the Japanese emperor on his State visit to Ireland, and at Buckingham Palace, for Prince Charles’ 50th birthday.

When I am not performing internationally, I live in London, with my family. [Bardon is married to Nicholas Sears, Head of Voice and Opera at the Royal College of Music and they have a 19-year-old son, Henry.] I alternate opera with concert work and highlights have included my debut performances at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, and at Carnegie Hall in New York. [Bardon has been nominated for several Laurence Olivier awards.]

I enjoy creating a character and fabulous costumes are integral to the process. I recently worked with French designer Christian Lacroix, who was both funny and charming and made me look a million dollars. Sadly we don’t get to keep or buy our costumes as a production may be revived at a later date, or the opera house keeps them in their archives.

At school in Dublin, I actually wanted to sing like Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner, but was encouraged by my music teacher, Mr Tynan, to have my voice classically trained. At 15, I did, studying with the famously charismatic teacher Veronica Dunne. Thus began my exposure to opera and love for this beautiful art form.

I’m rehearsing for my role as the witch, Jezibaba, in Dvorák’s best-loved opera, Rusalka, at the English National Opera in London. Rusalka, like The Little Mermaid, is a story of a water-nymph who takes on human form. Back to Kent, where undoubtedly our best meal ever (though not quite a pub lunch) was in the restaurant in The Fordwich Arms, a 1930s inn on the banks of the River Stour in the picturesque little village of Fordwich, outside Canterbury. An Arts and Crafts interior, roaring fires and delicious food (it now has a Michelin star) make it the perfect place to celebrate a special occasion.

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