We wanted to know more about the festival team and what inspires, excites and amuses them. We probed them with our fiendish questions and this is what they told us:
1) What is the last theatre production you saw?
Michelle – gloriously sublime Handel’s Acis and Galathea (ROH live streaming) with Wayne McGregor’s choreography. Exceptional singing; exquisite dancing & choreography. A marvelous collaboration! Interdisciplinarity at its best… even more than opera innately already is.
Alexis – & Juliet. Smart writing, amazing dancing and songs from the likes of Britney Spears and The Back Street Boys, we were dancing in the aisles!
2) If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?
M – Normally, I would probably say in the nave of the majestic, overwhelming grandeur and wonder of an empty cathedral (Romanesque or Gothic), listening to a choir… In these sad, uncertain times, with my wonderful family, having fun together – eating and drinking (I’m Mediterranean!), playing, joking and teasing each other, with my adorable nieces and nephews, who are my joy! (and, of course, my sisters and brothers-in-law and my mother, who I dearly love.)
A – Sitting in Nyhavn, Copenhagen in an outside bar with a cold glass of champagne watching the uber-stylish Danes going about their uber-stylish business!
3) Who makes you laugh?
M – I laugh quickly… my family and friends know that only too well.
A – Victoria Wood, her wordsmithery is unsurpassed and I was lucky enough to see her perform live. If I need a quick shot of guaranteed laughing out loud I pick up my copy of The Framley Examiner (the book is out of print but they have some archived material online).
4) Is there anything you love doing first thing in the morning?
M – One of the most beautiful things in the day – always – opening the blinds in my bathroom and seeing the sun stream through and the blue skies.
A – Filling up all the bird feeders in the garden and listening to Radio 4.
5) What are you proudest of in your career?
M – The thing that I am doing at that particular moment.
A – Setting up and running my own cookery school for 10 years. If you had told a younger me that I would run my own business teaching people to cook I would never have believed you!
6) Name one of the best artistic experiences you have had.
M – Difficult to decide. As a performer: conducting Richard Strauss’ Tod und Verklärung in the magnificent surroundings of Canterbury Cathedral, or the soul-tearing beauty of the last movement of Mahler 10, with the orchestra who will always hold a special place in my heart as nothing is more intense, beautiful or exciting than making music with friends (Malta Philharmonic Orchestra). As a punter? Hmmm…again, too many to choose from!
A – The one that I can immediately remember was the National Theatre production of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. The staging was extraordinary and so complex. It was one of the first productions to use actors as animators for life-size animal puppets. It was directed by Nick Hytner and the cast was amazing; Anna Maxwell-Martin, Timothy Dalton, Patricia Hodge, Ben Wishaw – an outstanding production.
7) What do you enjoy reading?
M – Hmmm… I love historical fiction and cryptic or investigative/solving, mystery stuff; but mostly, I think, I love non-fiction, especially arts and history, or poetry. Fiction: Robert Harris’ Cicero Trilogy comes to mind. And, I remember loving Iain Pears’ An Instance of the Fingerpost.
A – I like crime fictions and I’ve just read everything by Australian author Jane Harper. I’m also reading Wilding by Isabella Tree about how a farm returned to nature, absolutely fascinating, a way forward for the planet and a story of hope.
8) What are some causes you care about?
M – Refugees, human rights (and everything that includes), protection of children, climate-change/environment, health, poverty, animal/pet care and protection, care for the elderly, access.
A – Environmental causes on a global, national and a local level, animal rights, recycling and plastic waste in particular, women’s rights and mental health.
9) What are you happiest doing, when you’re not working?
M – I feel very lucky in that I chose to work doing what I love. If I’m not curating or concocting plans or doing all sorts of things that a festival director has to do, I would be reading, or composing, or writing, or sketching (trying to!), cooking (love my experiments!), and, of course, going to the theatre, art gallery, concert hall etc. with my wonderful friends – or just spending time with them, walking (I love nature!), chatting, or discussing things over a bottle of very good wine.
A – Cooking for friends, the kitchen is big enough that they can sit around chatting while the meal comes together which I love. Or in my garden, pottering about with a good podcast on (I recommend Fortunately on BBC Sounds!) or just listening to the birdsong.
10) What (not who) would you miss most on a desert island?
M – Not being able to make a positive difference to people’s lives.
A – The radio and my bed.
11) Who would your favourite famous dinner party guest be (alive or dead)?
M – I would want to have the inventor of the time machine so that I can dip in and out of wonderful moments in history, seeing and speaking to people I’ve always wanted to in every ‘dinner party’ question I have ever been asked.
A – I can never answer this question because I don’t think that someone I don’t know would ever be more fun or more stimulating company than my friends.
12) Have you ever been on TV?
M – Too many times (!) but mostly as a performer or being interviewed. I also used to be the Music Director of the most-viewed debate programme in Malta. Funny story; I even formed a choir out of Members of Parliament, all wearing Father Christmas bonnets and even one soloist [a Minister!] with a Rudolph’s nose (!) as part of a fundraising event [L’Istrina] equivalent to the BBC’s Children in Need. We did raise A LOT of money!
A – I took part in Masterchef many years ago, an experience that changed my life as I retrained and set up my cookery school afterwards. I was also a presenter on QVC, live tv, cooking and selling at the same time, that was quite an experience!