Updated: Feb 9
French is my oldest language love. It was my favourite subject at school and I was intrigued by the twists and turns of the classic texts of Beaumarchais' Le Mariage de Figaro and Molière's
Tartuffe for A level. I read French and Russian at Exeter University, dividing
my year abroad between Bordeaux and Voronezh, I have also worked in Paris on several occasions, making many vrais amis! (There's a lingo joke in there!)
To learn more about Le Mariage de Figaro, by way of a 28 minute audio clip and text, follow this link: https://www.franceculture.fr/emissions/ecoutez-revisez/beaumarchais-la-folle-journee-de-figaro
I can't get enough of the sound of the Spanish language, with its open Italianate vowels interspersed with the light guttural 'j's and 'th' sounds of the 'c's and 'z's. I read Don Quixote in Milan (it took me a few months!) and the story and songs by Ravel and Ibert about the Don have enchanted me ever since. I have travelled and worked on several occasions in Spain and South America. and have regular "chat pals" from Mexico
Italian opera was the reason I left my job in finance for the uncertainties of a performing career and the chance to use languages on a daily basis! Whilst I should have been reading the economist on the train to work, I would be absorbed in the latest edition of Opera Now! I learnt most of the words to La Traviata from reading the CD booklet and from listening to recordings in the bath! When the opportunity arose, I went to Milan where I lived in an Italian flat-share, studied singing, and worked as an English teacher. I have been singing Italian opera and song ever since. I have never had an Italian lesson, but my training in other languages meant that I could teach myself, with the long-suffering help and patience of my Italian flatmates!
Europe was a cultural melting pot of mutual influences. Verdi took inspiration from the book La Dame aux Camélias by Dumas, who also wrote the epic story of revenge, The Count of Montecristo.
I came to the study of Russian at an exciting time. The Soviet Union had ended, Gorbachev was in power, and the words гласность (glasnost) and перестройка (perestroika) were on everybody's lips. Borrowing from Churchill, Russia was "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma" and in many ways still is today. I have enormous respect for the country; its artists, writers, composers and its people. The language is rich and challenging, with a very different grammar and alphabet from our own. But having been welcomed into a Russian family in Voronezh for 6 months, and having re-experienced the warmth of the Russian people recently during my first visit back in 25 years, I'm very fond of the place.