BARITONE Peter Brathwaite is a Manchester lad – brought up in Cheetham Hill, went to Bury Grammar School – now making a considerable impact as an opera singer.
He was head chorister at St Ann’s Church in Manchester, toured the world with the National Youth Choir of Great Britain, and spent his gap year in the choir of Truro Cathedral.
University in Newcastle (and more cathedral choir singing – ‘for a bit of pocket money’) followed, and then the Royal College of Music in London and opera training. He’s also been a fashion model.
But he says the seeds of his opera career were sown in the choir at St Ann’s, trained by the late and near-legendary Ronald Frost.
He’s appeared with the Opéra de Lyon, Glyndebourne Opera, English Touring Opera, the Reisopera in Holland, Opera Holland Park, at Aldeburgh, Brighton, Shakespeare’s Globe in London, and in Budapest.
You may have spotted him as a soloist in a Valentine’s Day concert at the Bridgewater Hall three years ago. Later this year he’s singing in three ETO productions (at Buxton in November).
Peter appears as a solo artist, too, and he’s back in Manchester on January 27 with a fascinating programme he’s devised with video artist James Symonds and pianist Nigel Foster.
The venue is Manchester Jewish Museum in Cheetham Hill, and its theme is the music banned by the Nazis. It’s grimly appropriate for Holocaust Memorial Day, as it tells the story of ‘Degenerate Music’, condemned simply for its creators’ racial origins.
The performance is a critical reconstruction of the infamous Entartete Musik exhibition in Berlin in 1938. It includes songs, cabaret music, the atonal work of Schoenberg and Krenek’s jazz opera, Jonny Spielt Auf, with spoken excerpts from the exhibition pamphlet, and video projections of life in the Weimar Republic.
Peter’s taking it to London in May, and to Berlin, close to the anniversary of the exhibition itself.
“It was devastating to read about the fate of those musicians,” Peter says. “Artists and academics who didn’t fit, according to the Nazis, were either exiled or couldn’t work any more.
“The lucky ones found sanctuary in America or the UK – others were sent to the camps. I was quite startled, too, by the original image used to publicise that exhibition.”
It shows a negro musician, with a Star of David pinned on to him. To the Nazis, both blacks and Jews were ‘degenerate’.