The opera-singing couple of Lise Christensen and Michael Robert Bracegirdle have performed in many countries around the world. This time they are heading to Nordby and their plans include a concert hall, masterclasses, festivals and operas for kids.
Beyond the Stage
For more than a decade, Lise and Michael have performed on numerous opera stages. When the couple met each other on tour performing Carmen and Don José, Lise’s mezzosoprano and Michael’s tenor melted into a harmonious piece of art that moved beyond the stage and into the world of love.
A couple of years later, having made their home in Watford, northwest of London, saw the coming of their son Tobias. Everything was good, “but it was also a lot of work to be freelance singers and we wanted to create our own thing, to be in control. Something new needed to happen”, Lise says. She recalls a friend of hers having bought an organic farm on Zealand around that time. “One of those farms with a huge barn that is suitable for all kinds of events. We wanted the same kind of place too.”
Inspired by River Cottage
Being an opera singer involves a lot of travel, and the couple could have chosen anywhere in Europe as their home. The idea of living on Samsø emerged one evening in front of the TV: “In the spring of 2014, Michael saw a program on Channel 4 in the UK where Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall from the famous cooking show River Cottage went to Samsø. After watching this, he could not stop talking about Samsø”, says Lise.
One summer’s day in 2014, the small family took a trip to Samsø where they went to the beach and had ice-cream. This trip did not make the infatuation of Samsø go away, in fact it did quite the opposite and they quickly found a house in Søholm on the outskirts of Nordby that had just been put up for sale.
After this, everything moved really quickly. The house in Watford sold in two days and the little family swiftly moved their belongings to Samsø ready to realise their dream of creating a wholly unique place for opera.
A Musically Diverse Experience
Søholm Opera is not only used for concerts in the traditional meaning of the word, it is also used as a stage for many different activities: “The plan is to introduce a yearly garden opera festival inspired by the very English tradition. We are having masterclasses including concerts for young Danish singers often accompanied by British musicians and directors and we also aim to introduce the opera to children and young people”, says Lise. She is in the midst of applying for funding for a big project that also includes building an opera house – perhaps the first environmentally friendly of its kind.
The Søholm property also includes a large area of land that is going to be restructured into a park with a pond, trees and an organic, edible garden. “The surroundings are important for this kind of project. It is going to be an all-encompassing experience where tastes, scents and sounds are going to be combined with music”, says Lise who also plans on making a playground for kids.
Opera for Everyone
Lise and Michael agree that it is important to make opera accessible to everyone. “We want to help train new opera lovers who may be anywhere from 3 to 100 years old. Søholm is going to be an open place where people from Samsø as well as visitors can have an extraordinary musical experience”, says Lise.
Everyday Life on the Island
The leap from the cultural metropolis of London to a small town such as Nordby has been a monumental one. “Of course, it has not been without its problems but today, around a year after the move, I am happy with the sense of safety and freedom that surrounds our son. The people on Samsø have welcomed us with open arms and we really feel like we are a part of the local community”, says Lise.
The People Behind
Originally, Michael was an economist and accountant but he graduated as a tenor from The Royal Northern College of Music in 2005 and, ever since, has had an international career as an opera singer.
Lise graduated from The Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and has worked as a freelance opera singer in Europe since 2004. In 2016, Lise will star in Madame Butterfly in Den Jyske Opera.
Tobias is now 8 ½ years old and attends school at Samsø Friskole. He plays the violin and the piano, is a member of the boy scouts, and does gymnastics and swimming.
Last updated: 26/08/2020 11:21