Five minutes with Dame Josephine Barstow

Posted on: September 20, 2011

“I’m a good Northern lass at heart with my roots up here – my father was from Leeds and my mother from Otley, and so I have been coming to this part of the country for years. I can hide away up here and I absolutely love it. I have a lovely old cottage where I can switch off and enjoy some fantastic walking – away from the bright lights of the stage and the stressful busy city.

I’ve always had a great relationship with Opera North and I love the company. They have a very serious attitude to their work and yet are incredibly friendly to work with. I think the two things combined make for a great environment. One of the biggest roles I performed for the company was as Queen Elizabeth in Gloriana in 1999, directed by Phyllida Lloyd.

I don’t perform all the time now, although this year has been rather busy and I directed my first opera in Dorset earlier in the year, which was wonderful. I am still doing a bit of what I fancy and the role of the Countess in The Queen of Spades is a really good role. She’s an interesting old lady, very strong yet with a degree of vulnerability. She was clearly a woman of great stature and beauty back in her day and the costumes, which are incredibly glamorous, reflect the power she had. I have so many different costumes, they are fantastic – I think every time I come back on stage I am wearing something different! In fact the only thing I am slightly anxious about is all the costume changes!

And there is a great deal of intrigue with this character. She is expecting to die, she knows it is going to happen…

And once rehearsals finish for the day I head straight back to the Dales – it’s a lovely time of year, we’ve still got plenty of bloom in the garden, including Phlox still, Crocosmia, Asters and Hollyhocks.”

Dame Josephine Barstow, Countess, The Queen of Spades

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