Nathan Fifield is a champion of ballet repertoire, having conducted many top ballet companies across the globe. Now we welcome him as Conductor and Presenter of our new show, An Afternoon/Night at the Ballet, in which we present a selection of works from cherished ballet scores, including Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake, Delibes’ Sylvia and Saint-Saëns' Danse Macabre. Find out more about Nathan ahead of our performances with him at Northampton Royal & Derngate on Saturday 24 June, 7.30pm and The Orchard Theatre on Sunday 1 July, 3pm.
What inspired you to choose a career in music?
My mother forced me to practice the piano from age 6 to 12, I fought her the entire time with tears and tantrums. Then at a school talent show, my younger brother and I both played the piano. At 8 years old, my brother’s piano piece was much more impressive and generated far more applause than my badly played piece. I became extremely jealous and made the determination that, as the oldest child in the family, I would never again let any of my younger siblings play better than I did. I started practicing long hours and became very passionate about music. My competitiveness drove me to eventually pursue a professional career as an orchestra conductor.
What attracted you to the world of ballet music?
At age 14 I had a crush on a beautiful ballerina who attended my school. I tried to impress her by taking ballet classes (she eventually became my wife!). Although I fell in love with ballet, I was not a naturally talented dancer. I was constantly injuring myself and could not seem to point my feet properly. Then one day, while listening to a very bad pianist play for my ballet class, I thought, I bet I could do a better job than that! I quit ballet and started playing for ballet classes and absolutely loved it.
What can audiences expect from the programmes on 24 June and 1 July?
An entertaining and educational journey through the classical ballet repertoire. It is music that stands on its own even without the dance to accompany it.
Do you have any personal favourites from this selection of ballet music?
Of all the music Tchaikovsky composed, the ballet Sleeping Beauty was his favourite and I believe it is also mine. As many times as I have conducted it, I have never tired of it.
Which famous musicians do you admire? Why?
The fantastic musicians of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra! I’m astounded at the breadth of the repertoire they play, and the quality they bring to their performances, with very little rehearsal time.
What do you like doing when not conducting?
I love to photograph historic English churches. I’ve visited over 400.
What advice would you give any aspiring musicians?
Beyond disciplined practice, I would encourage aspiring musicians to live a full life: to embrace relationships, love, friendship, family, food, and even heartache. What meaning does music have, if it is uninspired by life?