Christopher Gillett and I have a fair bit in common. We are both English and much the same age. We are both on second marriages to performers; the failure of our first marriages being at least partly related to the vagaries of travelling for work. We are also both tenors. There the similarities end. Mr. Gillett sings for a living which I, to the great relief of the music loving public, do not. He also does not like cats. This makes me a bit suspicious but whatever.
He has written two slimmish volumes of anecdotes about his life as a professional singer; Who’s My Bottom and Scraping the Bottom. Yes, one of his signature roles is Flute in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, notably and multiply in the very fine Robert Carsen production captured on DVD in Barcelona. The books are amusing and quite snarky on subjects like all the worst places in the world to get a cappuccino (no use to me – can’t stand the stuff) and the weird and wonderful workings of La Scala, Milan. No surprises in that bit. The performance of the La Scala chorus in the production of Peter Grimes that Mr. Gillett sang in is probably the lousiest ever committed to disk.
The logistics of travel for singers was of considerable interest to me. I spent a dozen years “on the road” and it makes an interesting contrast. I probably flew many more miles per year than a singer, even a busy one, but I got home more often, stayed in better digs and didn’t have to worry about the expense. I never had a cat crap in my bed. On the other hand, while Mr. Gillett bemoans the horrors of Milan, I doubt he ever had a gig in Walnut, Mississippi or Jena, Louisiana. If he did he’s not saying.
Seriously though, like Charles Reid’s late lamented podcasts, the books are a good, and amusing, insight into the life of a fairly busy singer who isn’t Jonas Kaufmann or Renée Fleming (though they may occasionally wear the same dress). They also have the merit of being cheap. You can pick them up on Kindle for about $5 each (less than the price of a lousy cappuccino). If you are too cheap for even that, he also has a blog; Saddo Abroad.