We interviewed Mark Stephenson, who is conducting Peter & the Wolf Live on Stage here 28 – 30 December. Read on to find out what makes him tick, how falling in a lake played a part in his conducting career, and how he came to be in a field near Reading with a whole pack of wolves…
Which mobile number do you call the most?
What – or where – is perfection?
The Stars in The Sky
Who is your favourite hero from fiction (book/comic/film/opera) – and why?
Peter from Peter & the Wolf because he succeeded where the adults failed.
What’s your favourite ritual?
Taking a bubble bath
What do you fear the most?
Which living person do you most admire (and why)?
Vivienne Westwood because she’s an icon and a genuine person.
What other talent or skill would you like to possess?
Tell us about a special memory you have of Southbank Centre
My first concert as a cellist in The Philharmonia under Maestro Riccardo Muti
If you could programme your ideal Southbank Centre show, which artists (living or dead) would you bring together?
Gustavo Dudamel and the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra
What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
Never Assume Anything
What is the most played piece of music on your MP3 player or in your CD collection?
Bach’s Goldberg Variations
Tell us more about how you became a conductor
When I was six my Dad took me to my first classical concert at the Kenwood Bowl where during Bizet’s Carmen Suite I wandered down to the Lake and fell in! When I got back home afterwards I found my Dad’s tail suit and tried it on, it was many sizes too big and the tails trailed across the carpet, but it looked rather good in the mirror – the rest is history! Dad used to read me Peter & The Wolf and I’ve grown up with the piece ever since. My other favourite story was The Happy Prince. I play the cello and the piano too and when I was a boy I sang in a choir at Cambridge touring all around the world and I got paid £5 for my first recording when I was 9. I first heard Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring at Tanglewood when I was 13. I knew after hearing this incredible music that orchestras would be my life. What a strange occupation conducting is, you don’t make any sound and you have your back to the audience!
And the wolf picture…
When I first conducted Peter & the Wolf Live on Stage with the Philharmonia Orchestra, we visited the Wolf Conservation Trust, just outside Reading, and that’s where I met Duma. It was a photoshoot in the rain, in the middle of a meadow. Strict instructions on what footwear not to wear to avoid becoming lunch!! A whole pack came out to greet me with a keeper – a bit scary at first!