6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Berkshire & Buckinghamshire Life today click here

Buckinghamshire opera stars Jennifer France and Bradley Travis

PUBLISHED: 16:19 17 July 2017 | UPDATED: 16:19 17 July 2017

Jennifer and Bradley are forging notable careers in the operatic world

Jennifer and Bradley are forging notable careers in the operatic world


Young opera stars make the most of a weekend at home in Buckinghamshire and tell their story to Sandra Smith

Jennifer France and Bradley Travis are overflowing with energy and as welcoming as if I’d just popped in for an impromptu cuppa. Parked outside their Brill home where I arrived just moments before them, they apologise for keeping me waiting (train delays from London) before ushering me across the threshold where Figaro, their Birman cat, is soon lapping up attention from all three of us.

Considering the hour (7.30pm on a Friday, the end of another week’s commuting) and with an early morning voice coaching session the next day, this married couple are delightfully engaging and keen to answer my numerous questions about their profession. For beyond their union they share a calling, each a rising star in the world of opera and about to perform at Garsington, the venue where they first met.

“This year’s festival is on such a big scale,” Jennifer enthuses as we sink into comfy sofas in a cosy back room. “I’ll be playing Susanna in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. Garsington was my first real break, in 2014, and that launched a lot of other stuff. I have bookings up to 2020, at the moment including the Royal Opera House.”

As well as four classic operas the two month extravaganza will culminate in Silver Birch, a new community opera based on Siegfried Sassoon’s poems and the testimony of a modern day British soldier. The role of one of England’s greatest poets will be played by Bradley, an award winning bass baritone whose many credits include Last Night of the Proms.

“Opera is an outpouring of emotion, a combination of all art forms with acting more and more important. Gone are the days of large singers not moving on stage. I enjoy the performance side. My mum did amateur dramatics and could have been a really good singer. She has no fear! My dad was a cruise director in charge of performers; he’s now obsessed with whatever opera I’m in. Contemporary operas such as this will be masterpieces in 200 years and I will be the first person to play this role. Silver Birch is in English, which I love!”

Jennifer readily agrees: “Opera has to be relevant and accessible and a language barrier can be scary.”

Her pretty looks and slight build attract young, coquettish roles, yet she originally planned to go into musical theatre. Despite no relevant family background, and growing up listening to the likes of Bob Dylan and the Beatles, music always “made sense”. She has no recollection of learning to read music but can play the flute, recorder, saxophone, clarinet and piano. Her first experience of opera was when her father took her to see Madame Butterfly. Then, at 19, she joined the Royal Northern College of Music.

Bradley’s parents recognised a performer in their son even at primary school. He mastered the piano and cornet and perfomed with a youth brass band. A love of acting initially drove his career before the advice of a music teacher who rightly predicted the potential of his pupil’s voice. While revealing a passion for comic roles, this calmly self assured 28-year-old recalls his big break.

“My first job after college was covering Figaro and I went on in show three; the most amazing performance night for me. Everyone was concerned but I wasn’t nervous. I knew I had to do it. Nerves only come if you haven’t put in the preparation.”

They each have agents, work for a variety of companies and regularly take coaching lessons, which Bradley likens to having an MoT.

Travel, whilst welcome, inevitably brings challenges, as Jennifer explains: “Being away from home for long stretches, maybe a few months at a time, is the hardest thing, but also one of the greatest advantages. When you live somewhere for a few months you immerse yourself in that culture and the cast becomes your family.”

How, I wonder, do singers protect their voices? “That’s really tricky,” she continues. “The cold season is the worst time of year. We wear Flightbubbles (masks with filters) on aeroplanes. And you just try to keep yourself healthy. If you don’t go on stage, you don’t get paid.”

Bradley laughs: “You have to know when you can have a good time! Talking in a loud place such as a noisy bar is the worst thing for your voice. Opera singing is almost unnatural, a wonder of balance and technique. You need the anatomy to allow that sound to work. Anyone can be taught to sing better, but not everyone can be an opera singer.”

Their pre-performance preparation differs, Bradley arriving at a theatre by 5pm for a walk around the stage prior to dinner, returning to the theatre an hour ahead of his performance. For Jennifer a two hour window allows for make up (“It’s very relaxing sitting there and having someone do that for you”), wigs and costumes. Period costumes, she confesses, are always a challenge, though corsets “give you something to push against.”

When relaxing at home they both defer to their music roots. For Bradley this includes Queen, Led Zeppelin and his “absolute favourite” Billy Joel. Jennifer’s tastes are an eclectic range from folk to pop and jazz.

As they look forward to Garsington Opera and some early evening starts allow for picnics or restaurant meals during intervals, the opportunity to perform at a prestigious yet local event does more than increase their impressive lists of engagements. For while the public makes the most of this opportunity to watch world class opera in a beautiful countryside setting, Garsington might also rekindle romantic memories for a talented, supportive and charming couple.


The people helping Newbury on its way to a prosperous future - The market town is steeped in history. Claire Pitcher caught up with two of the people keeping it ticking towards a prosperous and community spirited future


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Berkshire and Buckinghamshire Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Berkshire and Buckinghamshire Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Berkshire and Buckinghamshire Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from People

Monday, January 29, 2018

We meet Wycombe Wanderers Ladies FC and find plenty to cheer about beyond the final score

Read more
Monday, January 29, 2018

Maureen McLean meets Alan Carr MBE and Co-Founder Susan Osborne MSc FRSA to discover more about the War Horse Memorial project

Read more
Monday, January 15, 2018

Real life TV star Dr Zareena Hyder discusses being a ‘GP behind closed doors’, surviving the cold and flu season and swapping the city for village life in Chartridge

Read more
Monday, January 15, 2018

It’s a busy time for the Hamiltons as they prepare to open a specialist pet hospital

Read more
Monday, December 11, 2017

Our favourite contestant from The Great British Bake Off is now ‘all grown up’ but will be back in Ascot for a traditional family Christmas

Read more
Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The executive chef never gets in a pickle and is turning his thoughts to local game and Christmas surprises

Read more
Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Graphologist Elaine Quigley can uncover personality traits from your handwriting, Sandra Smith discovers

Read more
Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Sandra Smith catches up with two young Buckinghamshire women setting the pace in very different careers

Read more
Monday, October 9, 2017

Behind the scenes in Wokingham, a group interested in finding out more about everything from street art to tapestries is thriving, Linda Fawkes discovers

Read more
Tuesday, October 3, 2017

As a national charity based in Bucks celebrates its 125th anniversary, Nicola Swanborough explains how it has become an integral part of Chalfont St Peter

Read more
Tuesday, August 29, 2017

It can be done – local residents now own their local pub one year on from fearing it would be the latest to close

Read more
Tuesday, August 22, 2017

From Aeonium ‘Zwartkop’ to a kaleidoscope of hot colours, Manoj Malde’s spectacular design had plenty of spice, says Naomi Slade

Read more
Friday, August 18, 2017

A breast cancer survivor is taking on an epic challenge for The South Bucks Community Hospice. Here she tells Charlotte Davis why she is doing it

Read more
Tuesday, August 15, 2017

It’s not all trolls and outrage, some of us ‘meet’ people who share and care in a new version of ‘community’ Karen finds

Read more
Great British Holidays advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Local Business Directory

Berkshire's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area

Property Search