I started lecturing for a living in 1986 when I joined Kyoto University as visiting foreign lecturer in English language and literature. I found lecturing to students in their second language a challenge but a pleasant one, and discovered that adding a bit of humour or throwing in the odd joke kept their attention and was a good test for comprehension too.
As dramaturg at Welsh National Opera I built up a series of pre-performance talks over more than twenty years until my audiences swelled to over 200, sometimes (to coin a phrase) twice nightly. Lecturing on opera involves telling the story of the opera as clearly as possible (not always easy, as operas have famously tangled plots) and adding a lot of other information, biographical, historical, musical and irreverent, to the basic tale.
‘A hidden gem at WNO comes in the form of dramaturg Simon Rees and his brilliantly charismatic pre-performance talks. Offering in-depth, 30-minute digests of operas, prepared down to the second, Rees presents an illuminating and entertaining interpretation of the opera’s plot. His knowledge is second-to-none, but what’s most impressive is the ease and excitement with which he communicates with his audience. If you want to enhance your opera experience, then Rees’s turns are not to be missed.’ Opera Now, Jan/Feb 2010, p.81.
I have also lectured on opera, song, chamber music, fiction, poetry and children’s verse all over the UK, in venues ranging from parish halls to the Royal College of Physicians (for a talk on Doctors in Opera, which I have also given elsewhere, and will give again if anyone asks me) and to audiences ranging in age from 5 to just under 100.
Other lectures, for WNO, Buxton Opera Festival and Dorset Opera, have been specifically designed to persuade audience members to continue to support the art form. In order to do this, I have to be persuasive and entertaining, and make sure that potential donors can see as many reasons as possible for giving generously.
I believe a good talk is as effective a way of communicating information as any, and that whether it is supported by musical illustrations, pictures or video clips it is the speaker who sets the tone by constantly noting the audience’s response and responding to it in turn. Bullet-pointed presentations rarely succeed in the way a good orator can, and at the basis of my talks is a careful study of the techniques of the classical rhetoricians. Honestly, Quintilian and Cicero still have a lot to teach!
I am happy to lecture anywhere and to anybody, on subjects ranging from opera to poetry, from fiction to history, from chamber-music to Lieder, and on Wales, Italy and Japan in particular.
Please get in touch by email on email@example.com, or by phone on 07816 662350. I look forward to hearing from you.