DC Are the songs in this programme ones that you already have in your repertoire and can you tell us something about your approach to them?
MB I've sung most of these pieces before, but not for a while. It's great to come back to them with the perspective of having seen a bit more life! The sense of loss in both Dichterliebe and the war-themed songs seem much deeper to me now. The way the Butterworth is written is so transparent and powerful, it takes effort not to get too involved and emotional.
Ivor Gurney can be less direct, emotionally, but the group I'm doing are more simple and clear. The Barber is a seven-minute rollercoaster of a ride – colourful, stark and passionate!
DC In most recitals the singer is working exclusively with a pianist. Have you worked with a string quartet before, and what do you look forward to most about doing so on this occasion?
MB Dover Beach is new to me and although I've worked with many small ensembles before, it will be a new sensation working with such an established group. Seeing how the players react to one another will be fascinating and I'm hoping I will hook into the team's seam quickly.
DC Have you worked in partnership with your accompanist Anna Markland-Crookes on a regular basis? What is it like to work with her, and does it help your understanding that she is a singer herself? [As well as being a former winner of the BBC Young Musician of the Year award as a pianist, Anna is a very fine soprano and regularly sings with the distinguished ensemble I Fagiolini.]
MB I've worked with Anna most of my career. Firstly as singers together, by which time she had learned my strengths and weaknesses, so converting to recital work was a very smooth transition.
She works meticulously hard at every detail and arrives at first rehearsals already on top of everything, so it's like sitting in a Rolls Royce with her! As Anna is a singer herself, she instinctively breathes with me, and she understands line and support. She's a gem!
DC How are you looking forward to singing in an 'in the round' venue, with the audience all around you? Are you anticipating specific challenges/rewards (or looking forward to it with pleasure)?
MB I've sung "in the round" with I Fagiolini a few times, so I know what to expect! We are limited with the piano being fixed, but I'm mobile!
Finding the right conditions to include everyone and drawing the audience into your space is always the big challenge of the day. One doesn't want to be too histrionic or dull either. Often 'less is more' is the most successful route to take, but we'll see! That's the thrill of live music making. As a performer, you have to gauge your audience and react accordingly.
DC Would you tell us something about your schedule before and after your visit to Sheffield?
MB I will have just come from a very busy patch: nearly 20 Bach Passions, Handel's Samson in Boston, USA, large excerpts of Debussy's Pélleas et Mélisande. After a few days off I will polish off my next batch of Handel for the Lufthansa Festival in London, then staged performances of Bach motets with puppets at Spitalfields Festival, then La Bohème in the summer. Quite a mixed bag and it keeps me on my toes!
The concert is on Thursday 15 May at 7.15pm at The Crucible Studio.
Details and tickets are here