Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?

My chosen instrument is the voice, but I actually began my musical journey playing the flute. I was 14 years old when I was sitting in a corridor playing, then humming the passages back and fourth. The choir tutor heard me humming and asked me enthusiastically “why aren’t you in choir? you have a great voice!”. (At my school, you could only choose either band or choir because they clashed.) Soon after, the choir teacher created an after-school choir, and I joined. Inevitably, the choir fell apart but I continued to sing and she began to teach me privately. It was in our private lessons that she would teach me about Italian art song, folk song, lieder and eventually, opera. A few years later, I went to Cleveland Heights High School and received great guidance from my choral director. By the time I was 18, I was apart of every singing ensemble at the school, except Men’s Chorus! It was at this point that my choir director said “you were born for this” and I knew I had to become a professional singer.

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

There have been many, many influences and wonderful people in my life who’ve helped to cultivate my musical career. Early on, my high school choral director Craig Macgaughy influenced me the most. He opened my eyes to all different types of music and always encouraged me to audition for solos, to stand tall and to be proud my performance. “You must bow!” he would yell from the wings, as I leaned forward, feeling like I was going to crumble – but I never did. He didn’t allow it. Later in life, I went to the Manhattan School of Music and began to study voice with Joan Patenaude-Yarnell, whom I still study with. This is where I truly began to find my voice and my confidence as an opera singer. It was here that I learned about the bel canto technique, specifics about how the voice and breath are always connected, and how to truly breathe life into whatever I’m singing. I learned how to be a professional opera singer and I recognized I am an artist in my own right, which redirected my approach to music in its entirety.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

One of the things I find challenging is the lack of time I have to spend time with family and friends. I think in any competitive career, striking a work-life balance can be difficult. With opera, the travelling makes dates and deadlines fairly inflexible. I’ve missed a couple of weddings and baby-showers because I have a rehearsal or a performance far away. As I get older and more experienced, I am finding ways to make time for both work and my personal life, but I believe that being an artist in the professional realm requires a lot of focus and dedication. This is a small sacrifice, as the pros heavily outweigh the cons in this business. As a result, my friends have started giving me dates more than a year in advance, to ensure my attendance!

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

I’ve had the privilege of performing at Buckingham Palace singing Strauss’ Morgen with orchestra for a gala sponsored by HRH Prince Charles of Wales and The Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama (RWCMD). That performance sticks out to me because I met a lot of wonderful people, including Shirley Bassey, who enjoyed my performance and later gave me a scholarship to help with tuition while at RWCMD. I’ve also had the pleasure of singing for HRH Prince Charles of Wales at private events, singing Strauss’ Four Last Songs in St. David’s Hall in Cardiff and singing Verdi’s 4 Sacred pieces under Sir Mark Elder with the Hallé Orchestra. Favourite opera to date: definitely Falstaff as Alice Ford under Maestro Carlo Rizzi at RWCMD. She is such a fun, witty character to play!

Which particular works do you think you play best?

Generally, I enjoy to singing Opera and lieder from the romantic period. I find that the texture and colour of my voice fit the characters, and naturally pick up on the nuances of the repertoire. Composers like Puccini, Verdi, Strauss, and Donizetti really speak to me. All clearly different and distinct in their own right, but it’s something about the words. The way these composers set them to music, develop a story within a story, paint the music with the words and the vocal lines – it’s like magic to me. I recently did a performance of Strauss’ Opus. 27 and I believe this music is all encompassing. It shows, musicality, difficulty in keeping the legato line always shimmering, and all the while thoroughly expressing the meaning of the text. I get to take the audience on a journey, rather than give them a performance of songs. There are, however, many composers that I adore outside of this period, including Beethoven and my beloved Mozart, who wrote some of the most beautiful and timeless melodies I’ve ever encountered. I am also passionate about American Negro Spirituals and I enjoy singing works and arrangements by Moses Hogan, Margaret Bonds and most recently, Ricky Ian Gordan.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

Each year, I have a point where I sit down and evaluate where I am in my career and my singing. I am very aware of my constant development and of what is required to sustain and longevity in my career. I work with my teacher and my coaches to create 3 categories: Repertoire that shows what I can do now, rep that I am working on/will do in the next few years, and rep for the further future. After I’ve got my three categories, I then decide whether to accept or decline offers based on the criteria above and I do not waiver. I feel strongly that once I’ve decided a role isn’t appropriate, it is not a good idea to go for it anyway. I believe you do yourself more harm by singing a role or piece of work prematurely, rather than waiting until the time is right. I understand that sometimes exceptions must be made, and that’s OK. However, there is a difference between doing something well and doing something so well that it exceeds expectation. “Can I do this?” “Can I do this well?” “Can I knock this out of the park?” The answers to all of these questions should always be “yes” before you take the work.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

I’m not sure that I have a favourite venue to perform in because I get excited anywhere I get to sing. That being said, I love singing at St. Martin-in-the-Fields because the church is beautiful and the audience is very diverse, being right in central London. I also love singing in intimate recital venues, where I can see and interact with people in the audience. For opera, I love the big stages/opera houses like the London Coliseum at ENO and the beautiful grounds and theatre at Glyndebourne. Quite excited for The Met next season!

Who are your favourite musicians?

Whitney Houston, Leontyne Price, Renee Fleming, Luciano Pavarotti, Vladmir Horowitz, Billie Holiday, John Coltrane, Enya, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gellespie – to name a few.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I did performance a long while ago at Oberlin in Italy from a scene in I Capuleti e i Montecchi and I remember finishing the performance and one of my friends who played in the orchestra was sobbing uncontrollably. When I asked him what was wrong, he said it was “the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen”. He’d never really heard opera or been a fan of the type of singing we do, but he was forever changed after that seeing that one scene. From then onward I learned just how powerful music is and how important it is for the betterment of our society.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Performing all over the world, making connections with all walks of life, moving something within someone’s soul, empowering women and men alike, inspiring those who’ll follow in my footsteps, creating a life that is filled with love, laughter, good food and beautiful music – this is what success looks like to me.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

I like to keep things simple. So:

Be prepared. Be on time. Be a good colleague. Love what you do. Even if you don’t actually love it, find something in it that excites you. Practice until you can’t get it wrong. Trust the process, but also know that it’s perfectly acceptable to go the road less travelled. Trust yourself and trust your instincts. No one knows you better than yourself. Every once in a while, Stop. Relax. Smell the flowers and experience all that life has to offer. Seems cliché but most musicians need to be reminded from time to time that we are human, and that’s OK.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

In ten years time, I hope to be doing exactly what I’m doing now: Singing at amazing opera houses and venues all over the world! I also hope to expand my efforts to help introduce classical music to children and adolescents, particularly from rough backgrounds. I want to start a foundation that serves as a gateway to the art form, and provides lessons and coaching to kids, regardless of their parents’ financial ability. Second to singing, this is a passion of mine and I am quite excited to see this through over time.

What is your most treasured possession?

It’s not particularly treasured, but one thing I travel with is place mat that I bought from Paris when I was 20 years old. It was my first time going overseas and I’ve had it with me on every trip since. Also quite handy, since I usually have an herbal tea at my bedside. I’m never ruin the antique tables, dressers etc. that I come in contact with at some of my amazing house and hotel stays. Simple but it gives me a sense of comfort, which is nice when you’re away for months on end.

What is your present state of mind?

I have this feeling of eagerness, or readiness bubbling in me. I’m excited to get my hands dirty and to delve into new projects. I am ready to take my artistic skills to the next level and I wake up every day thinking of new ways to challenge myself. I carve through my rep, paying close attention to the small details. I feel a sense of jubilation, like every day is a new adventure. I feel grateful, humble and blessed to be able to do what I love for a living. I live in a state of blessed assuredness.


Praised for her attractive singing by the New York Times, American soprano is the newest sensation on the international opera scene. Engagements this season include her debut with Welsh National Opera as Anna Gomez in The Consul, and her upcoming debut at The Metropolitan Opera as Annie in Porgy and Bess. She returns to St. David’s Church for a performance of the Mozart Requiem with Cardiff Philharmonic Choir, under Maestro Alun Guy. This season also marks the premier of Chanae’s original composition “My Words in People’s Ears” commissioned by contemporary artist, Anna Falcini in her latest exhibition, In Between the Folds are Particles.

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(Artist photo: Harlequin Agency)

Who or what inspired you to take up singing and pursue a career in music?

I honestly don’t recall having a specific moment where I decided to make music my career! Both of my parents are professional instrumentalists at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, so I quite literally grew up in the Civic Opera House, learning music as my true mother tongue. I was even a little gingerbread munchkin in Lyric’s production of Hansel und Gretel when I was six! Genuinely terrified of the witch, I learned that we are able to experience the stories we tell on stage just as viscerally as our ‘real’ lives. I simply haven’t known any other way of living, so while I entertained the idea of other professions, I got hooked on always having an outlet to express myself and I can’t seem imagine doing anything else. Music is as much a lifestyle as it is a profession.

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

Most definitely my parents; there’s nothing like hearing Strauss played on the horn everyday growing up to influence a soprano! My folks started me on piano at the age of four and violin at seven before I got anywhere near singing lessons, but it became clear that voice was my calling when I began to sight-sing all my concertos, my violin conveniently resting on the lid of our piano. I must have been born with a singer’s brain because I could always learn music faster with my voice than with an instrument in hand! I was also really shaped by my time in the Chicago Children’s Choir, a boundary-busting organization dedicated to bringing kids of diverse socio-economic backgrounds together by exploring music of all genres and styles from across the globe. My time in CCC taught me that my work as an artist always has the potential to make a cultural or societal impact.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

Something I have to consciously work at is staying grounded. I have struggled with anxiety for most of my life, often getting swept away by my extremely active imagination which is often on the train to la-la-land. When I discovered yoga, I realized that I could help myself stay in the present if I choose to do so. Dedicating myself to a consistent mindfulness practice has completely changed my life, and I love it so much that I actually completed a yoga teacher training program last spring! It can be difficult to set time aside for self-care, but the impact of even ten minutes of stillness has such a large ripple effect throughout my mind-set, relationships, singing, and general well-being that I try my best to include some quality yoga-and-meditation-time each day.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

Oof, I think I have two! Last summer, I was a Vocal Fellow at Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute, where I spent an idyllic four-weeks completely saturated in some of my favorite art song repertoire. In one of the final performances, I got to sink my teeth into some lesser-known, extremely romantic Joseph Marx lieder in a livestreamed recital (which is now on YouTube!), the perfect end to a perfect month. The other event which stands out for me is when I was 20 and performed the North American premiere of Jesse Jones’ One Bright Morning on tour with Oberlin’s Contemporary Music Ensemble to my hometown, Chicago. Seeing all my loved ones’ faces in the audience for my first big premiere made the occasion only that much more special. We recorded the piece and it’s going to be released on the Oberlin Music label sometime soon!

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

Joseph Schwantner’s Two Poems of Agueda Pizarro is a favorite of mine. I have a video of the work posted online and somehow Schwantner himself found it, tracked my website down, and sent me a lovely note about my performance! I most definitely screamed when I saw that a Pulitzer-Prize winning composer had popped up in my inbox.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

Who my audience is plays a key role in what I choose to perform. I always try to find a balance between both obscure and familiar repertoire, but the calibration of the two depends on the occasion. Sometimes I aim to create an environment where listeners can turn inward and explore themselves more intimately and other times I hope to encourage empathy and an expansion of the definition of ‘self.’ My goal, always, is to use the energy of music to connect and heal. I strive to work from these intentions outwards, using music as the medium for sharing radical honesty and generosity.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

I’m really looking forward to my Wigmore Hall debut with The Prince Consort this March, to say the least! So many of the most influential artists in music have performed in that intimate space; it’s where history itself is made. I also love singing in Preston Bradley Hall in Chicago’s Cultural Center, one of the lesser known gems in my hometown, because of its enormous Tiffany glass dome and view of Millennium Park. It feels like home!

Who are your favourite musicians?

Ella Fitzgerald, Barbara Hannigan, Kurt Elling, Renée Fleming, Jonas Kaufman, Robert Glasper, Karina Gauvin, Frank Sinatra, Yo-Yo Ma, Beyoncé

What is your most memorable concert experience?

While I was a student at Oberlin, I played the role of Thérèse in Poulenc’s Les Mamelles de Tirésias, this crazy surrealist one-act where the main character denounces her femininity and goes off to regain authority of her life. In the first scene, as she rejects the restrictions of being a woman, she grows a beard and moustache….and her breasts fly away because they’re secretly balloons! I had a blast shocking the audience each night, so much so that I even choreographed a one-handed cartwheel into my staging just for the heck of it. I felt so free in our little surrealist world, buoyant enough let go of myself and explore the absurd.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Success for me comes down to honesty. Even though I am a recovering perfection addict, I still believe my best performances have been the ones where my feet were firmly planted on the ground, my head was held high, and my heart beat proudly on my sleeve, regardless of miscellaneous mistakes and mishaps. Vulnerability is often both a performer’s kryptonite and Achilles’ heal, so I call it a success when I’ve allowed myself to be entirely generous with my spirit and had a little fun while I was at it.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

We are first and foremost human beings; our art can only be born out of our humanity.

On a more tangible level, I want to emphasize that our minds and bodies are as much our instruments as the cello, trombone, or vocal cords which vibrate to create sonic waves. The more lined up the mind-body-spirit connection is, the easier making music gets.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

Doing it all and probably trying to find enough hours in the day to make it happen! I would love to have a balance between opera, concert, and recital work with a healthy mixture of classical and contemporary repertoire. Maybe not in 10 years’ time but in 20, I would like to have a hand in creative strategic planning to help steer how we move classical music forward. I have always envisioned myself with a family, so that’s a must for me, too.

What’s your current state of mind?

Sleepy but satisfied 🙂

 


Chicago-born soprano Olivia Boen completed her undergraduate studies at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in May of 2017 and will be starting her MM at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London this autumn. Olivia has been seen on the Oberlin Opera Theater stage as the title roles in Poulenc’s Les Mamelles de Tirésias and Händel’s Alcina, as well as the leading ladies in Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, and Händel’s Serse with the Oberlin in Italy program in Tuscany. In January 2016, she had the distinct honor of performing the North American premiere of Jesse Jones’ One Bright Morning with the Contemporary Music Ensemble on Oberlin’s 150th Anniversary Tour to her home city. The piece will be released on the Oberlin Music record label in late 2018. Olivia has participated in masterclasses with such renowned artists as Renée Fleming, Eric Owens, and Marilyn Horne. Recent accolades include 2018 First Place Winner at the Musicians Club of Women of Chicago, 2017 First Place Winner at the Tuesday Musical Competition, and finalist in Oberlin’s Senior Concerto Competition.

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Who or what inspired you to take up singing and pursue a career in music?

I had been a chorister in kings college choir and after my voice broke, kindly, my then head of music encouraged me to think about going for a choral scholarship back to kings choir as an undergraduate. So in many respects it’s all David Petit’s fault I suppose

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

There are always so many people who pass through a singer’s life, teachers and coaches, conductors and choir directors, that in a way the influences are myriad. But I’d say listening and talking to Anthony Rolfe Johnson, and taking his advice, was probably the most influential period of my career. He ordered me out of the back row of the chorus and encouraged me to go solo.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

I think going from a bass to a bass/baritone and even to baritone was the most significant challenge of my career. I used to sing the arias with all the low notes but never found huge satisfaction from them. My then teacher Diane Forlano just said to me that she’d never thought I was a bass so we started working on my upper register and I began to find vocal happiness.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of? 

The performances/recordings of which I’m most proud will always be those that have been the hardest for me to fulfil. My two solo discs have brought me delight and shredded nerves in equal measure. Falstaff, Wozzeck, Beckmesser and Alberich in das Rheingold have presented me more problems and sleepless nights than I care to remember but the most fun to have achieved and to look back upon.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

Usually the evil bastards give me the most enjoyment, but then I love those roles like the Protector in Written on Skin and Golaud in Pelleas and Melisande, which have a complex psychological component to them. Having said that, I love the comedy of Falstaff and the sincerity of Sharpless in Butterfly and Balstrode in Grimes. The pot of gold lies in the combination of all these characters.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

I wish I could say that I make choices of which repertoire to sing and when, but my career to date has been a bit more director led than that. If a director with whom I have a good relationship asks me for a role I’ll generally accept it as I know it’ll be interesting and challenging and that’s what gets me up in the morning.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

I think most of us singers tend to like to perform in halls that have provided us with wonderful memories. Berlin Philharmonie because I got to sing with the peerless Berlin Philharmonic, de Doelen in Rotterdam because of three unforgettable Bach Matthew Passions with the Rotterdam Philharmonic. Then there was the exceptional experience of Alan Gilbert’s farewell concert of das Rheingold in David Geffin Hall with the NYPHIL. I could go on…

Who are your favourite musicians?

My favourite musicians tend to be the ones who challenge me the most, from Jonny Cohen with whom I’ve recorded my two solo discs to Vladimir Jurowski who showed me the brilliance of Wozzeck. Leonard Bernstein who explained the symphony orchestra to all us nerds in 70’s to Emmanuelle Haim, my baroque fairy godmother. Sir Simon Rattle for his never ending quest for the soul to Aaron Neville’s simple sincerity.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I think my most memorable concerts in recent times were these: The concert that Arcangelo and I gave at Milton Court was a great experience for me as it reminded me so powerfully the importance of communication. I found myself almost choked with emotion as I sang the most beautiful of Handel’s arias(Fra l’ombre) and really for the first time wholly connecting with it emotionally. Then there was das Rheingold with NYPHIL last June which was a personal triumph. Never have I felt so utterly engaged in a performance.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Communicating the meaning/substance – the “everything” of the role or song to an audience in the most imaginative, creative and truthful way possible. If you can do all that and make it sound ravishing as well, you’ve done your job!

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

I always say to all aspiring musicians/singers alike, never stop using your imagination. Never stop digging, leave no stone unturned in finding something more to say. Just singing the words and the tune is never enough.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

I’d still like to be digging away trying to keep folk entertained and stimulated.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

It would have to be just being with my wonderful family, walking with the dog or cooking, or just laughing and making great memories.

Christopher Purves’ new disc of Handel’s Finest Aria’s for Base Voice, Vol 2, with Arcangelo and Jonathan Cohen, is available now on the Hyperion label. Further information


Christopher Purves has received much praise for his acclaimed interpretations of a diverse and eclectic range of roles and repertoire. A choral scholar at King’s College, Cambridge, Purves went on to become a member of experimental rock group Harvey and the Wallbangers. He has since developed a highly successful career on both the operatic and concert stages, in great demand with leading opera houses and orchestras around the world.

christopherpurves.com

(photo: Chris Gloag)

Who or what inspired you to take up singing and pursue a career in music?
I came very reluctantly to a career in singing thinking that surely this couldn’t be a real job! And despite what every taxi driver in London tells me it turns out that it is in fact a very real job and one I love! I came to it in a very roundabout way having first studied for a degree in music and history which would have allowed me to become a teacher but after two weeks of teaching I realised that children were much more difficult to deal with than directors so I decided to embark upon a career in singing.
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
I’ve certainly had a touch of the luck of the Irish about my career. I was a young artist at the Royal Opera house and during that time won the Rosenblatt Recital prize at the Cardiff Singer of the World Competition and was also a BBC New Generation artist so all these things were huge opportunities for exposure when I was just starting out and gave me a super launching pad. The relationships I cherish most in my career are the ones I have with Wigmore Hall as I’m really devoted to song singing, the support the Royal Opera House have given my career over the years and my recital partnership and friendship with Iain Burnside who I have recorded many discs with and stood on the recital platform with many times.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
I think the travel has been the greatest challenge for me. When I’m performing opera is often takes me away from home for months at a time and I find that very difficult. I think that is part of the reason why I have such an affiliation with performing recitals.
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
I think the most fun I’ve ever had on a production was the most recent one I performed at Covent Garden. I was doing a very cookie role in Shostakovich’s ‘The Nose’. But it was particularly special for me because at the time I was six months pregnant with my baby Daisy And my husband was also playing in the orchestra so I think that particular time will always have a special place in my memory. The recording I’m most proud of is probably the Fauré disc with Iain Burnside. I just love French music and it was a special treat for me to get the opportunity to record an entire disc with one of my favourite composers.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
At the moment I have a small baby so she is making all the decisions! Opera is on the back-burner for a while as I don’t want to be away from home for long. This suits me perfectly as I really love recital and concert work
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
I love to perform in Wigmore Hall. The acoustic and intimacy of the venue allows me to give my best performance. Also I’m welcomed there like family and that makes a huge difference to how you feel on a performance day.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
I would have to say any of the Proms performances I’ve ever been involved in. I think I’ve been in about 13 Proms now! Maybe my most memorable was Beethoven 9 with the NYO but performing at the first night of the proms was definitely a close second.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
A huge bank balance…. only joking… I wish! Being able to do the work you want to do.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
It’s tough so be prepared to work hard. Stay true to yourself and stay yourself. Be kind to your colleagues. Try to enjoy it!
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A walk in the park with my baby Daisy, my lovely husband Keith who puts up with all the madness that comes with being married to a singer and my little dog Jack….. Bliss…. the only thing that could make it better would be a bag of chips!
Ailish Tynan performs with Iain Burnside at the Ludlow English Song Weekend, 6-8 April 2018.

Ailish Tynan trained at Trinity College, the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London. She was a Vilar Young Artist at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and a BBC New Generation Artist. In 2003, representing Ireland, Ailish won the Rosenblatt Recital Prize at BBC Cardiff Singer of the World.

Recent highlights include Madame Podtotshina’s Daughter in Shostakovich’s The Nose for the Royal Opera, Gretel Hansel & Gretel for Welsh National Opera, Anna Intermezzo in her debut for Garsington Opera and the world premiere of Judith Weir’s Nuit d’Afrique at Wigmore Hall. Additionally, she was on the Jury for the Song Prize at BBC Cardiff Singer of the World, 2017. In the current season Ailish makes her debut with the Dresdner Philharmonie for Mahler Symphony No. 8, performs Glière’s Concerto for Coloratura Soprano with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Vladimir Askenazy, Vaughan Williams Dona nobis pacem with the Britten Sinfonia and her recital debut in Stockholm with Magnus Svensson.

Operatic engagements include Gretel Hänsel und Gretel and Madame Cortese Il viaggio a Reims; Marzelline Fidelio (Royal Opera House, Covent Garden); Gretel Hansel and Gretel (Scottish Opera); Tigrane Radamisto (English National Opera); Papagena Die Zauberflöte (Teatro alla Scala); Despina Così fan tutte (Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse); Héro Béatrice et Bénédict (Houston Grand Opera, Opéra Comique and the Grand Théâtre de la Ville de Luxembourg). Other operatic highlights include Sophie Der Rosenkavalier, Nannetta Falstaff and Atalanta Xerxes all for the Royal Swedish Opera; Miss Wordsworth Albert Herring (Opéra Comique and Opéra de Rouen) and Vixen The Cunning Little Vixen (Grange Park Opera).

Among her notable concert appearances are Mahler Symphony No.8 (Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra under Paavo Järvi, Philharmonia under Lorin Maazel and Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia under Sir Antonio Pappano); Mahler Symphony No.4 (Prague Symphony Orchestra under Jac van Steen and the Hallé under Sir Mark Elder) and Mahler Symphony No. 2 (Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia under Myung-whun Chung); Verdi Requiem (Ludwigsburger Schlossfestspiele under Michael Hofstetter); Haydn The Creation (CBSO under Andris Nelsons); Handel Messiah (Academy of Ancient Music under Richard Egarr) and Vaughan Williams Hodie at the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. She performs regularly at the BBC Proms where she has performed Bella in Tippett’s A Midsummer Marriage (BBC Symphony Orchestra under Sir Andrew Davis) and Glière’s Concerto for Coloratura Soprano (Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under Kirill Karabits).

In recital Ailish works regularly with pianist including Iain Burnside, James Baillieu, Graham Johnson and Christopher Glynn, amongst others, giving recitals at venues and festivals including Wigmore Hall, Edinburgh, City of London, Gregynog, St. Magnus, Brighton and West Cork Music Festivals, and the Vinterfespill in Norway.

Her discography includes Fauré Mélodies (Opus Arte), Nacht und Träume (Delphian), From a City Window Hubert Parry Songs (Delphian) and An Irish Songbook (Signum Classics) all with pianist Iain Burnside, Il re pastore for Classical Opera (Signum Classics), Michael Head Songs (Hyperion) with Christopher Glynn, Messiah with the Academy of Ancient Music (EMI), Mahler Symphony No.8 under Valery Gergiev (LSO Live) and with the Philharmonia Orchestra under Lorin Maazel (Signum Classics).

(Biography Steven Swales Artist Management)

natasha-hardy-soprano6-1

Who or what inspired you to take up singing and pursue a career in music?

The thought of singing and acting appealed to me from a very early age. I was always the performer in my family and as the middle child, it was the best way to get attention! Singing was a part of normal family life. I enjoyed singing at home, (although most of the time my brothers wanted to shut me up!) My parents always had music playing and were always singing. We sang regularly at our church, so it always felt quite normal to sing. I started to write songs from the age of 13 and had piano lessons from around age 9.

Singing always made me feel good, although I hadn’t ever considered it a career choice.  When I started to pursue my acting career, I took up singing seriously. Singing was originally to add a feather to my bow as an actress. However, unexpectedly, I completely fell in love with the classical technique; I had found a medium that would let me fully express myself. I was able to use my body in a way that allowed me to channel my energy and emotions. I could pour my heart and soul into it. It felt inevitable that this was going to be my career.

Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career? 

The most important influences on my career have to be my voice teacher Maryliese Happel, Mark Crayton and my mum.  Maryliese introduced me to classical repertoire and opera.  I had no idea about singing in this genre before I met her and to her I owe a tremendous amount of gratitude.  She taught me solid technique, taught me about my own voice and has always been an inspirational teacher.  She helped me ‘free the beauty of my voice’.

Mark Crayton (Roosevelt University, Chicago) who over the years helped me find my inner confidence through technique and performance master-classes. He has helped me find freedom of expression in my voice.

My wonderful mother, who calls me her little songbird, always wants to hear me sing. From the moment she wakes up, she is always singing around the house. My mother always made it feel really normal to just sing.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far? 

Self-belief and self-doubt. I have done lots of work to help myself through these challenges.  My top tips that have helped me include; meditation, positive affirmations, healthy diet & keeping fit.  I am a great believer in healthy body, healthy mind.

I always come back to a couple of sayings, allowing yourself to be both a work in progress and a masterpiece simultaneously, and my favourite quote from Martha Graham:

 “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others”  
― Martha Graham 

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?  

Probably my recital ‘Dans L’air du Temps’ at the Grosvenor Chapel, Mayfair and the recording that I wrote and sang for a performance at Ferrari World, Abu Dhabi

Which particular works do you think you perform best? 

Puccini; I love his songs, his operas, and his characters.  On the surface they can seem simple, but underneath there is a complexity and strength to them.  The way he writes is inspiring. There is always a leading melody, and long beautiful lines.  As a songwriter, I know how hard it is to make something sound ‘simple’ and that is what I love about his compositions.  I also think I perform my own compositions pretty well, because I have written them. I know every feeling and every memory that has gone into the writing of every line, lyric and melody.  I do hope one day that other singers will want to perform them.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season? 

I try to choose pieces that are well known with the audience, combining them with unknown or rarely-performed works

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why? 

Not really, I just love performing wherever I have an audience.

Who are your favourite musicians? 

Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel, Prince, George Michael, Faithless, Massive Attack, Andre Previn, Richard Rodney Bennet, Michael Nyman, Gabriel Yared, Hans Zimmer, Eric Serra, Puccini, Bellini, Rachmaninov, Debussy, Renee Fleming, Angela Gheorghiu and Maria Callas.

What is your most memorable concert experience? 

My first ever concert.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Practice smart, know your words/notes, know yourself.  Get trained in the business side of things. This can take up a lot of your time!  Be determined. Don’t give up. Try to get a little bit better every day. Make time for family & friends, and most importantly, have fun!

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time? 

In my beach house in Bermuda.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? 

Any of the following: Summer barbecues, listening to old LPs on a Sunday afternoon with family and friends, roast dinners, long beach walks, my poodle every time I look at her, getting to sleep in a bed with my favourite pillow and a duvet, waking up to another sunny day, the sound of rain, the smell of a forest, the touch of my grandmother’s hand, skiing, ice-skating.

What is your most treasured possession? 

An 18th-century French dressing table which has been ‘dipped and stripped’ about three times, it was my mum’s dressing table from when my parents first got married, and it has finally been restored and I use it everyday.

What is your present state of mind? 

Excited – relaxed – grateful.

Natasha’s new production ‘Lost in Love’ is premiered on Saturday 30th April at Rosslyn Hill Chapel, Hampstead, London. Further details and tickets here

Natasha Hardy is a soprano whose eclectic repertoire seeks to demystify the traditional operatic world. Trained in both Classical and Contemporary traditions, her maverick approach has seen her work on several classically inspired projects, most recently an intriguing concert series of her favourite operatic works as well as those she has penned herself.

www.natashahardy.com

 

(Photo: Allan Jenkins)

Who or what inspired you to take up singing and pursue a career in music?

We had a large selection of Maria Callas recordings when I was growing up, which inspired me a great deal. I thought that if I could achieve even just 1% of the vocal and communicative power that she possessed, then I would be very happy. I also could not have begun to study music without the unfailing support of my mother.

Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?

In terms of live performances that were formative in my early love of opera, I would have to cite Joyce DiDonato’s much-feted Rosina at ROH in 2006. She is a singer whose attitude I admire greatly. I think she is a living shrine to professionalism, and is an absolute queen on stage. Similarly I followed Renée Fleming’s ‘Thaïs’ in 2007 from ROH to the Lincoln Centre, as I just couldn’t get enough of her poise and vocal clarity. And during that same season I went three times to see Dessay/Florez’s ‘La Fille du Regiment’, which I found endlessly gorgeous and beautifully executed. I saw these performances when I was just beginning to study opera and they were incredibly influential. They were all witnessed from the standing gallery and this in no way limited their impact on me. (I diverge but, when people tell me that opera is expensive, I have always to remind them that most of these world-class performances can be experienced for the meager cost of £6 if you’re a student, and only about £10 more if you’re not…!)

More recently, witnessing at close hand Krassimira Stoyanova’s enchanting Marschallin was a huge inspiration. And one singer whose recordings have always been top of my wish list since I was a teenager are those of Cecilia Bartoli. Both her song and opera recordings are always so cleverly and sensitively curated, and I admire very much all of the work she has done to bring to light many of the lesser-known late Baroque composers. Getting to see her live for the first time last summer at the Salzburg Festival in her hero role as La Cenerentola was a dream come true!

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

I have been very blessed with a full compliment of incredibly supportive friends and family, and so any challenges I have faced have been greatly minimised by the simple unwavering encouragement of this support system. Of course, as musicians we face daily internal ‘challenges’, but really these are best embraced, because they cause us to think creatively about our profession. To paraphrase one of my heroes above (Ms. DiDonato), we aren’t surgeons; we aren’t tasked with the daily responsibility of protecting people’s lives and livelihoods. We have responsibilities – yes – and sometimes very big and important responsibilities, but our job as artists is to practise hard and to bring joy into people’s lives through the music we sing and interpret. We are just vessels after all, and I reckon that if we overestimate our importance within the general scheme of things, then this in itself can lead to unnecessary challenges. Far better to put our time into learning our craft flawlessly and not to worry (too much!) about the challenges along the way, I think.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of? 

I was thrilled last summer to get to perform one of my favourite bel canto arias last summer with the Camerata Salzburg, ‘Il segreto per esser felici’ from ‘Lucrezia Borgia’. I am proud of this performance and recording mainly because of how utterly stunning the orchestra sound! I felt very fortunate indeed to be on a stage with such an esteemed group of musicians (including Maestro Theodor Guschlbauer).

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

My very favourite composer both to sing, and in general to know about and learn about, is of course Mozart. It so happens that many of his travesti roles (Cherubino, Annio, etc) sit in a comfortable range in my voice, but actually learning to sing Mozart is, for any singer, a veritable masterclass in the operatic artform. This obviously isn’t an unusual opinion but I cannot recommend the study of Mozart highly enough.

I also adore a wide range of operetta, particularly Offenbach (especially because he wrote so many excellent and well-drawn mezzo roles), but truly my all-time favourite opera would have to be Carmen! This was another one I was exposed to an early age (as are many people I imagine), and I never cease to get goosebumps during almost every number when I hear it performed live. Anita Rachvelishvili’s Carmen at the Met last season is my newest favourite!

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

I suppose as opera singers we have little choice over what we are cast in (within reason), but I feel very lucky to have recently had more time to put together a number of my own recitals in recent months. In terms of choosing song repertoire, well I have always loved Schumann’s ‘Frauenliebe und –leben’, and so I had been desperate to sing this for a while. I have performed it twice now in the last year but I still don’t feel as if I have scratched the surface. As the Schumann cycle is only 25 minutes long, I had been searching for something to pair it with, and a lovely friend recommended to me Shostakovich’s ‘Spanish Songs’. I have always enjoyed Shostakovich’s symphonic works but had never sung anything of his, so I very much enjoyed studying these charming pieces from an academic as well as a musical perspective. They are Spanish folk songs, translated into Russian, and while mainly sung by women, are written from a male perspective. I undertook my own English translations of them – a project which gave me endless joy.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

In terms of recital venues, I very much enjoy singing at St. James’s Piccadilly. It has such a warm acoustic and is visually breathtaking (designed by Christopher Wren). Another incredible Wren venue is the Painted Hall of the Royal Naval College, which is fairly echoey, but visually arresting. One of my favourite venues in the world is the Musikverein in Vienna, which I have not yet performed in, but in which I was lucky enough to rehearse last year with the Wiener Philharmoniker. The Musikverein is heavenly-looking, and also has such a rich history, from Bruckner to Brahms.

Another jaw-droppingly beautiful venue that I have performed in is the theatre at Giardini La Mortella, a roman-style amphitheatre carved into a mountain on the island of Ischia. This was the residence for many years of William Walton, and still boasts his wife Lady Walton’s sensational walled gardens.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

To perform, it would have to be Mozart, Handel, Offenbach, Tchaikovsky, and Britten. And of course ‘Der Rosenkavalier’, which I think is one of the most transcendent pieces of art (words and music) ever to have been made.

To listen to, I would have to choose Ashkenazy’s famous Chopin recordings on Decca from the 1980s. They are so precise and yet so full of life – a very inspiring combination!

Also, my new absolute favourite piece ever written or performed is Jake Heggie’s ‘Camille Claudel: Into the Fire’, performed with complete fervour, tenacity, and vocal majesty by Joyce DiDonato earlier this year. I am deeply in love with this music, poetry, and Ms. DiDonato’s rendering of it. It is recorded on a CD entitled ‘Here/ After’, and I would very strongly advise everyone to buy and listen to this!

Who are your favourite musicians?

Apart from the singers I have already mentioned variously above, I have also to include Grace Bumbry, Monsterrat Caballé, Fiorenza Cossotto, Sophie Koch, Elina Garanca, Jennifer Larmore, Sarah Connolly, Anna Netrebko, Stephanie Blythe, Thomas Hampson, Placido Domingo, Jonas Kaufmann… The list goes on! In terms of musicians from other styles I would choose Sarah Vaughan, Kurt Elling, and Jennifer Pike, who I recently saw in concert and was totally in awe of!

What is your most memorable concert experience?

This wasn’t exactly a concert per se, but the most memorable moment of my nascent career to date (memorable mainly for the combination of abject terror I felt in the minutes leading up to it, and the complete relief I felt for the hours after it!) was opening the International Opera Awards in 2014. I sung Rossini’s ‘Cruda Sorte’ and was incredibly nervous about performing this characterful and fast-moving aria in front of an audience of 800 of the world’s opera singers, intendants, creatives, and critics (!). But I was so grateful for this priceless opportunity, and I have my sponsors at the International Opera Awards, and my fairy godmother (you know who you are!) to thank for this incredible experience.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

The thought that has been the most useful to me is the idea that this is a marathon, and not a sprint. Once we have learnt a little bit about music and the whole funny business of being on stage, the next part to tackle is our stamina, and also our attitude; to always remind oneself of the big picture is a very important tool.
 British-American Mezzo Soprano Phoebe Haines studied at the University of Cambridge where she obtained a Double First Class Degree, and recently completed her MMus at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama under the tuition of John Llewelyn Evans. She continued her training at the Guildhall as a Fellow in 2014/15, and was also a 2015 Opera Works trainee at the English National Opera. 

In 2014, Phoebe became a Britten-Pears Young Artist, partaking in the Aldeburgh English Song Project. Also in 2014 she was named a Concordia Foundation Artist, an Iford Arts Young Artist, and a Salzburg Festival Young Artist.

Last summer, Phoebe made her debut at the Salzburger Festspiele as Zweite adelige Waise in Der Rosenkavalier conducted by Franz Welser-Möst, and as Tisbe in La Cenerentola für Kinder, a co-production with Teatro Alla Scala. She participated in many concerts during her time at the Festival, including a concert of arias with the Camerata Salzburg under Theodor Guschlbauer, and sang in master classes with Thomas Hampson and Helmut Deutsch. Her engagements with the Festival also took her to Castell Son Claret, Mallorca, where she sang in their annual gala concert, ‘Opera Under the Stars’.

Also a talented recitalist, Phoebe has given recent performances at 22 Mansfield Street, the Pushkin House, Castell Son Claret, Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, Villa Kyrélos, Giardini La Mortella, Villa Del Balbianello, Belvoir Castle, Bloomsbury Ballrooms, the Handel House Museum, Christ Church Spitalfields, The Savoy Chapel, Asia House, the British Embassies in Rome and Budapest, and the Lebanese Embassy in London. She performed Schumann’s Frauenliebe und -leben at St. James’ Piccadilly in October 2014 for the Concordia Foundation, along with her own translation of Shostakovich’s Spanish Songs. She is a passionate advocate for charitable causes, and very much enjoys working for Concordia Foundation on a number of outreach projects at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.

Phoebe opened the International Opera Awards on April 7th 2014 and has performed at many other events throughout 2015 under this auspice. This summer, Phoebe returned to Austria to join the prestigious American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, where she was a finalist at the Graz Meistersinger Competition, under the direction of conductor Karen Kamensek. Phoebe worked with the legendary Montserrat Caballé in masterclass in September 2015 at the Auditorio Zaragoza, Spain. In September and October 2015, Phoebe takes on two modern cantatas: Britten’s Phaedra in London, and John Eaton’s El Divino Narciso in New York. She then goes on to sing the countertenor role of Katte in Scott Wheeler’s critically-acclaimed Sorrows of Frederick for Center for Contemporary Opera, NYC.

phoebehaines.co.uk