You are no stranger to this fiery title role - tell me about your relationship with performing Tosca, and how the character has grown with you since you first performed her.
I have to say, the way Puccini heroines are written is so complex and divine. Every time I come back to them it feels like it is the first time I have met them. Technically it is wonderful to revisit them as part of the terrain has been traversed, but I fall in love with these women anew when I meet them again. For different reasons! This Tosca here in Perth is a woman I haven’t met before. I think she is closer to the woman Puccini would have envisaged (I hope she is!) She is more real and quixotic and loveable than I have played her before.
What is your rehearsal process for preparing a role like this one compared to a role that is brand new to you? What are your priorities when looking at a score that you’ve sung before?
Well, it is important not to etch yourself a groove with the last performance of a role but to allow the new challenge to take on new improvements in technique. And also allow yourself to be open to new ideas from each director and conductor. How dull to just do it the way you did it previously! This production has Stuart Maunder as director and Brad Cohen as conductor, so I would have to have rocks in my head not to want to explore all the artistic ideas they have to offer.
If I have sung the score before, I will know which sections need more time to prepare and what to take to my teacher for help. I would only want to move forward with a role. The moment I feel that I haven’t improved on the last performance I know that will be the time to step away from the artform.
You are well-known to Australian audiences as an accomplished performer of both operatic and musical theatre roles. How do you balance the two, and are there ways you look after your voice when performing one or the other? Do you approach them differently technically?
I have to say, it depends on the role, not the genre. For example, when I sang Johanna in Sweeney Todd for OA I had to be a saint and keep my cords pristine and fine-edged to sing Green Finch and Linnet Bird with the finesse of a soubrette. Yet when I sang Mrs Lovett for VO and NZO, I was possibly the last girl on the dance floor at the bar that didn’t even have a dance floor! Mrs Lovett allowed me to be husky and seedy: it may be the same musical, but the role determined the discipline. That is not to say it didn’t involve discipline to sing Lovett – just a different, less precious kind. I am a huge believer in technique. A good vocal technique can turn a performer into a chameleon and crossing genres is no big deal, really.
How do you look after your body and your voice when you’re travelling so often for work? Do you have some tried and tested methods for keeping well before an interstate or international performance?
I am a yogi. I will seek out a yoga studio and maintain my discipline, which has helped me enormously in this rather erratic and unfair game that is the arts in Australia. It has kept my mind freer of the B.S that can accompany what we do. It has allowed me to feel good about myself in a subjective world. I love what I do, but we all need to have perspective and distance. Yoga gives me this. Namaste!
As a young singer, moving into the professional world can seem daunting - can you tell us about how you approached this transition, and how you dealt with the pressures that come with being a young person in a daunting industry?
It’s that old chestnut I am afraid…. if you can think of something else you would rather do – then do it. If you have something to fall back on, you will fall back. Those of us that persevere are usually the ones with the inability to want to do anything else with our lives. The fire of performing drives us on. I waitressed and pulled beers and wallpapered my bedroom with my rejection letters at the same time. But I took what tidbits came along and persevered. It’s hard. I am glad I stuck with it.
What do you wish you’d known when you were starting out about life as an opera singer?
That it would rule my life! My first singing teacher told me that art was a very jealous mistress, and she has turned out to be so. Art stripped me of my marriage and has taken me away from my loved ones. At the moment, art is making me jump four meters from a parapet above the stage onto a small foam pit. Art makes me constantly feel inadequate and small, and art is irrational and quixotic. Not unlike Tosca! But I love her and I have pledged allegiance to her. And I adore everyone else I meet who has done the same. I would have it no other way. As Tosca says – I lived for art.