In Conversation: Fiona Campbell

In Conversation: Fiona Campbell

Before WAO's Opera in the Park, we speak with leading lady, Fiona Campbell.

Fiona Campbell
Perth, Australia

In Conversation: Fiona Campbell

Before WAO's Opera in the Park, we speak with leading lady, Fiona Campbell.

Having studied in Perth, and performed with the West Australian Opera a number of times during your career, what does being part of their 50th-anniversary gala concert mean to you? 

WAO has always been a part of my performing life. Even when I didn't live in Perth, they would fly me back from London. I was a young artist with the company over 20 years ago and my first professional gig was at Opera in the Park in front of twenty thousand people.  So it seems like the perfect fit, we've really had an enduring relationship over the years and I am thrilled to be a part of it and help them celebrate this impressive milestone.

This performance is a celebration of opera favourites and the life span of the WAO up to this point. What is a favourite memory of working with the company? 

So many great memories with this company!  But one of my favourite roles for them would have to be playing Cherubino in Neil Armfield’s production of Marriage of Figaro (photo above from this production). It was the perfect combination of a well-balanced cast both vocally, dramatically and musically which made magic on stage and has continued to be an endearing winner in the eyes of the audience.

You have experience not only as an esteemed recitalist and performer but also as a radio presenter. What initially drew you to the radio

It is such an excellent medium to connect with people authentically and intimately. Most people are listening on their own, not in a group, so it really becomes a one to one connection over the airwaves. People get to know me off stage and it is a powerful way of drawing the public into this world of music and performance, uncovering some of the mystery and making them feel comfortable with the art form, not intimidated by it.

You are passionate about music education - tell us about the improvements you would like to see made to the way music is taught and spoken about in the media, particularly in relation to opera. 

We are all musical beings, we are all born with a voice and singing it is the most natural thing in the world. Music is a fundamental part of being human. Therefore yes, I believe and know from experience and through the work I am doing in disadvantaged schools, that music should be a core subject. The science comprehensively supports what musicians already know; music is good for you, it makes you feel good, it improves cognitive ability. Opera is a magnificent extension of something completely natural and is something to be thrilled and delighted by. Similarly, kicking a ball around the oval as a kid, can over time, develop into being a professional soccer player. Not everyone is capable of being a professional, but we can all admire and aspire to the brilliance that is displayed during a performance, on stage or on the field. My blue sky vision for Australia would be that every child sings a song every day, a new one every week. In this way, over time, opera would be seen and celebrated in the media for the marvel that it is.

What is your process for learning music when preparing for an opera, especially when you spend so much time on the road performing across the country? 

Time management is the key! I look at my diary across the year and work out when I have to start preparing and practicing for any given performance. I can have half a dozen projects on the go at any one time. If it is repertoire that I know and have performed often, the muscle memory allows me to revise and polish up to performance standard reasonably quickly. If it’s a new work, then it will take much longer, both learning the dots and preparing properly.

For young singers hoping to get started in the opera industry, what skills outside of technical proficiency do you recommend cultivating? 

Being professional, personable and innovative in your approach to the industry at all times.

What recordings couldn’t you live without (classical or otherwise)? 

Ella Fitzgerald sings the Cole Porter songbook and Bach’s St Matthew Passion directed by Nikolaus Harnoncourt plus Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro with Sir Simon Rattle, oh! and the Bach Cello Suites, Beethoven late string quartets and his Violin Concerto…and  Ravel string quartet No.1… Sade, Madeleine Peyroux, Renee Flemming and, and and….

When you’re not on stage or preparing music, what do you love to do? 

I love spending time with family and friends, eating fabulous food, watching movies, bush walking, reading,  boogie boarding and surfing, although I don’t seem to do that often enough these days! Enjoying life basically and appreciating every moment.