The 50th anniversary of West Australian Opera was recently celebrated with a brand-new production of The Merry Widow, in which you performed the role of Hanna Glavari - the rich and exuberant title character. Can you tell me about the role and what the production period looked like?
Firstly, what an honour to be involved in such an auspicious year with the company, celebrating 50 years. I'm thrilled to have played the extraordinary character, Hanna. She's gorgeous, a down to earth farm girl come elegant and sophisticated socialite who chances upon the love of her life, Danilo. What followed was two very proud people coming to grips with the past and daring each other to commit to the future. I adored them both.
You initially completed your musical training as a cellist before moving your focus to opera singing: what was that transition like and has your string playing influenced the way you approach the learning of vocal music?
It was extremely beneficial studying to be an instrumentalist first, it gives you grounding and a better understanding of operatic scores and greater insight to your conductors and orchestras. For me, it was the right way around as far as my operatic study was concerned.
Travelling across Australia is a large part of your work as a freelance opera singer, as are long hours in and out of the rehearsal room. How do you find a good balance between work and down time? Do you have any tried and true methods for looking after yourself on the road?
Down time, what's that?! My work is my work and my down time. My greatest joy is creating and playing around in amongst beautiful music, great colleagues, with wondrous directors, choreographers, costume designers. I adore my job, it's my everything.
Travel tips, tried and true? I always have a little bag full of pills and potions. Vitamins, a steamer and Friar's Balsam - a tincture I use to steam with, excellent stuff!
You’re also no stranger to the musical theatre stage, having performed as Eliza Doolittle many times in My Fair Lady for Opera Australia. Has your work in the musical theatre world had an impact on the way your approach character development in operatic work and how do you make sure you’re always putting your best voice forward, regardless of genre?
Certainly doing My Fair Lady taught me stamina, discipline and gave me focus for an 8 show a week mentality. However, I approach all my characters the same way, regardless of genre. I am very text driven, so it is always the text I start with.
I ask myself what am I saying to describe myself, but more importantly, what are others saying about me, this gives greater insight to who I am as a character.
For young singers about to embark on a young artist program journey, do you have any suggestions for making them most of your time in this semi-professional, semi-educational environment?
NEVER stop working, practising, reading. Take that ballet class you were putting off, go to that acting class and in your holidays go to Europe and learn Italian. If you want to be a singer you must never stop learning.
If you could go back to the start of your time as a freelance opera singer, what wisdom would you share with yourself about the profession?
It's taken me a while to answer this question, because on one level everything I've done, all the failures and successes have added up to what I've achieved thus far in my career. I have a pretty thick skin from the profession, which I think is important, I suppose I would reassure my younger self that you'll be criticized, criticized to make you a better performer and not to take it personally.
I probably would have started earlier too, so I could have entered competitions that potentially could have given me greater access to over seas opportunities. But to be honest, I am where I need to be and that's a nice place to be.