Singing live at the National Opera Studio (May 2021)

It was amazing to be able to sing, at last, in a space that wasn’t me screaming directly into the microwave (the curse of tiny kitchens). This week, I was back in London with the Serena Fenwick Programme, for two days of aria coaching with the wonderful Liz Rowe, and the fabulous Sir Mark Elder.

I prepared my current favourite aria to sing – Donde lieta – but even going in with the confidence that I had learned the piece inside and out wasn’t quite enough to get over the terror of singing live in front of people for the first time in many many months. I knew my voice had changed and I had a new teacher, but I’d always been just practicing in my kitchen, so it was impossible to know what sound was actually going to come out of my mouth in a bigger space.

There are so many more unknowns in live singing, and not just, can I just wear pyjama pants and hope that no-one realises. After a few conversations with the others on the course, I was relieved and saddened to hear that everyone was feeling the same. I’ve spent a lot of time getting over my stage fright and it felt like I’d taken three steps back. It was the perfect opportunity for re-immersion though – everyone was feeling anxious, and everyone was giving out such loving vibes, and just pure excitement to be singing together. It was one of the best weekends I’d had in a long time.

I was also incredibly fortunate to get a chance to sing with the beautiful mezzo, Honor Whiteley. We threw ourselves into a performance of Offenbach’s ‘Barcarolle’ from Les contes d’Hoffmann, and I almost cried at the pure excitement of singing, in-person, at the same time as another human. It didn’t help that Honor has the most beautifully rich voice. It also didn’t help that I was desperately trying to remember how to pronounce ‘nuit’ in such a way that it didn’t actually sound like I was saying ‘noodle’ (‘nouille’) rather than ‘night’. ‘Beautiful noodle, oh noodle of love’ has a very different vibe to what I imagine Offenbach intended.

It was a great experience all around and great fun to work with Liz again, and to have the chance to fan-girl over Mark (I still have my signed programme from my first ever trip to a professional concert at the Hallé).

I cannot wait to see what’s in store for the next weekend of the programme; some musical theatre and baroque.

Honourable mentions to the other fab singers on the programme who were there this weekend: Caroline Taylor (soprano), Yuliya Shkvarko (soprano), Charlotte Yeoman (soprano), Maya Colwell (mezzo), Em Rooke (soprano), Peter Martin (tenor), Hilary Cronin (soprano), and Harry Kersley (tenor).

Thanks also to Stuart Barker for hosting and answering all our questions, Freya Dawes for sorting all our queries beforehand, and to National Opera Studio for hosting us all.

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