Famous people with operatic links

22 May 2024

Pop superstar Taylor Swift will take to the stage at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium as part of her Eras World Tour where she’ll perform hits from all of her albums, spanning 18 years, in one incredible three-and-a-half hour show. One song from her setlist, Marjorie, is about her relationship with her late-grandmother who was an opera singer and at one point during the number, Swift ‘duets’ with her as a recording of her voice is used as back-up vocals. Marjorie Finlay, Swift’s maternal grandmother, was a coloratura soprano and performed in operas in Puerto Rico in the 1950s, before relocating to Singapore in the ‘60s where she most notably performed the lead in Smetana’s The Bartered Bride. 

Taylor Swift is not the only celebrity with opera in her blood; let’s look at some other stars who are more classical than you may think. 

Pussycat Doll and Olivier Award Winner Nicole Scherzinger is a self-proclaimed ‘classically trained opera singer’; she studied musical theatre at college and her voice spans an impressive four octaves. Scherzinger has demonstrated her vocal range as Christine alongside The Four Phantoms at The Royal Variety Performance and with Andrea Bocelli for a beautiful rendition of ‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina’ as part of ‘Bocelli Cinema’ 

In 2018, pop superstar Jason Derulo tweeted about his background in classical singing stating that he ‘was trained classically (operatically)’ along with a video clip of him performing Time to Say Goodbye, which he sampled for his hit single Goodbye with David Guetta. He also performed the number at Capital's Jingle Bell Ball in 2018 and has performed operatic versions of pop songs whilst appearing as a guest on chat shows. 

Though not a singer, actor and comedian Paul Whitehouse still has opera in his blood, and his classical connections run close to home. Whitehouse has ties to Welsh National Opera as his mother Anita was Principal Soprano with the Company, taking the lead roles in both La traviata and Aida. Whitehouse discussed his mother’s career with long-time collaborator, Bob Mortimer, on their Gone Fishing Christmas Special in 2020 where Mortimer gifted Paul a WNO branded vinyl recording of his mother singing. 

Hotel heiress Paris Hilton has turned her hand to everything from perfumes to DJing, and even starred in 2008’s American Gothic rock opera Repo! The Genetic Opera. Based on the 2002 opera of the same name, Hilton took the part of Amber Sweet, a wannabe-opera-performer who is addicted to plastic surgery. 

According to her IMDB biography, Meryl Streep’s early performing goals were opera-focussed rather than theatre or film. The switch from opera to film clearly worked out well, and the three-time Academy Award winner has even returned to her classical roots, albeit as a terrible opera singer in 2016’s biographical film Florence Foster Jenkins, about a New York heiress known for her generosity and poor singing.  

Singer-songwriter Bebe Rexha posted an ‘Interesting fact’ on Instagram explaining that she ‘wanted to be an opera singer [and] studied classical music’ accompanied by a video of her singing O mio babbino caro, from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, which we will be performing as part of Il trittico this Summer and alongside Suor Angelica on tour in the Autumn.