When you watch a Welsh National Opera performance, you can’t help but marvel at the talent of the singers on stage, but what does it take for them to get there? We sat down with two members of WNO Chorus, Angharad Morgan (Soprano) and Francesca Saracino (Mezzo-Soprano) to learn about their journey into the magical world of opera.
When did you first start singing?
Francesca: I started training my voice at 8 years old when I joined my local amateur opera company. I loved it and that led me to take private lessons until I was 16, when I left home to study at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester. After school, I wanted a break from music and study, so I moved back home and worked as a temp for a year. Four happy years at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire followed, and I was offered my first professional opera contract in my final year.
Angharad: I first started training at 18, having singing lessons with Penny Ryan in Swansea while I was in sixth form – her enthusiasm and confidence in me helped me discover my love for opera and encouraged me to train further. I trained at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama where I completed my BMus and PGDip, before taking some time out to become a bank manager. I then continued my studies at the Wales International Academy of Voice.
Do you still receive vocal tuition?
Francesca: I still have the same voice teacher I had at music college, the mezzo-soprano, Christine Cairns, who has been crucial in my development over the past 15+ years. Over time I’ve found a vocal warm up routine that works for me that incorporates voice as well as the body, mind and spirit. While going through a difficult time in my life, I developed such bad acid reflux, I stopped singing altogether for several months. As soon as life started to get better, the reflux began to subside, and I found my voice again. I also worked closely with a sports psychologist, which helped me enormously. It took me a while to realise, but self-care is essential when your body is your instrument: wellbeing and good singing go hand in hand.
Angharad: I have singing lessons regularly with my teacher along with coaching sessions in between and if I have a role to learn I also have coaching at work. I try and ensure that I warm my voice up daily, even when I’m not working to give me some structure to my day. I love singing so even when my toddler is screaming at me (he hates me singing!) I still sing.
What advice would you give to someone aiming for a career in opera/singing?
Francesca: Do what feels right to you regardless of what everyone else is doing. There is no one-size-fits-all journey to being an opera professional so just follow what feels best and enjoy the journey.
Angharad: A teacher once told me ‘The singing is the easy part'. At the time I didn't know what she meant, but now I think I understand. There is so much to learn: technique, performance, text, language and with so many people advising you they all have different ideas. My advice would be - be true to yourself, know what you want from singing, know what you’re singing about and believe in yourself.
If you’re interested in starting to sing or exploring the world of opera, WNO Youth Opera provides fantastic performing opportunities for those aged 8-25. If you have already embarked on your journey into opera, the WNO Associate Artist programme also provides young professionals with world-class experiences within the Company.