Natalya Romaniw, soprano

Who or what inspired you to take up singing and pursue a career in music?

At the age of 12, my mother asked if I would like to take singing lessons, which she would pay for as I kept singing along to backing tracks at the top of my voice every evening after my homework was done. It was my passion even back then and I loved it. I’d say I was always encouraged by my mother and my late Dido (Ukrainian for Grandfather) who always sang with me when I was little and encouraged me musically.

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

My mother and my Dido have been the earliest influences in guiding me towards a musical career but also I have always managed to encounter teachers who were good enough to let my voice always be free and healthy and who always encouraged me. Nowadays I am heavily influenced by the great artists I am fortunate to work with, in particular Susan Bullock, the great British dramatic soprano, who always guides me to preparing for a well-paced career of longevity and who has become a real mentor to me.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

I suppose every career has its peaks and troughs and mine has certainly had both! The greatest challenge for me so far was when I moved to Houston, TX to join the studio programme there. It was a huge change for me and for my singing! It took me a while to adjust and learn more about breathing and technique but things finally started making sense and the penny dropped, finally! I am ever thankful for those difficult times as I’ve gained so much more experience from it as an artist and I am definitely all the more stronger for it

Which performance are you most proud of?

The performance I am most proud of, without a shadow of a doubt, would be the first Tatyana I ever did for Garsington Opera. It was there, that finally the culmination of everything that I’d learned and worked hard for, came together for the first time and manifested itself in a portrayal I am very proud of. Things finally started to feel easier and I put the ‘singing aspect’ of it to one side, trusted that I had done my work and began to really start to explore the character and was totally unafraid to take risks in doing so. It was truly the most liberating performance of my career to date.

Which particular works do you think you perform the best?

In my opinion the works that I perform best are the roles and characters that I relate to the most. I have recently done a lot of the Slavic heroines, Tatyana, lisa, Jenufa and the Foreign Princess and while there are more to come, I certainly would not ignore the romantic Italianate roles. I actually went on as Madama Butterfly recently while covering the role for WNO and it’s been the biggest role I’ve sung to date. It was a thrilling experience and I am sure that as long as I relate to the character and feel and breathe every second of it in the role, I will do the best job of it that I can- it’s then down to who wants to hear it!

Do you have a favourite venue to perform in and why?

I will always feel comfortable in the houses that helped me get a foot on the ladder in the earlier stages of my career. These are: Opera Holland Park, Garsington Opera and more recently Grange Park opera. There’s something really settling and almost magical about all of these festival operas and for me, there’s something homey about them that makes for a comfortable performance. I must say I am particularly looking forward to my next role as Tatyana in Eugene Onegin at the WMC for WNO. The theatre is so beautiful and it’ll be so nice to perform for my home opera company.

What is your most memorable on stage experience?

The most memorable performance is probably the stand in for WNO’s Madama Butterfly that I briefly mentioned earlier. I had a call at 11am saying “you’re on!” they were literally words I thought I’d never hear as it was a double cast show already but the pacing of the shows meant that they did in fact need a cover for evenings where they had double back performances and this was one of them! That night was unforgettable because I think, I was so calm as I had no time to worry about anything other than being at the right place at the right time onstage, the singing became completely secondary and that feeling was so liberating. I remember singing the opening line of Cio-Cio San with the wonderful chorus of WNO behind me and feeling like it was a film reel unfolding in front of my own eyes. It was surreal and an utterly thrilling night.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

I think success is what you make of it. For me I already feel a huge sense of success personally as I am here maintaining a career that I love and enjoy. Performing in front of audiences who have paid to be there and see and hear you always makes me feel slightly horrified but then it also makes me care so much about what I am able to give back in return and that gives me a huge sense of success and achievement. Of course, there’s another aspect to the success of a great career but mine is still building itself and I am in no rush to be singing leading ladies at The Met, though one day, that would be very nice!

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Believe in yourself and have integrity in what you do. I think the most honest artists tend to be the more successful ones and they’re also the ones who are most likely to be gainfully employed.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

Having said I’m in no rush to play leading ladies at The Met… in 10 years time I will be 40, so maybe I’d like to have a look in by that time. Though in all honesty, I would just like to be happily playing the roles that I love so much to audiences everywhere.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Is happiness perfect? I think true happiness is born from all the things life throws at us. We each need to experience its ups and downs in order to have a greater perspective of what happiness truly is…this is what certainly informs my art.

Currently, happiness for me is being at home in my little flat with fresh flowers in every room, my clothes back in their respective places (and not creased and crammed into a suitcase!) a full fridge and a full wine stock and a full heart!

What is your most treasured possession?

I’d say my most treasured possession, even though I can’t play it, is my piano! It’s not very grand or anything, it’s a nice digital Yamaha but It enables me to learn all my lovely roles and music and without it I would be lost.

Natalya will reprise the role of Tatanya, Eugene Onegin, for Welsh National Opera from 29 September 2017.

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