Who or what inspired you to take up singing, and pursue a career in music?
I started listening to music from a very young age; my grandparents used to play records of Flanders and Swann and Victorian parlour songs when I was very small. I began the piano aged five, on a baby grand Stürne, which my Papa (my grandfather) had restored for me and which I still play to this day. From there we realised that I had sort of a knack for music and since I wasn’t much good at anything else at school, it became quite important to me. From there I studied oboe, which I confess I hated, and after singing in school choirs for most of my young life I started having singing lessons around the age of twelve. I was fortunate enough to have a young Hungarian opera singer as my first teacher. She encouraged me to take my singing further and audition for a music school, which I did and I joined Wells Cathedral School as a specialist singer age thirteen. It was a natural fit right from the very beginning and I loved it.
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
I think the most important influences have come through my love of song. My dedication to German Lieder began in my undergraduate degree while studying with Richard Stokes. From there, working with the likes of Eugene Asti, Graham Johnson, Alisdair Hogarth, Lada Valesova and others have been a constant source of inspiration. I’ve been so lucky to have worked with these incredible musicians so early on in my career! I was also extremely lucky to have found my teacher, Janice Chapman, when I did. Rather than steering my career in any direction, she has enabled me to make my own path. Her knowledge of voice teaching has meant that I have so many choices, giving me total freedom in my performances, which is so important to me when working on my interpretation of songs!
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
I think having a real fear of failing holds me back and it is hard to switch off, particularly when auditioning and working abroad and you don’t have the comfort of home. Also staying authentic as an artist. Listening to your gut and staying true to your own artistry is hard. To present what you like and not to try and please absolutely everyone around you!
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
Our recent Classic FM Facebook live from the Wigmore Hall recording of love songs for Valentine’s Day was so lovely! It was so much fun and I loved the music! Singing Schumann and Mendelssohn at the Mendelssohn-Saal of the Gewandhaus for Peter Schreier and an almost exclusively German audience was exhilarating! Also performing Verdi songs at the Barbican was a highlight!
Which particular works do you think you play best?
Russian Song has been so special in the early stages of my career. It’s something that is often neglected and I think from very early on it has been something that has always suited my voice. I love the colours which Rachmaninov creates for the voice through the text. It is a language that is wonderful to sing in for me. I always feel at my best when performing Russian Song andI love every second of it which is so important! The Korngold ‘Lieder des Abschieds’ are also proving to be great for my voice. Although usually performed by mezzo’s, it is not specified which voice they are written for and I have found that they work particularly well with the natural colours in my voice.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
At the moment my voice is still changing all the time. When you’re starting out as a young singer it can quite often feel like your voice is calling the shots! I try to do as much recital work as I can as this is my passion and I am really only just breaking into the world of opera this season; I am understudying Pamina as an Alvarez Young Artist this summer.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
For me, like so many others I am sure, it would have to be the Wigmore Hall. There are no limits with what you can explore in song in that venue. You can whisper and the back row will hear it. So your choices are limitless. I am so excited to be performing there again in June with Alisdair Hogarth and Andrew Staples. Wells Cathedral will always be special to me as one of my first significant venues to perform in, it’s magical. Actually the Mendelssohn-Saal of the Gewandhaus in Leipzig was also so lovely, it was really warm and inviting.
Who are your favourite musicians?
The late Dmitri Hvorostovsky, he was always a wonderful artist and musician. He sang for the love of the music and it was all there. Nina Simone, because again she was such an authentic artist; and the other amazing Nina, Nina Stemme, her voice has the ability to be so powerful and yet so intimate in settings like the Wigmore Hall.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
I think seeing Bryn Terfel sing Die Meistersinger at the Royal Opera House, in particular the quintet “Selig wie die Sonne” which has become one of my all-time favourite pieces of music. The five of them were stood in spotlights right at the front of the stage, it was absolutely magical. And seeing Nina Stemme sing the Wagner Wesendonk lieder at the Wigmore – I do love Wagner!
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
Working with people you respect and can have a great time with, on music that you all mutually love! What could be better! I consider myself ridiculously lucky in that regard already.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Trust your gut. Sing what you love. Learn from everyone you can, but at the end of the day you have to be true to you and find your team of people you trust. Be a good colleague and have a great time!
Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
I’d love to be doing what I am doing now, but just a lot more of it! As many recitals as I can. Exploring the worlds of German Lieder and Russian song as there is always more to learn! And working more in the world of opera… and to have learnt how to completely master nerves!! Preferably in a nice little house somewhere in Sussex with my Russian cat Luka.
6th June at Wigmore Hall – Verity Wingate, Alisdair Hogarth and Andrew Staples perform songs by Vaughan Williams, Britten, Michael Anderson among others…
11th June – Hertforshire Festival of Music: “Four Dappled Things”, a recital of music by the pianist and composer Stephen Hough.