Delphine Galou, contralto

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?

My father is a musician, who specializes in songs for children, so I grew up in a house where we sang all the time. I even began recording songs with my father at the age of five. Then I began taking piano lessons and fell in love with classical music. Following high school I began singing lessons but even then I was not thinking of becoming a singer. Rather, I studied philosophy at university and hoped to become a teacher. Then my voice teacher, Armelle De Frondeville, encouraged me to enter a few singing competitions and auditions and I found myself accepted in 2000-2001 into the “Jeunes Voix du Rhin” programme of Strasbourg’s Opéra National du Rhin Opera Studio which is where everything really started for me.

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

Following the invaluable training of my first vocal teacher, I met a German coach at the Jeunes Voix du Rhin who suggested that I sing as a contralto rather than a mezzo soprano and it was a real awakening for me. I had been singing mezzo repertoire until then but everything seemed too high and when she had me try Giulio Cesare I suddenly understood that I was home!

I continued on this path until I met Ottavio Dantone, (several years later he would become my husband!) who had behind him years of studying baroque musical language and interpretation and who influenced me with his musical knowledge. Making music with him was so natural but also so deep. He’s extremely demanding and our rehearsals at home can sometimes be a bit tense but later we laugh about it and ultimately it does not diminish the joy we have in working together.

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

To be a mother and a professional singer at the same time and trying to maintain the right balance between family and career.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

Every performance after which people have come up to me to say they enjoyed it or were touched by the performance has given me great pride. I am also quite proud of my first solo recording, Agitata, with Accademia Bizantina and Ottavio Dantone. It began as an intimate project to create a program of mostly unknown sacred music for organ and voice that we could perform in churches. It ended up being a recording that won the 2018 Gramophone Awards “Best Recital Album” of the year!

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

I’ve always loved Italian Baroque operas and sacred music and now that I speak Italian fluently and understand its subtleties and the rhythm of the words I can finally sing this music as it should be sung.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

In general I am guided by the programmes in which I am invited to participate each season. I can sing just about any Baroque repertoire with ease so there is no need to pace myself, as there is with singers working on later operas, before tackling a particular composer’s work.

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

I enjoy singing everywhere including churches and venues where baroque music is rarely performed. I once performed in a prison with Les Musiciens du Louvre that was the most moving experience I’ve ever had. Of course, if we want to talk about more “official” venues, I have to say that a concert a few years ago at La Scala with Ottavio was one of the most magical moments of my career.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I accepted to substitute at the last minute in Handel’s Rinaldo at the opera theatre in Reggio Emilia, Italy. I had accepted thinking I would be singing in the orchestra pit with my score (because I had sung the role only once, 3 years before) but when I arrived everything was already planned to have me sing on stage. I had to learn the whole role and the staging by heart in one day. Thankfully it was with Ottavio who was an enormous help and inspiration.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Not to look for success but to share the happiness of making music and to touch the audience with one’s sincerity.

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

To be humble and do this job for the love of making music, and not to satisfy a super-ego!

To trust themselves but to be opened to criticism because it’s always a way of improvement.

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

Teaching in our home in the countryside, recording unknown music with Accademia Bizantina and Ottavio and making concerts just for the pleasure, without pressure

Delphine Galou was born in Paris. Additionally to her studies of philosophy at the Sorbonne, she also studied the piano and singing. In 2004, she was selected “Discovery of the Year” by the French Association for the Promotion of Young Artists ADAMI.

She started her career as a member of the ensemble of the “Jeunes Voix du Rhin”. She then decided to specialise in the baroque repertoire, collaborating with ensembles such as Balthasar Neumann Ensemble (Thomas Hengelbrock), I Barocchisti (Diego Fasolis), Accademia Bizantina (Ottavio Dantone), Collegium 1704 (Václav Luks), the Venice Baroque Orchestra (Andrea Marcon), Il Complesso Barocco (Alan Curtis), Les Siècles (François-Xavier Roth), Les Arts Florissants (Jonathan Cohen), Le Concert des Nations (Jordi Savall), Ensemble Matheus (Jean-Christophe Spinosi), Les Musiciens du Louvre (Marc Minkowski), Le Concert d’Astrée (Emmanuelle Haïm), Les Ambassadeurs (Alexis Kossenko) and Les Talens Lyriques (Christophe Rousset).

She has performed at Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Angers Nantes Opéra, Opéra de Montpellier, Royal Opera House London, Theater St Gallen, Theater Basel, Handel Festival in Karlsruhe, Schwetzingen Festival, Staatsoper Berlin, Theater an der Wien and the Maggio Musicale in Firenze.

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Artist photo by Giulia Papetti

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