Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
My first inspiration was my dad – a real music lover. From a young age, he would take me to the opera, to concerts, and we would always have music playing in the house. I have a vivid memory of him explaining the story of La Traviata using images on the record cover of Zeffireli’s production with Teresa Stratas. I was probably around 10! Once I started training, my teachers at London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama became my most powerful influence and inspiration. They gave me the tools to overcome every obstacle and guided my musical development. My path in music and the performing arts is so varied that it is impossible to name all the people who have influenced me. I have worked in many different fields and repertoire – classical music, musical theatre, jazz and world music – and in every genre I have encountered amazing people who continue to inspire me.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
My greatest challenge is probably having the ability – and the desire – to embrace wildly different repertoires and styles. The performing arts world loves categories and labels, but I resist being pigeonholed and constantly push the boundaries of what I sing. I am equally comfortable singing cabaret in an intimate music venue, arias in an opera gala, musical theatre on the West End stage, or contemporary music with a sixty- piece orchestra! The other great challenge for me is trying to strike the balance between being a woman, a mother and a performer. Juggling commitments can be tricky, but thanks to the god of diaries and the help of a supportive husband, we always get there!
Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?
I’m immensely proud of being the longest ever running Carlotta in the mega-hit west end show Phantom of the Opera. The schedule was gruelling but it was very rewarding to have been part of this iconic show for such a long time. I am also very proud of my first recording, Canção, an album that draws on my cultural roots. It features Fado, the music of my homeland, Portugal; the passionate tunes of the tango maestro, Astor Piazzolla, the beautiful songs of the Brazilian composer Camargo Guarnieri and two songs by the Portuguese composer Daniel Bernardes one of the most prominent composers of his generation. The different musical languages and vocal registers of this album, suit my versatile voice, yet the album is unified, artistically, by being music from the heart. It’s a perfect expression of how I see myself at the moment, as an artist.
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
At the moment, I am loving the music of Kurt Weill, perhaps because he was a composer who worked in both the popular and the classical music world. I feel a great connection with both his operas and his musicals. I am looking forward to singing two recitals of Kurt Weil’s music at the fabulous Casa da Musica in Porto during the 2021 season. I also love the stage works of Leonard Bernstein – Candide is an absolute gem! Cunegonde is one of my favourite roles to sing, for the amazing vocal fireworks and the drama. I perform best when I feel an emotional and musical connection with the composer – it’s almost like the music comes through you, rather than from you.
What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?
Everything! When you’re a performer everything and everyone can act as an inspiration. When I play a character, or sing a song, I take inspiration from the people I meet and from every experience in daily life. I’ve drawn inspiration from the mannerisms of an eccentric person I encountered in a shop to the beautiful scenery I saw on a skiing trip. I’ve had sudden insights about how to tackle a particular musical phrase as I was cooking dinner!
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
It totally depends on my engagements that season. Sometimes I am booked to sing a specific production or a specific work. At other times I build programmes to fit a certain occasion or develop programmes around a specific theme.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
I have performed in venues around the world, but performing in the beautiful Teatro São Carlos in Lisbon is like coming home to my family. I know everyone, from the orchestra musicians, the chorus, the stage managers, the cleaning ladies. I always feel so welcome and cherished within its walls.
What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music audiences/listeners?
We need to work harder to eradicate the notion that classical music is only for a special group of people ‘in the know’. There is still a lot of snobbery in the world of classical music. I would like to see opera houses and concert venue engaging more with people from more deprived backgrounds, especially young children. I also believe that when classical musicians collaborate with other performing arts and styles they draw in new audiences. I hate the term “crossover” because it’s often associated with poor quality performances. but breaking down the boundaries between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture can bring classical music to more diverse audiences.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
Singing at the Kremlin in Moscow was special. It was January and Moscow was covered in snow – I felt like I’d been transported into a Pushkin novel! Singing in such an iconic building was amazing.
My last show as Carlotta in Phantom after playing the role for such a long time was also an unforgettable experience. The audience that night was full of fans and friends, When I stepped onto the stage for my last bow, there was an explosion of cheers and I flowers were everywhere. It was the most thunderous and generous bows I’ve ever had, and I was overcome with emotion.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
To be happy and fulfilled in what I do and to give pleasure to those who hear me. What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians? I think the most important thing is to be true to one’s self. Try to realise what is it that makes you special and different and cherish that. Be ready to work on your craft for the rest of your life! A musician’s work is a lifelong process, it is never finished! Talent is only the starting point in the adventure; there are many obstacles along the way that need to be conquered with lots of perseverance and determination.
Where would you like to be in 10 years?
Still happy and fulfilled surrounded by the people I love.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
The little things! Hugs with my children, a day at the beach, a beautiful walk , cocktails and wine!
What is your present state of mind?
A little anxious, but grateful and hopeful.
Lara Martins’ debut album CANÇÃO, a collection of 22 pieces encompassing tango, Brazilian music and Portuguese fado, is available now. More information
Lara Martins is one of the greatest internationally renowned Portuguese singers of today. An artist who combines the excellence of her vocal instrument with great sensitivity and talent in both the musical and the dramatic fields. This profile translates into the ability to shine with equal mastery in lyric singing, opera or musical theatre, where she has been for almost a decade one of the main stars in the production of The Phanthom of the Opera, in the West End of London.