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?
The earliest inspiration I had was singing in my school choir. Kevin White & Margaret Darwall-Smith were wonderful teachers and I was selected to the play the lead in the school musical, Joseph. I was probably about 11 years old. I then was awarded a choral scholarship to Seaford College where I was the head chorister. I was taught singing by Ann Lampard who was also head of the vocal department at the Junior Royal Academy and who encouraged me to take up singing professionally.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Learning to remain patient and to focus on myself rather than watching the careers of my peers. Finding a good singing teacher to continue developing my vocal technique.
Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?
I’m proud of everything I do. After the pandemic, and in this political climate, I constantly remind myself how lucky I am to be able to contribute to this incredible art form. However, jumping in as Alberich in Das Rheingold at the Royal Opera House was an incredible moment.
Which particular works/composers do you think you perform best?
In my opinion, gone are the days where you can specialise in a particular genre. Singers are required to perform all forms of music. I equally enjoy singing Bach, Handel, Wagner and Birtwistle.
What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?
Offstage my inspiration is my family. When you’re a younger singer, you’re often advised that certain roles will develop when you’ve had more life experience. Retrospectively, I can affirm that to be 100% true!
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
Repertoire often chooses itself, unless there is a schedule clash in which case there are a few considerations to make. With a young family I try to stay as close to home for as long as possible. unless it’s a dream role or the finances are too compelling!
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
I love singing in the Royal Albert Hall. The magnitude, acoustic and atmosphere are second to none.
What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music’s audiences?
I believe keeping music in schools – or reintroducing music into schools – is imperative to maintaining and growing classical music audiences and performers. Experiencing live music in all its forms is visceral, whether as an audience member or collaborator.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
As a student I went to see an oratorio in a local church. One of the soloists had a fit of uncontrollable giggles, tears running down their face. Unforgettable.
From a performing experience, my first post-pandemic concert was Fauré’s Requiem at Cadogan Hall with Hilary Davan Wetton and the RPO. It was really quite overwhelming to sing that piece, having been deprived of experiencing any live music for so long.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
I think any musician who can communicate a piece of music or deliver an experience to an audience through their performance or interpretation has on some level succeeded.
What advice would you give to young/aspiring musicians?
Believe in yourself. Enjoy what you do. Stay focussed and patient and keep studying – not necessarily in that order!!
What’s the one thing in the music industry we’re not talking about which you think we should be?
The danger of nepotism perpetuating the opinion of elitism in classical music
Understudying Wozzeck at the Royal Opera House with Antonio Pappano
Where would you like to be in 10 years?
Still improving and performing in a thriving, stable UK classical music environment.
James Cleverton appears with the R0yal Choral Society in their Good Friday performance of Handel’s Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall on 7th April. More information
Baritone James Cleverton has appeared in principal roles at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, English National Opera, Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Scottish Opera, Welsh National Opera, Opera North, Opernhaus Zürich, Salzburg Festival, St Gallen, Opéra de Rennes and the major UK opera festivals.
Recent performances include Das Rheingold for the Royal Opera House, Akhnaten, Satyagraha, Jack the Ripper the Women of Whitechapel and The Mask of Orpheus for ENO, Alzira for the Buxton International Music Festival, La Traviata for WNO, ROH and Opera North, The Magic Flute for Scottish Opera, Iris for Opera Holland Park and baritone soloist for the European premiere of Roberto Sierra’s Missa Latina with the Orquesta y Coro Nacional at the Madrid National Concert Hall under the baton of Karen Kamensek.