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?
I always loved singing and as a child I used to sing constantly from the moment I woke up until going to sleep (I actually have a daughter who does the same thing…!), but I didn’t grow up in a musical family, so opera and classical music weren’t really on the radar. I loved folk music and spent a lot of time singing and playing my guitar. I joined the school choir and it took off from there. It wasnt until I went to music college and started having lessons with my teacher (Marilyn Rees) that I discovered opera. She is a technician and really impressed on me the importance of a good technique. I still learn with her today and over the years I’ve come to regard her as one of my closest friends. I’d say that she has been a huge influence on me. Obviously the great singers such as Mirella Freni and Lucia Popp have been a massive inspiration too.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
By far the biggest challenge in my career to date has been trying to manage my family life alongside my career. I have three children aged 5 and under, and my husband also has a very busy and demanding career, so it is incredibly hard. If anything, it has made me more determined to continue to have a successful career and to be a good role model for them. I also find that I need that work/life balance. There have been times where I have wondered whether I can continue this incredibly demanding career, but I need it. I love the music, I love singing and I love the feeling of making wonderful music with such talented colleagues. It’s so good for my soul, it also gives me a some head space too!
Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?
I’d say the performance I am most proud of would be when I sang Creuse in Sir David McVicar’s production of Medée by Charpentier at Grand Théâtre de Genève. It was the first time I had sung French Baroque and aside from having some sublime music to sing, she is quite a complex character and goes on quite a journey. It was also incredible to work with Anna Caterina Antonacci: watching her scene sand being on stage with her was like a masterclass in stagecraft. She was a truly terrifying Medée. I think that when you work with such artists its impossible not to up your game otherwise you get left behind. I also had brought my 2 year old and my 3 month old with me…. There was so many challenges to that job…but I am proud of it.
In terms of recordings, I have a recording of Herrmann’s Wurthering Heights coming out in July this year which is a stunning piece of music and something I feel very fortunate to have been asked to do. I sang Cathy and Roderick Williams sang Heathcliff. We recorded it last year with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra for Chandos and it was conducted my Mario Venzago.
Which particular works/composers do you think you perform best?
I have spent the most part of my career singing Baroque repertoire and I feel incredibly comfortable singing this music. It fits my voice and I feel a deep and natural affinity with this style of music. However, as I am getting older my voice is changing (three children will also do that to any woman’s voice!), and I am starting to perform some of the more dramatic Handel roles such as Rodelina and Alcina. I also sing a lot of Mozart – Pamina and Susanna for example. I would love to sing Fiordiligi too. Two of my dream roles though are Blanche in Dialogues des Carmelites and Melisande in Pelleas et Melisande.
What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?
I live a full and varied life. Balance. I strongly feel that if you are happy in your personal life it will feed your work life and vice versa. I have an amazing group of friends and family and we all have different focuses in our lives and careers or not, but they are all amazing and are a constant source of inspiration.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
It completely depends on what I get booked for! But if I’m having a quieter patch of work I will pick up some Dvorak or Rachmaninoff songs.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
Well, obviously the Royal Albert Hall. [Keri performs with the Royal Choral Society in their Good Friday performance of Handel’s Messiah.] I have sung here a lot now and it’s still a very special stage to be on. In terms of acoustic, there is something remarkable about the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. I recently sang Galatea in a mise en espace by Pierre Audi of Acis and Galatea there with the Concertgebouw Orchestra and Leonardo Garcia Alarcon. The theatre is a magical place to perform and I cant wait to go back.
What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music’s audiences?
Very, very tough question. Everyone is trying so hard and the theatre and opera companies are really thinking outside the box to do everything they can to make classical music more accessible and to grow our audiences. The problem is at the top. The funding is completely inadequate and the attitude towards classical music is entirely wrong, so until the attitudes of the decision makers change, it will always be an uphill struggle for the people trying to deliver it.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
I was singing a recital years ago at Wigmore Hall and my eyes got so dry one of my contact lens popped out midway through a song! Think that was Rachmaninoff.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
I have no idea. I just want to be happy and to be sure that everyone around me is also happy. Surely that is success.
What advice would you give to young/aspiring musicians?
Keep going, trust yourself, be daring…keep learning. Don’t be late for rehearsals.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A full night’s sleep. And the hot summer sun on my skin listening to Joni Mitchell.
What is your most treasured possession?
I was gifted a beautiful baby grand piano….and also an old grey/blue leather jacket that I bought in Camden Passage Islington abut 15 years ago!
What is your present state of mind?
I’m in a work state of mind as Im about to go and sing some Bach for an upcoming concert as soon as I finish this sentence.
Keri Fuge sings with the Royal Choral Society in their Good Friday performance on Handel’s Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall on 7th April. Details here
Keri studied at the Guildhall School of Music and the National Opera Studio where she was sponsored by The Glyndebourne New Generation Programme. All areas of her study are supported by The Tillett Trust, The Harold Hyam Wingate Foundation, The Mario Lanza Trust, The Stapley Trust.
Operatic engagements have included Cupid / Rossi’s Orfeo Royal Opera House, Covent Garden at the Globe Theatre, Poppea / Agrippina Brisbane Baroque in Australia, Flavia / Lucio Silla International Händel-Festspiele Göttingen, Amore / Orfeo ed Euridice Bregenz Landestheater, Atalanta / Xerxes Early Opera Company, Aquilio / Pergolesi’s Adriano in Siria Slowacki Theater, Kraków, Barbarina / Le Nozze di Figaro for the Glyndebourne Tour and Aline / The Sorcerer Buxton Opera House. She has covered the roles of Despina / Cosi fan tutte and Dona Isabel / Indian Queen for English National Opera, Gretel / Hansel and Gretel for the Glyndebourne Tour and Barbarina and Chocholka / The Cunning Little Vixen for the Glyndebourne Festival.