4 October 2017
Ahead of the inaugural Scholars’ Recital at the Wigmore Hall in October 2017, we sit down with this year’s scholarship recipients to talk about their journey so far and what they’re looking forward to as they embark on their professional careers.
Independent Opera: Tell us a bit about how you got into singing and your first experience of opera...
Jade Moffat: I actually started off playing trombone when I was really young, from about the age of 10 I was just obsessed with jazz. I think even then I knew my life was going to be something to do with music. One day my mum bought me tickets to go and see Carmen with Opera Queensland, it was the Francesca Zambello production. I’d started singing for some of the big bands, jazz bands that I was playing for and decided that maybe I’d like to pursue singing a bit more and have some lessons and it just so happened that my singing teacher was classically based. I fell in love with the stories of opera and lieder and the poetry. When I applied to go to the conservatoire in Queensland, I didn’t know exactly what opera meant and what it entailed as a career but it just intrigued me so much, I fell in love with the classical side of music as well.
I did my bachelor degree at the conservatoire and then Opera Queensland offered me a place on the young artist programme. I was so young, 20 or so, but it really showed me how an opera company works, what’s expected of us and how prepared we need to be. I was really lucky to have those foundations coming here to the UK. I actually got to be in the same production of Carmen a few years after I’d seen it, which was a really special experience. Once I got into a company and had the opportunity to work with them, I knew that I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
IO: You’ve recently been working with Clonter Opera on The Marriage of Figaro, how was that experience?
JM: It was amazing. Figaro is a huge opera and we staged the whole thing in 10 days, so it was quite a massive task to undertake. Stephen Medcalf was directing and he was just wonderful, he was so positive and that made it a really fun experience. We had to find joy in it, otherwise it would be terrifying. I hope to work with Stephen again, it was a lot of fun.
IO: What would you say have been your performance highlights from the past year?
JM: Radamisto, at Guildhall School of Music & Drama, was one of the highlights for me, because it was my chance to do a big role and see if I could do it, if I had it in me, which was a great experience. Probably the biggest highlight in my second year was doing The Tale of Januarie, the new opera by Julien Philips; Stephen Plaice wrote the libretto, which was in middle English. I’ve never had so much fun doing a production, from the very start when we were sight reading this completely new sound world that Julien was creating. It was such a nice process to be involved in, Martin [Duncan] directing, gave us artistic license to have fun with it. It was an incredible opportunity to have roles written for us and our voices and we were able to talk about what worked for us and what didn’t. It was just great to learn how to talk about that with a composer, it was such an interesting process and has made me consider pursuing new music more.
IO: Are there any directors or conductors you’d be keen to work with in the future?
JM: As I mentioned before, Stephen [Medcalf] has really spiked my interest, he’s got an amazing knowledge of opera. I had a small role in The Marriage of Figaro and only got to work with him on a few sessions, but I found it really interesting and inspiring. As far as conductors go, I’ve always wanted to work with Simone Young, she was the youngest female to be the resident conductor at Opera Australia and now she’s taking the world by storm. So, if I could work with her, that would be pretty special I think.
IO: Are there any other musicians you look up to?
JM: Absolutely, I think growing up for me it was Janet Baker, she is definitely my inspiration. Just her poise and the way that she uses text, I listened to her a lot. At the moment, I have been listening to a lot of Anne Sofie von Otter, I think she’s incredible, she’d got this amazing repertoire of lieder and song, and I really admire her crossover stuff as well. She’s done covers of Sting songs, Björk, she did a whole album of Elvis Costello pieces, all for string quartet. She plays with the genre a bit, which I really admire. One of the highlights in the last year was seeing Werther at the Royal Opera House, because singing Charlotte is probably my dream role. It was Joyce DiDonato as well, who’s sort of an idol of mine, it was fantastic to have that opportunity.
IO: How are you feeling ahead of the Scholars’ Recital?
JM: It’s a completely different feeling presenting a recital compared to a competition, so I’m excited. I think any young singer has this on their bucket list. I’m really looking forward to it and also the process of working with other young singers and getting to know them, working on fantastic repertoire. I’ve always loved Brahms and as a mezzo - I think mezzo’s always love Brahms – he’s written some great pieces. 'Von ewiger liebe' is one of my favourite pieces to sing, so it’s going to be a real highlight.
IO: Final question, if you could visit yourself in your first year of study, what advice would you give to your younger self?
JM: I think the advice I’d give to myself starting out in London would have probably been to believe in myself a bit more. It was a big shock to see how different the standard was, with language and things like that. To trust that I’ve worked hard enough and that I will keep up. It’s probably the same advice I’d give myself starting out in Australia as well. You’ve got to learn to be confident, there are a lot of singers who are naturally confident and I really admire that in people, but I’ve got to work quite hard to feel like I’ve done a good job. But that’s just one of those things that comes with being an artist, you’re your own worst critic.
Something my teacher said to me, when I was back doing my bachelor degree, but it’s stuck with me all the way through. She used to say ‘Think, Let, Trust’, and if you’ve done the preparation all you need to do is concentrate and let it happen and trust it and it’ll be fine, which was really good advice. It helps to keep me in the moment.
Jade is performing from Oct-Dec 2017 in Hamlet with the Glyndebourne Tour chorus.