30 September 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.
Graduating from the Royal Academy of Music this year, Nika Gorič received the Queen’s Commendation of Excellence and has recently finished the Georg Solti Accademia Bel Canto Course, in Italy.
Independent Opera: Having made the big move from Slovenia to London, we’re keen to know what led you into opera and singing in the first place, and how you came to study at RAM?
Nika Gorič: The most significant moment happened when I was a child. My mum and dad were, both involved with our theatre in Slovenia. My mother’s children’s choir still performs in all productions at the Slovene National Theatre. I was 7 when I sang in Puccini’s Turandot, as one of the Angels. Later on I also sang in La Boheme and Carmen, that’s how I fell in love with the opera. As a child, watching the process of creating and putting on an opera was magic; it still is.
I did ballet for 13 years. I only started singing lessons when I was 16. After two years of lessons, my teacher said that she thought I needed to continue my studies at the university, so I went to study at the University for Music and Performing Arts Graz. 180 people auditioned there, and 10 of us were selected. Getting into Graz was a real turning point in my life.
I was having a masterclass with Angelika Kirchschlager and so I asked her what she thought about the Royal Academy of Music. She was so positive and said ‘Oh! Royal Academy would love you, you have to go!’ and although London seemed quite a long and impossible way to go - I thought ‘what have I got to lose?’.
The Royal Academy became my home, it made me feel like I was part of something and that I mattered as an individual. The Academy offers all sorts of opportunities, I started working with student conductors and répétiteurs and formed lots of new friendships. As I started to make music with other students I could see we were growing together: you realise that it’s not about you being accompanied by someone, it is about the connection – the story telling that you both do.
IO: You’ve got a busy schedule up to the recital and beyond, what are you most looking forward to?
NG: Next season is quite busy. I’m singing in Brahms’ Requiem at St Johns Smiths Square in November. I will also be giving recitals in Slovenia, France, Italy and will be touring in Australia with the Australian Chamber Orchestra and Richard Tognetti. It will be lovely to spend the winter in warm Australia in a company of such distinguished musicians!
I also can’t wait to get the score of ‘Ubuquity’ from Slovenian composer Vito Žuraj. The Philharmonia Orchestra and the Royal Festival Hall are putting on an evening dedicated to his compositions. This will be the world première of the piece, written for soprano and orchestra. I am privileged that they have chosen me to sing it.
...it’s about being fully committed to it. If you love it, then nothing will seem like hard work.
IO: How has this last year been for you?
NG: Last Summer (2016) I was professionally engaged in a Messiah in Bordeaux, that gave me a real insight into the profession and what to expect. After Bordeaux, I went to Salzburg where I was a young artist at the Salzburg Festival and sang Titania in a new production of The Fairy Queen. The experience was indescribable. In Salzburg everything is possible, there are no creative limitations. Whatever the designers, directors, choreographers can dream up - it’s doable. The ideal for how everything in the art world should be.
I’m very grateful to The Royal Academy for the roles they selected me for in 2016/17 - Eurydice in Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld and Polly in Weill’s The Threepenny Opera. My repertoire is expanding all the time, which I hope will give me the grounding to go into a professional company.
As each year passes I feel more prepared for the profession. As a musician, you always hope to grow, improve and be challenged. I’ve been really lucky to perform Norina in Donizetti’s Don Pasquale at the Slovene National Theatre as well. Then there’s concert work, singing at the Oxford Festival and Midsummer Music Festival, solo recitals at the Wigmore Hall and Colston Hall.
Travelling more for work, and for auditions, this year helped me realise how important it is to believe in yourself. On the way to building a career, you’ll get knocked back and realise that there are things you can’t control – but each audition is a seed and you don’t know what it will grow into.
IO: What about the Scholars’ Recital are you looking forward to?
NG: The repertoire is actually very diverse, from baroque to modern, which I really enjoy, and I think it challenges a singer’s flexibility.
James [Baillieu] is wonderful! He’s one of the best pianist I know: he once played so beautifully for me that I almost didn’t want to sing because I thought I was going to spoil it! He’s a fantastic musician and a wonderful person, so the opportunity to work with him again is pure joy. I met all the girls at the photo shoot for the concert. I’m looking forward to getting to know them better and making music with them.
IO: What advice would you give to your younger self or others in training?
NG: I think it’s about being fully committed to it. If you love it, then nothing will seem like hard work. After years of training as a ballerina I understood the discipline, sacrifices and personal investment that go into building a skill. It’s also important for young performers to invest in their languages, accept new challenges whenever they can, and push their personal and musical boundaries. In doing all of those things though, you should be true to yourself, and true to the music. I think I’d tell a younger version of myself to stick with those principles, and to keep going; I’m glad that I did.