This week, I caught up with mezzo soprano, Jennifer Parker who will be singing in the Buxton Festival Chorus this year. She has recently completed her Masters degree at the Royal Northern College of Music.
Have you always known you wanted to be a singer, or did it develop over time?
When I was a little girl I was desperate to be a writer, and was always reading and scribbling. Comparatively I came to singing very late in life and didn’t start having proper lessons until I was 24 years old, and I had an amazing teacher who was a real inspiration. It wasn’t until I was accepted at the RNCM in my late twenties that I began to imagine I could be lucky enough to make singing my career!
How did you land your first opera role?
My first opera role was that of Valencienne in Lehar’s The Merry Widow at the RNCM, and Stefan Janski once told me that he had cast me for my naughty personality – which I suppose is open to many interpretations!
What made you apply to audition for the Buxton Festival Chorus?
I was really eager to audition for the Buxton Festival because of its fantastic commitment to young singers like myself as it offers a host of opportunities to cover roles and perform a variety of repertoire in a range of settings, whilst always maintaining the highest standards of singing.
You are covering a role in one of the Festival’s operas this year. Could you tell us a little more about the role?
I am really excited to be covering the role of Tamerlano, the Emperor of the Tartars at this year’s festival. For those who don’t know the opera, Tamerlano is a mighty leader who is very accustomed to getting his own way no matter what; so when he decides he wants to marry the daughter of his most illustrious prisoner, the Sultan of the Turks, and things don’t go according to plan, he behaves very badly indeed – until he finally sees the error of his ways and his true love talks some sense into him.
Is there a particular opera in this year’s Festival programme that you are looking forward to performing in?
I am particularly excited about the performances of I Capuleti e i Montecchi because the music is so wonderful and it appeals to my former life as an English Literature student – especially given it is 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.
How do you start learning a role? Do you approach a role differently each time?
My approach to learning a role varies based on the different demands it places, though for me the most important thing is having a very clear plan. I like to work very methodically through the role and have specific milestones in the process so I am never tempted to leave anything to the last minute or rush anything. As a general rule I always start with the recit as I like to learn it as a script without music first to get the speech-like qualities and language just right; and then anything with coloratura as the quicker I can get that into my muscle memory the better as I will then use these parts of the role to warm up before starting work.
For people who are less familiar with opera, is there a particular album or show that you’d recommend?
For those who are less familiar with opera I would always recommend something funny and English – something like Albert Herring or The Old Maid and the Thief. These pieces are just brilliant, and hopefully would serve to dispel the illusion that opera is stuffy and boring!
What has been the most memorable opera production or concert that you have performed in?
I was fortunate enough to work at Opera Holland Park last year and was part of their wonderful production of Aida. Their re-imagining of the story reset the action to the 1980’s and a decadent party in an antiquities museum. As the party went on we all got wilder and wilder until during the triumphal march scene when all hell breaks loose and, following a strip tease, I ended up upside down and crowd surfing! It was memorable to say the least!
What would be your dream operatic role and why?
I would love the chance to sing the role of Charlotte in Massenet’s Werther one day. Not only is the music breathtakingly beautiful and fascinating to perform as the composer is so specific in his notation, but she is also a very nuanced and intriguing character – someone who has always tried to do the right thing but ends up completely heart broken because of it.
Is there a particular opera singer you really admire?
I am an ardent fan of Sarah Connolly and am a great admirer of her dramatic talents as well as her outstanding musical ones – and I had the incredible opportunity to perform in a masterclass with her whilst at college. Needless to say I was very star struck!
The Tamerlano cover show is on Tuesday 19 July 2-3pm at the Palace Hotel.
Lily Bracegirdle Executive Assistant