Year: 2016

Travels of a Maltese Soprano: Munich, Budapest, and Malta!

As I near the end of my studies at Guildhall, I reflect back on these past six months of my life, a little taster of the opera singer’s life as a travel machine!

Nicola Said at the ROH

​​I feel very fortunate that not only do I get to do what I love every day of my life, but I also get to travel the world and see the most beautiful sights, even if most times I don’t actually have the time to play the “tourist” as trips are often short. I love staying with Airbnb because it means I get to actually meet and sometimes spend time with locals and the way they live, what they love about living there etc. It’s an extremely enriching experience, and hotel rooms can be quite dead (and more expensive) so it’s a win win!

Nicola Said, Katarzyna Balejko, Josep Ramon-Olivé

The term started off with a bang, with a performance in the Clore Studio at the Royal Opera House of the Opera Makers’ Contemporary Operas in which I sang Echo (which I have already written about in a previous blog). Of course it is highly prestigious to have been invited to perform there and needless to say it was an exciting day, as you can tell from our faces (with two of my colleagues, Josep Ramon-Olive and Katarzyna Balejko).

Munich by Night – Marienplatz Cathedral

Two days later I was on a plane to Munich for an audition in January, it was snowing when I arrived!! The town centre of Munich by night is breath-taking – picturesque and beautiful, it still retains the charm of an old town. My trip there was an indispensable lesson in considering audition repertoire and management of it for auditions. It also made me realise that perhaps, a young artist programme was not necessarily the next step I wanted to take in my career, which led me to consider the option of going out into the big wide professional world,

Nicola Said and Johannes Kammler

at least to gain a bit of experience before committing to more years of studying within an institution! It was also nice to meet up with current young artists in the Munich YAP, including Johannes Kammler who was kind enough to show us a few popular hang-outs in the area.

Nicola Said & Milan Siljanov

Next stop (literally) was Budapest, which I travelled to on a long night train journey with my amazing colleague Milan Siljanov! Budapest is very beautiful and retains the charms of a central European city with a twist of Eastern European – the architecture, the language and the food! We performed our Contemporary Operas there, but this time, we were in a beautiful theatre which in my opinion, made the experience far more special, because one feels like they can sing outwards (as opposed to in a studio, where the audience is very up, close and personal…you can tell what is going on in their minds…sometimes what we are performing is rather shocking, so this is not always a good thing!) 

Liszt-Akademie in Budapest
Nicola in Budapest

Nicola Said and Bethan Langford

It was back to London after that, to continue rehearsals for Guildhall’s production of The Rape of Lucretia by Benjamin Britten which we were to perform at the end of February. I was to sing the role of Lucia, a very good role for my voice type. It was a good learning experience on understanding the music of Britten, and the psychological journey of this was very deep. Both director Martin Lloyd-Evans and conductor Dominic Wheeler guided us wisely and warmly through this journey (a very disturbing piece can be rather traumatic), and it was very well-received.

Nicola Said and Elizabeth Karani

Here are a few dressing room shots with my beautiful colleagues, Elizabeth Karani who played the role of Female Chorus, and Bethan Langford who sang Lucretia.

In March I travelled to Malta to premiere the soprano solo in “Via Crucis” by talented Maltese composer, Karl Fiorini, with the Socjeta Muzikali Peace. I really do enjoy the occasions when I get to work with my fellow Maltese in Malta, and it makes me so proud to see how the musical culture is growing, slowly, but surely.

Nicola Said, Karl Fiorini and Lino Chircop in Via Crucis

The Role of Rosaura

Nicola Said as Rosaura (Le Donne Curiose by Wolf-Ferrari, Guildhall Opera)

My year’s first opera at Guildhall last term was Le Donne Curiose by Wolf-Ferrari. It can be slightly daunting taking on a role in an opera which you never even heard of, however the opera was very well cast and I found the opera growing on me. It truly does have some beautiful moments.

 Although characters were drawn from typical stock characters, it was important that we found light and shade, and director Stephen Barlow was amazing with helping me on this journey of discovery as I worked hard to take on the direction I was being given. I thought my character to be far more naïve and sweet at first. Anger is often hard to portray, who wants to look like the bad guy to people?

Nicola Said as Rosaura, Elizabeth Karani as Eleonora, Bethan Langford as Beatrice and Katarzyna Balejko as Colombina (Le Donne Curiose by Wolf-Ferrari, Guildhall Opera) © Clive Barda

Manipulation is a harsh method of trying to extract truth out of someone else and getting them to do what we want them to do, and often as humans we do it without knowing. That is why it is essential that it comes from a place of truth. It is not until we reach deep into ourselves and reach for feelings we have felt before, that these feelings can be depicted on stage as true (rather than trying to mimic the actions without having any deeper place where they come from). If they come from a place of truth, then the honesty and vulnerability is interesting to an audience, because they can relate, because they are human. It was hard to see that Rosaura just wasn’t as nice as I wanted her to be!

Of course then there are the beautiful honest moments, which are particularly special because of the very fact that it shows the vulnerability. Conductor Mark Shanahan helped me to find that honest vulnerability in the voice, by reminding me that I do not need to put the emotion into the voice, but to allow the words to do the talking, something that we are constantly being taught on this course. Italian coach, Matteo Dalle Fratte, did a great job of making sure that every word we sang was very clear!

Nicola Said as Rosaura & Elgan Thomas as Florindo (Le Donne Curiose by Wolf-Ferrari, Guildhall School) © Clive Barda

It was a great learning experience and I got some wonderful reviews too, always a good thing! AND I got to work in period costume… I tell you, it’s not as simple as it looks, especially when you have to run around the stage, be dragged by Harlequin then jump on him while singing a top C, and in the end pull a balancing act to stand on a slippery table with pies flying around you, and praying that you don’t get pie on you because wardrobe would have one hell of a job to get it off! Ah…yes there were quite a few antics on-stage…pity if you missed it, it was indeed a funny show 😉 We had some good laughs! In the photo on the right, you can see my amazing Donne colleagues, Bethan Langford as my mum Beatrice, Katarzyna Balejko as our maid Colombina, and Elizabeth Karani as our posh friend Eleonora.

Nicola Said as Rosaura & Thomas Atkins as Florindo (Le Donne Curiose by Wolf-Ferrari, Guildhall School) © Clive Bard

Below were Rosaura’s Florindi, Elgan Thomas and Thomas Atkins, and below that, the curtain call (Photos are courtesy of Clive Barda).

Le Donne Curiose by Wolf-Ferrari, Guildhall School © Clive Barda