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rachel-kelly

Rachel Kelly

Mezzo-soprano, Royal Opera House

Irish mezzo-soprano Rachel Kelly is a Jette Parker Young Artist at the Royal Opera House performing in La Traviata, currently playing at the Royal Opera House until 4 July.

At what age did you realise you were going to be an opera singer?

To be honest, there has never been a time when I didn’t have a passion for singing - and although I was trained as a classical pianist from a young age, in my heart I always wanted to be centre stage. But experiencing Tosca at age 15 was the real turning point that started me down the path on my operatic journey.

Was there any one person who inspired you?

Whether I had wanted to or not, my first operatic inspiration was the incomparable Joan Sutherland. This was mainly because when I was around three or four, my Dad had a wonderful habit of blaring Lucia di Lammermoor on Saturday mornings all over the house, and even now I remember being wowed by her incredible sound. But, as I’ve grown older I’ve come to respect so many of the greats and also the fantastic contemporaries whom I’ve had the privilege to work with. One legend who is never far from my thoughts when seeking guidance is Maria Callas, who invested true artistry into her performances through her attention to dramatic detail and inspirational singing.

What qualities are most important in becoming an opera singer?

I think that every opera singer brings their own unique set of qualities to the craft. However, in my opinion, there are several important attributes that the best singers share. First, assuming that the person has the right natural vocal instrument to work with, there are three elements which are absolutely vital in becoming an opera singer. 1: A singular unwavering passion for music, drama and self-education. 2: The ability to simultaneously communicate with your colleagues, your conductor and your audience. 3: The commitment to spend as much of your free time as you can striving to be better and more polished than you were the day before.

What is the most inspiring thing about being an opera singer?

Easily the most inspiring aspect of being an opera singer is being granted the opportunity to share something I love to do with people who love to listen. I have always agreed with the sentiment that music is food for the soul, and I am so privileged to be a part of bringing its universal truth to audiences.

What is your favourite part of the role?

Performance. Performance. Performance. 

What is the most difficult thing about the role?

There are a lot of challenges that are part and parcel of the process, but I do think that the absolute hardest part is remaining gracious in the face of criticism, discerning whether it is constructive, and if it is valuable then having the patience to reintegrate it into future performances, all while remaining an open and generous performer. 

What advice would you give to anyone else who wishes to follow in your footsteps?

Personally, there are three questions which have got me this far, and which I would encourage anyone considering a career in performance to answer as honestly as they can. Do I believe I have the capacity, talent and passion to go all the way? Do I have the willpower and fortitude to work hard enough and long enough to achieve my goals? Do I know in my heart that I will strive to do whatever it takes to be better tomorrow than I am today? And if you find yourself answering “no” to any of them, you need to take a long introspective look, and reconsider your path.

Describe your typical day from waking till sleep.

Variation is the mainstay of an opera singer’s life, and there are very few days alike. My ideal day, however, would be to get up early, work out, warm up my voice, go to morning rehearsals, squeeze in as many language and ancillary activities as I can by midday, and then, if I am performing in the evening, I would rest before the show, or alternatively on off nights, I would rehearse or practice. And the rare weekends or evenings when I am totally free are generally spent learning new music, and having the occasional glass of wine. 

If you had not been an opera singer, what would you have been?

Disappointed.

What do you love about working in Covent Garden?

The simplest way I can put it is that in the space of two years I have worked with living legends, been given the greatest opportunities a young singer can have, and never been asked to be anything but passionate, hard-working and on time. 

What’s your favourite hang-out joint or thing to do in your spare time in Covent Garden?

We are spoilt for choice in Central London, so there is no one place that occupies all of my time. Being an unrepentant shopaholic, I have to say that there is no amount of time too lengthy for me to spend wandering around the incredible array of shops and stalls in Covent Garden resisting the urge to spend my salary!

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Tel 020 7304 4000

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