This week, our partner Welsh National Opera welcomes our Young Artists for a weeklong residency. We caught up with soprano Siân Griffiths who, alongside her colleagues, will be taking to the Donald Gordon Stage at Wales Millennium Centre this Sunday to perform a specially curated and directed programme with WNO Orchestra entitled Anarchy at the Opera.

How did you discover your passion for singing?

Both of my parents are trained opera singers, and my mother was my singing teacher when I was in school, but it wasn’t until I joined Glyndebourne’s Youth Opera production of Knight Crew by Julian Philips that I realised that this is what I wanted to do. I went to a consultation audition at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama soon after, where I met my current singing teacher, John Evans, and it progressed from there.

What does a typical day at the Studio look like?

A typical day is between 10:30am and 5:30pm and it includes vocal coaching with members of the music staff and guest coaches, language coaching, acting classes, physical development sessions and check-in sessions with our Head of Artistic Administration and Director of Artist Development. We also have recording days once or twice a term for us to record anything that we need for submissions and audition applications.

Why should people come and experience Anarchy at the Opera?

Anarchy at the Opera has something for everyone. There’s a great balance of comedy and drama and musical styles – from the classic operatic repertoire of Handel’s Alcina to Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, to the modern Julietta by Martinů. The scenes I particularly love are the two scenes from Poulenc’s Les Mamelles de Tirésias – the Prologue aria sung by Josef Ahn and the duet later with Laura Lolita Perešivana and Philip Clieve; and I love performing in the quintet from Il turco in Italia as Rossini has a big place in my heart.

During your time at NOS, you have fulfilled several residencies. How have they helped you prepare for your career?

The residencies give us the fantastic opportunity to work to a professional standard with amazing conductors and directors on repertoire that we could eventually perform as a full role in future productions. It allows us to build a professional relationship with these companies. While we are on our residencies, the casting teams will observe the rehearsal process and performance and invite us to audition for them.

What advice would you give an aspiring opera singer?

You can pursue a career in opera without an undergraduate degree in music. Studying something else (whilst also having private singing lessons) allowed me to develop vocally without the pressure of a music conservatoire, and it gave me a sense of the world outside of music.

Also, criticism and rejection are part of the learning process, they are not an absolute end. I have learned more from the rejections than I have from the successes, and, ultimately, they happen to everyone. Believe in yourself.

If you didn’t follow a career in music, what would you be doing?

Before I did my postgraduate in singing, I studied BA Ancient History at the University of Reading, so I probably would have gone down a more history/research-based route, particularly related to Ancient Egypt as my dissertation was around the Pharaoh Akhenaten and his abandoned city of Amarna. Maybe one day I can combine my two interests and sing the role of Nefertiti in Philip Glass’ opera Akhnaten. 

Photos © 'Anarchy at the Opera' at Scottish Opera / Julie Howden