Course leader David Sulkin selected Marco Titus to take part in the Studio's Discovering Opera Short Course. He spent a week at the Studio developing his impressive skills and talents to a high level. His contribution to the course was outstanding. Marco shares his experience with us.

As a recent graduate of the BA Acting course at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, I was yearning to get my vocal journey back on track. Now that I had sought to train as an actor first, I was looking to incorporate my opera training into my actor practice.

I felt a bit lost during drama school as I was studying Shakespeare, Stanislavski and Meisner. It was here where I met Wendy Gadian, the head of the BA Acting Musical Theatre course. I alerted her to my opera background, and she advised I come and experience the Discovering Opera course at the National Opera Studio. She subsequently put me in touch with David Sulkin and Michael Harper. I met up with David at Regent’s Park within the depths of lockdown, and we had a lovely long discussion about the future of opera, the voice and about approaching craft and character. He invited me to come join the Discovering Opera workshop.

Before the workshop, we were asked to send in our CV and a recording for the team to analyse what opera rep would be best suited for us. I was allocated ‘Un ‘Aura Amorosa’ from Cosi Fan Tutte. A tenor aria I had been avoiding, but it was clearly fate that it was given to me at this juncture, to finally tackle. Mozart doctors the voice and smooths out any kinks, also revealing any flaws in technique that could be worked on. I was up for the task.

I arrived at the National Opera Studio on the first day. It was vibrant, full of young students mostly musical theatre students, barring myself and another student on an acting course. The Studio treated us with a great amount of respect, our names and headshots were on the noticeboard as we entered. We had a coach allocated to each of us based on ours needs. Our names and coaching times were allocated in the timetable. The week was packed and was all for our benefit. You felt you were especially thought of considered and each person had their own individualised journey on the workshop.

Being in a room filled with diversity was refreshing. The space felt safe and immediately like a family. The opera art form itself feels inaccessible and elitist, but this program went over and beyond making us feel at home and familiar with the art form, as if it were ours for the taking.

The first day we were introduced to opera and the vocal technique thereof. The excitement came when we got to sing our musical theatre pieces for each other, an area where we were more at home. It was great to see the work and the talent was in the room. There was an atmosphere of immediate admiration for our fellow peers. I worked with Allyson Devenish. We had an immediate connection and rapport. I felt I was in for some great realisations and tough love. Our first session was fantastic, but since my voice was a bit rusty after not training operatically for a few years, it was going to take some work to find freedom again. We also worked with other colleagues, in our sessions at times and it was an environment of mutual learning, where we could learn from observation too.

Each teacher and coach were rooting for us and for our growth. Working with Michael Harper was humbling, and his tutelage is unlike any other I have experienced. He allowed me to experience a sense of vocal freedom I hadn’t before.  It was very moving, and I am grateful for his wisdom. Maureen Brathwaite really got me into my body and to psychologically overcome some blocks limiting me from achieving freedom. David Sulkin provided magnificent advice and anecdotes about the industry. He created an environment of fostering enthusiasm amongst the participants. The session with the language coaches, Matteo Dalle Fratte in particular, was fantastic and informative. We had an amazing panel with inspirational individuals like Alison Buchanan, Njabulo Madlala, black artists in the opera industry that were able to give us advice and a window into the industry as artists of colour. We also had agents for Askonas Holt who were able to explain the inner working of the industry. This was extremely valuable, I must stress! The accolades of this institution and DO go on. The week at DO was a true foray into conservatory life. Working with coaches and dialect coaches every day. At the end of the week, we got to present our arias and musical theatre pieces to the group, as well as some esteemed guests. What an honour and a privilege to see that growth, to see people awaken to new artistic possibilities. Discovering Opera, truly gave me the gift of song again. I was moved, it was an unforgettable experienced, I made new friends and most of all, I was given hope that there is so much on offer out there and so much I can share. Thank you thank you thank you! I am grateful to Discovering Opera and to the National Opera Studio. Hope to see you end up on the opera house stage one day!