Music has been part of my life since I was just a sparkle in my mother’s eye! I was very lucky to be born into a musical family and grew up in a very musical city - my father played viola in the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, and I remember being dragged to concerts from a very young age - I had no idea then how lucky I was! I wish I could hear all those concerts again now. One of those early concert experiences really stuck with me - I was seven and was taken to see Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov at the Salzburg Easter Festival, conducted by Abbado and directed by Wernicke. It’s an infamously terrifying score and it was a very visceral and confronting production which I was probably far too young to see, but I absolutely loved it and insisted on going again. It’s forever etched in my memory and I think, subconsciously, kickstarted my interest in vocal music.
I sang from a very early age - my first “production” was a little German tour of Hans Krasa’s wonderful opera for children Brundibar, which he wrote for the children living in the Theresienstadt ghetto during WW2. I also started learning violin and cello from a young age. I never learnt piano, and I regret that, but I am very grateful for my experience playing string instruments, as I think it ended up informing my singing and general musicianship/ensemble playing.
I moved to Australia when I was nine, and my younger sister Kiki and I immediately joined a wonderful children’s choir called Gondwana Voices, with whom I sang until I was 16. It was a children’s choir that was run like a professional ensemble and it taught me a huge amount about how to be a musician before I even knew that’s what I would end up being. We did several international tours and recorded a few albums over the years- it was a really challenging, formative and important experience for all of us.
In a way, I never actually asked myself if singing was what I wanted to do for a living - it just felt like a really natural progression. I had always sung, and I loved it, so I just kept going! I sang throughout high school - often skipping class to go to rehearsals! - and then headed to Melbourne University where I started my BMus in 2010. My first “big break” came in my third year, when I sang my first principal role in De Falla’s gorgeous one-act opera Master Peter’s Puppet Show with the state company Victorian Opera. I continued to work with Victorian Opera until the year I moved to London and had some wonderful experiences with them, including covering a role in John Adams’ Nixon In China. Between 2011-2014 I was freelancing a lot in Australia and a little in the US with some amazing ensembles and orchestras across various subgenres - opera, contemporary music, folk, baroque, chamber music, oratorio, even a bit of jazz. I love lots of different styles and have always been really passionate about developing a varied and interesting concert career.
Winning a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music was a turning point in my life - I moved to London and started a new life. It was a little daunting leaving behind a pretty active concert schedule in favour of being a student again and the first year was not without its challenges, but all the hours working as a barista to cover my rent were worth it. I made great friends - some of whom are members of Southbank Sinfonia! - and had some great musical experiences including a Boulez performance at Aldeburgh Festival, a Steve Reich concert with Colin Currie, my own solo recital, and a masterclass with Sir Thomas Allen.
I decided to stay on in London after graduating and I am so glad I did. The past 18 months have been really rewarding - last year saw a series of recitals at festivals such as Cheltenham and Buxton - which was reviewed very kindly and unexpectedly by The Guardian - two major international art song competitions (Das Lied and Wigmore Hall), several concerts as a member of contemporary music group Ensemble x.y, the Peter Hulsen Orchestral Song Award win which resulted in my becoming Associate Artist of the Southbank Sinfonia, and most recently I was selected as one of the 2017 City Music Foundation Artists.
Although I still work in Australia quite a lot I am so happy to call London my home, and I am thrilled to now be part of the Southbank Sinfonia family!
What do you think concerts of the future should look like?
I think programming is vital and I would really like to see concerts that incorporate music from our history and from our present, to take us into our future. They need to be welcoming and engage curiosity in every listener, young and old. We live in an age where technology gives us access to every kind of sound and music that has ever been. Our future concerts are our fabulous opportunity to embrace all of this.
One exciting aspect of future concerts becoming more prevalent now is the idea of context- as much as I adore concert halls both modern and old and all the different kinds of acoustics where one can perform, I welcome the idea of setting concerts in unusual places, like a car park, outdoors, underground, aquarium...?
Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us
It seems really counter-musical, but I have a twisted little compulsion to mentally ruin final cadences by a semitone for fun, and then end up giggling to myself. Perhaps I should be seeking therapy for this...?!