Yeoman Interview – Angela Simkin

English mezzo-soprano Angela Simkin is a former student of the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) and Royal College of Music (RCM). A current member of the National Opera Studio for gifted singers and repetiteurs, her operatic roles for the RCM International Opera School include Conception in Ravel’s L’heure Espagnole, Zweite Dame in Mozart’s Die Zauberflote and Nancy in Britten’s Albert Herring for the RCMIOS. For the London Handel Festival, she played Teseo in Arianna in Creta and Iside in Giove in Argo.

A Britten-Pears Young Artist and 2016/17 Jette Parker Young Artist, Angela’s awards include the Nora Popple Award and the Boris Christoff International Award for Young Singers. Angela has also worked with eminent artists such as Simon Keenlyside, Sir Thomas Allen, Sylvia Swartz, Mariella Devia and Barbara Frittoli as a Masterclass participant.

When did you first realise you had a voice?
When I auditioned for a role in Oliver! at my primary school. I seemed to find it easier than my classmates to hit the high notes and stay in tune.

Did you plan to become an opera singer or did it happen by chance?
A mixture of both. I was led by my desire to chase something in life that gave me enormous fulfilment. Now I call myself an opera singer by profession but it is a result of pursuing the refinement of a skill that gives me so much pleasure.

How do you look after your voice? Do you insure it?
Haha! No. Maybe I should consider that… I try not to be too precious about ‘my instrument’. I still eat dairy and enjoy the occasional alcoholic drink. I think it’s important to listen to your body though. If you have a bad cold, don’t sing on it – especially if it hurts. Your body is giving you those signals for a reason.

What characteristics other than a beautiful voice does a mezzo-soprano singer need?
I think regardless of your voice classification, there are certain characteristics that help in shaping you as a singer. Dedication, perseverance, and a thick skin are important. Just because an audition doesn’t go well, or you suffer a knock back or some negative criticism, it’s crucial to remember what drove you to sing these incredible arias/art songs in the first place. That has been my primary motivation, rather than the pursuit of ‘success’.

How do you prepare for a performance?
I remember being told by a conductor a few years ago that one cannot be over prepared. Knowing your music and text inside out helps to relieve anxiety and leaves room for you to focus on other key factors such as getting to know your character on stage and playing with physicality.

What has been your most memorable performance?
My role of Nancy in Albert Herring at the Royal College of Music in 2015. It was the first time I truly felt free on stage because of the incredible guidance I was given by Liam Steel (Director) and Michael Rosewell (Head of Opera at RCM). It was so exhilarating because I was matched with a character that I identified with, and her music was perfect for my voice.

In what opera did you debut?
I had a small role (Ida) in Die Fledermaus with a touring company called Opera della Luna. I was straight out of my undergraduate degree at the RNCM. We played different venues every night, from a cow shed to Buxton Opera House. Needless to say I learnt a lot and had huge, huge amounts of fun. I am indebted to them actually.

In what operas would you like to sing in the future?
Without doubt, Hansel and Gretel for the stagecraft. I love being busy and mischievous on stage, and the story is magical. For the music, I am a big Handel fan and would love to sing the role of Ruggiero in Alcina. His character has so many beautiful and varied arias.

What artists and singers inspire you most?
I have always been hugely inspired by Joyce DiDonato for her optimistic outlook and unwavering dedication. For beauty of sound, I love Christa Ludwig, and for technical proficiency I listen to Cecilia Bartoli.

When I was preparing for the Wigmore Hall Song Competition, I worked on an art song with Roger Vignoles. I was so inspired by his ability to identify details and pull out gems in the repertoire I had selected. He really helped to open my ears and mind to new ideas and ways of interpreting song.

What are you future plans?
I am taking a few months out to prepare for motherhood! My husband and I are expecting the arrival of non-identical twin boys before I start on the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme at the Royal Opera House. We don’t do things by halves.

You can find out more about Angela at angelasimkin.com.
Angela is represented by James Black Management.