British lyric soprano Kate Royal has received many honors, from winning the Kathleen Ferrier Award in 2004 to being chosen by Sir Paul McCartney to solo in his oratorio “Ecce Cor Meum.” She appears in recital with pianist Malcolm Martineau this week in San Francisco.
Can you describe your background and your daily life?
My father was a pop singer and my mother a dancer. I certainly wanted to be a singer in college, but only a small percentage of my time is now spent onstage — the rest is spent practicing, which can be a very lonely thing. The lifestyle is almost impossible to understand until you’ve tried it. The traveling, which people often think is glamorous, quickly becomes not even remotely glamorous (laughs). But it’s still a wonderful line of work to be in. You are your own boss, you choose when to take time off, and you’re singing.
What is your advice for aspiring singers?
Find as many colors in your voice to create the character. I think what is often missing from the younger singers is real personality. In college, I also had to strip back and find the core of my voice. Accepting who you are and the sound you have is so very important.
Why have you selected music by Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Fauré and Debussy for your recital?
I’ve linked many of the songs by their poetry. If they were translated into the same language, it would tell the story of a young girl finding love for the first time, experiencing marriage, heartbreak, etc. The program is a cycle that I’ve developed, recorded and toured with for about a year, and Malcolm, who is an inspiration to me, has been on the project with me since Day One.
What are the purposes of performance art?
For the audience member to have an experience, to be able to immerse oneself in something otherworldly; this will make you think more deeply about the world and yourself.
Can you talk about the future of opera?
Opera has had such an explosion on the cinema screen, and changing the face of it might keep it alive — while making our jobs harder. We’re now supposed to be movie stars as well as musicians. But the music is still there and the audience will always want to listen.