Before heading for pastures new, the singer talks coping with anxiety, paying the rent and people he’d love to work with.
Studied University of Melbourne
Likes Bad cinema, history, food
Dislikes Eggplant, hot weather, haircuts
What drew you to singing as a profession?
From as far back as I can remember I have been obsessed with classical music. Before I knew anything about the sounds that I was hearing, the composers, or the history behind the music, I would just listen to the radio for hours each day. As a kid I would sing along to symphonies and sonatas and eventually I realised that opera could be my way of connecting to the music I was so passionate about.
As a young singer, did you originally sing in a more conventional voice type?
Like a lot of countertenors, I started off as a baritone. My home town in Tasmania didn’t really have an active opera scene, so I started off singing quite a lot of musical theatre. Still as a baritone, I auditioned and was luckily accepted into the Melbourne Conservatorium. It wasn’t until about a month before I got to Victoria to study that I made the change to singing countertenor.
Was the choice to focus on the falsetto voice a difficult one?
Yes and no! The Baroque repertoire available to the countertenor voice immediately won me over, it was the sort of music I had always loved. However, in terms of knowledge of my own voice and its capabilities it felt like I was starting from square one. In some ways I had to relearn many elements of how to sing.
Who are some of your vocal role models?
There are some truly amazing countertenors singing today, and they all inspire me. My favourites would have to be among the likes of Andreas Scholl, Iestyn Davies, Franco Fagioli and Max Emanuel Cenčić. My favourite singer, however, is the Russian soprano Julia Lezhneva.
Photo by WinkiPoP Media
What are some of the challenges you have encountered in your vocal education and professional development?
I think that confidence is something that all singers have to deal with at some stage, and for me it has been a challenge at times. Thankfully, I’ve been lucky enough to have some wonderfully supportive teachers who have helped me to discover my voice and at the same time learn methods of coping with anxiety.
How will winning the Marianne Mathy scholarship at the IFAC Australian Singing Competition will benefit your career?
Winning “the Mathy” has changed everything. The cost of studying overseas is pretty daunting and this award, along with the Sydney Eisteddfod Opera Scholarship (previously known as the Big Mac Aria) has really opened up opportunities I never thought I could pursue.
While Handel may have seemed a logical repertoire choice for a countertenor in a vocal competition, what made you choose Britten as well?
I’ve always loved the music of Benjamin Britten. He has a very interesting way of writing for the voice and he can colour text in a really beautiful manner. The countertenor voice is strange in that we mostly end up singing either Baroque music or contemporary classical music, missing everything that happened in between.
What roles do you have your heart set on playing in the future?
Well, I’d love to one day sing Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Britten. It seems to sit well in my voice and it is always fun to be the villain! Other than that there is a whole host of Handel operas that I’d love to be involved in as well, Giulio Cesare, Rodelinda, Tolomeo, Orlando, pretty much anything written for the castrato Senesino!
Which conductors or singers would you most like to work with in the years ahead?
We are lucky to have some really fantastic Baroque and early music conductors here in Australia, and I’d love the chance to sing for all of them. Erin Helyard, Paul Dyer, Richard Tognetti, Anthony Walker and many more. I really enjoyed working with Benjamin Northey in the finals of the ASC as well so I hope I have the chance to do that again one day!
Do you have any tips to pass on to aspiring young singers?
Don’t give in. There will be times when you’re voice just might not be working for you, when you feel like you can’t get past that technical hurdle or when you just run out of money for lessons (or rent!). Fighting through that might be hard but it is so worth it to do what you love.