Gian-Carlo Menotti’s much-loved family Christmas opera, Amahl and the Night Visitors, shall be performed as a semi-staged production at St John’s Smith Square by Bampton Classical Opera. Emma Stannard – winner of Bampton Classical Opera Young Singers’ Competition 2017 – will be singing the role of Amahl’s mother. Here, Emma shares with us where her love for opera came from and gives a sneak peek of what kind of things to expect in this festive production.
When did you know singing opera was your calling?
It wasn’t until I began my undergraduate degree at the Royal Northern College of Music that I knew opera was my calling. During my first term I saw my first live opera and had my first experience of performing in a college production – I fell in love with opera and have pursued it as a career ever since. As a teenager, I had weekly singing lessons that enabled me to build a strong classical technique and this is what inspired me to train at the highest level.
Did you know of Gian-Carlo Menotti’s work or Amahl and the Night Visitors before you knew you were performing as the Mother?
I was familiar with Menotti’s work but had never performed a role. This work was completely new to me and I fell in love with both the music and the characters as soon as I began learning it.
Speaking of Amahl and the Night Visitors, how do think children and families may feel after seeing a performance of the Christmas opera?
Amahl and the Night Visitors is an opera full of wonder, love and real human emotion. I hope that families connect with Amahl and his Mother’s relationship and leave feeling excited about the magic of Christmas.
What kind of things did you do to prepare for this role?
I have spent a great deal of time speaking the text of this opera. Much of the music is incredibly conversational and finding the inflections of speech within musical passages has been a priority. I have also spent a lot of time thinking about my character and asking myself questions such as: why is she so short tempered with Amahl at the beginning of the opera? Is she lonely? If she were to have money, what exactly would she want? Asking these sorts of questions helps to bring a character to life and gives me the opportunity to make the character my own.
Have you performed at St. John’s Smith Square before? If so, why do you think it is an ideal place to perform Amahl and the Night Visitors?
This will be my first time performing at St. John’s Smith Square, I am very excited!
What has it been like in the rehearsal room, working with a talented cast including Felix Gillingwater and conductor Anthony Kraus?
I have had a brilliant time working with Anthony Kraus and Felix Gillingwater. Anthony brings an incredible amount of life and energy to this music and Felix and I are having a wonderful time creating a mother/son dynamic.
You’re the winner of Bampton Classical Opera Young Singers’ Competition 2017. What advice would you give to young aspiring opera singers?
My advice is to never give up on your dream. Pursuing a career as a performer can be difficult but if it is your ambition, never give up! Work hard, choose repertoire that helps you display your personality and stay true to the artist that you want to be.
Any performances planned for Emma in the new year?
I look forward to a number of engagements in the New Year including a recital in the London Handel Festival, performing at Garsington Opera as an Alvarez Young Artist and giving recitals at Handel House as part of the Handel House Talent Scheme.
Amahl and the Night Visitors is showing at St John’s Smith Square, London SW1P 3HA on Sunday 16 December (3 pm) and in Bampton at St. Mary’s Church on Friday 21 December (7.30 pm)
Click here to go to St. John’s Smith Square’s website, or click here for more information on Bampton Classical Opera and to book tickets.