First of all, I want to thank you for accepting my invitation: it is a great honour! You started your vocal education in 2001, but at the same time you earned a Masters degree in Law. Being a law student but also very passionate about opera, I have to ask, why did you choose opera instead of law? How do you think that studying law helped in your actual career?
When you’re only 16 and already go to University, your parents are an important source of advice in your decisions. My family has no musicians, and my parents have both done long and difficult university studies. Therefore it was evident for them that after my sister becoming a doctor, my younger brother being incredibly gifted in math, I should also do brilliant studies. Law was clear for me because my Granddad was chief of police in a Paris district, and I had always been seduced by the theatrical side of the courts of justice. When I reached the end of my law studies – whilst also very seriously studying vocal technique and piano in parallel – I had the opportunity to tour with Lausanne’s Opera House in Japan, where I met Beatrice Uria-Monzon. There she gave me the best advice I ever had: “Forget about conservatoire: go on stage and see if you fit the job and if the job fits you”. And this is so true. I didn’t know at that time that no one would ever ask me for any diplomas to do an audition or competition. The only moment in a musician’s career where you would need a diploma is if you ever become a teacher in a school or conservatory. And the job is much, much more than just singing well. It’s about your personality, your appearance, your ability to be organized and ready to seize opportunities. And most of all have a lonely life, away from home for long periods (6-10 weeks most of the time), never being available for your friend’s wedding or parties and so on… But on the other hand it’s never a boring life! Meeting new people all the time and having the pleasure to sing again after a while with colleagues you enjoy, living in so many cities, experiencing different culture, food, climate, people. If I had continued my law carrier I would’ve probably become a diplomat, because I enjoy these eternal novelties. In a way, being a singer is also a way to export and represent your country all over the world!
You won some important competitions like the Competition of Geneva, International Singing Competition Ernst Haefliger and so many others. How did these competitions help to develop your career? Do you think it’s helpful for a young singer to participate in competitions?
As I said before, none of my family members are musicians or have any relations with artistic matters. Therefore competitions are a great way to get a foot in the door of this very closed microcosm of decision-makers,. It’s definitely not the only way but it’s one that can work. It’s also a very good way to test yourself at a larger scale. Because you can be the best of your class, or even your conservatory (and anyway what is the “best” in this job?), but the market is worldwide for the roles in opera houses. It’s fantastic to see how the Russians or the Koreans are trained like racing horses: always efficient with a flawless technique. Or how Americans get a complete physical and vocal training (they know how to “entertain”!). It’s also a beautiful way of making long-term friendships. Yes I swear! Competitions are not only about competing; I’m still in contact with many former opponents who became friends! And last but not least, if you win prizes, you get some money, sometimes even quite a significant amount of money. And when you start a career, you need a lot of money to hang around all the opera houses for auditions (I calculated once that a single audition costs an average of 500€!). If you feel like doing a competition, start with something close to your home so you don’t have too many expenses, but far enough that you’ll not find your teacher or classmate. And then just do as many as you can. Competitions are training. You need to have a perfect 5-aria batch that you can sing in any circumstances. I personally experienced all of these: sometimes the first round starts at 9a.m, sometimes you have no where to warm up or you have to wait hours in the same room as all the other contestant without being allowed to speak or sing, the jury will ask for a third aria and it was not planned, or stop you after 30seconds, you’ll have slept only 2 hours because of a delayed flight, you’ll sing with your leg in a cast, the apartment you have rented is above a night club and you literally feel all the beats through your bed, and many more that make you eventually become a warrior!
Read the entire interview here, in the anniversary issue of OPERA Charm Magazine.0