We’re delighted to welcome répétiteur and ABL Aviation Opera Studio Vocal Consultant, Brenda Hurley, to INO this weekend for the second in a year-long series of masterclasses and coaching sessions.
Répétiteurs are a crucial part of the opera process, as Brenda explains, their work involves “teaching opera singers their roles, playing for staging rehearsals from an orchestral score which has been arranged for piano, playing keyboard parts in the orchestra during performances, assisting the conductor, and supporting the singers with corrections and feedback and giving them psychological support. Opera singers cannot always judge how their voice sounds to others and they need an expert opinion. The job fits me like a glove, since I am by nature a team-player and I love the sociability of being in a rehearsal studio with others, be it in production rehearsals or doing one-to-one coachings.”
Originally from Dublin, Brenda trained as a solo pianist in the Royal Irish Academy of Music, Trinity College, Dublin and Freiburg, Germany, before studying accompaniment and opera at the Guildhall School of Music and the National Opera Studio in London and her career has taken her to opera houses all over the world. She is currently Director of the International Opera Studio in Zurich Opera as well as holding the role of Vocal Consultant to the ABL Aviation Opera Studio singers where she provides invaluable advice about repertoire, career choices and the opera business in general as well as preparing them for upcoming roles and auditions.
We asked Brenda why programmes like this are important. “The objective of the ABL Aviation Opera Studio is to help singers bridge the gap between study and career and to introduce them to the realities of singing professionally in an opera company, alongside receiving further vocal and career training. It is a wonderful tool for young singers, who may not have experienced this during their study years. In a studio environment they are surrounded by advisors and mentors who have invariably worked for years in the profession and who can guide them in these early steps. In addition, they receive publicity and exposure in a world where getting known is increasing difficult. Having the name of a prestigious studio behind you can be an enormous boost to starting a career.“
The path of a young opera singer can be a challenging one, as Brenda explains, “inevitably, it involves long trips away from home and loved ones or, more commonly, living in a foreign country, sometimes for many years. It can also involve a lot of rejection, regardless of how good one is.” So, what advice would Brenda give to aspiring young singers? “I would encourage young singers to be hard-working, well-prepared musically, to be a good colleague, to be business-like and proactive in seeking employment in an increasingly competitive world, to have an updated website, to prioritise learning languages such as Italian, German and French, to try to find a niche where they can be better than others, be it in standard repertoire or perhaps baroque or contemporary repertoire, and above all to listen to good advice and to be realistic about achieving their goals. Being open to options is important. Choosing to be an opera singer should not be taken lightly and apart from a handful of singers in the world, the “star system” has long gone. It is not for the faint-hearted!”