Feature
Q & A with soprano Claire Booth
16 August 2017

British soprano Claire Booth has become internationally renowned both for her commitment to an extraordinary breadth of repertoire, and for the vitality and musicianship that she brings to the operatic stage and concert platform.

Claire Booth appears on NMC performing works by Ryan Wigglesworth, Charlotte Bray, Oliver Knussen and Alexander Goehr. Click here for a full list of albums.

 

Claire Booth Q&A

Can you share with us your top five contemporary composers and/or pieces?

I would say Oliver Knussen certainly. David del Tredici - he's out there on his own, but when I performed his Vintage Alice a few years ago, I just found myself laughing out loud at the sheer brilliance and bonkers of it all. Harrison Birtwistle is firmly on my list - from the operas to the scenas to the song cycles - everything of his that I've got to know is just so incredibly detailed. As a singer, it's often only the pieces you've sung that you feel passionate about - but watching the world premiere of The Minotaur at Covent Garden remains one of my night-out highlights. Discovering Kurtag's Kafka Fragments was a bit of an epiphany for me. This piece is incredible. Lastly I'd include Ryan Wigglesworth, both for the Augenlieder orchestral cycle I've had the absolute pleasure of performing. His writing is both beautiful and inventive, and it's as much of a joy to listen to as it is to perform.

 

Where and what was your first musical performance?

While at Oxford University I was involved in a number of baroque operas, hastily put together oratorios, and under-rehearsed recitals that were totally thrilling for us performers at least. In no particular order, they included Arne's Alfred, Webern's Op. 14 song cycle, Purcell's King Arthur, Britten's Rape of Lucretia, Alastair Nicholson's Mini-mal Opera, and Handel's Orlando.

 

Any stories of unusual jobs you had prior to entering the music world?

I don't know about unusual, but I tried my hand at a few things, fairly unsuccessfully. My career as a waiter was cut short when I was told I didn't have big enough hands to clear a table of ten in one go. I got involved in writing a website about relocating to England from abroad. Having pumped my friends and family for information, I ground to a halt and basically plagiarised Wikipedia. Not my finest hour.

 

You’re stuck in a lift with three people of your choice (dead or alive)! Who are they and what do you play to keep everyone entertained while you wait to be rescued?

I often wish I'd been around during the first few decades of the 20th century - the explosion of creativity in so many art forms must have been so fantastic for those artists and audiences alike, so I think I'd have to put down Maurice Ravel. I know it might be a cliché, but getting stuck in a lift with Mozart would be absolute heaven. For starters, the guy's a genius and wouldn't it be so wonderful to share that space and soak up some of his brilliance, then if he's half as crazy as we're led to believe in Amadeus, then he would be an absolute hoot. Then finally I could put my sight-reading skills to good use and sing whatever he put in front of me. I'm sure he'd create a good opera about being stuck in a lift with three strangers! Maybe Ryan Gosling for number 3, so we could practice a bit of La La Land choreography...

 

What are you working on at the moment?

Christopher Glynn and I have just released a CD of Percy Grainger's folk music. His music is extremely heart on sleeve, but also at times incredibly refined - and this juxtaposition seems to echo the composer himself. Although Grainger divides people in fairly marmite terms, we were really intrigued to see what we could make of his music, and the result even sees me make a cameo appearance on the piano as we finish with a piano duet version of Country Gardens! At the other end of the scale I'm performing Poulenc's monologue Voix Humaine in a site specific production. This WNO production is coming to Aldeburgh this year. It's a raw experience for the audience being so up close and personal with the singer, and as I'm interacting with everyone there, every show is utterly different.


If you could collaborate with anyone across any genre or art form who would it be and why?

Unless it's solo-singing in the bathroom, making music is a pretty collaborative affair to start with. One of the lovely things about any contract is the interaction with new artists, other singers, instrumentalists, directors... if you open your ears then you've got an opportunity to learn from anyone and everyone in the room. So, I don't think I can give a definitive answer here - but I'm an absolute fan of great people collaborating to produce great work.

 

photo: (c) Sven Arnstein

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