We caught up with Nardus Williams, who sings the role of Countess Almaviva in our new production of The Marriage of Figaro, to talk about her history with our Young Artists programme and what it's like to be part of our homecoming.
When Soprano Nardus Williams sings the role of the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro to open the Opera Holland Park 2021 Season, it will be the second time she’s been part of a homecoming performance for us. Williams also performed in the concert series that brought music back to our theatre site after months of lockdown last summer.
‘For many of us, the concerts last summer were the first time we’d been able to perform, or even listen to, live music for months. All the performances occurred in broad daylight, so people’s joy at hearing live music again was perfectly visible. Even whilst I was singing I was able to observe so many amazing moments – the reaction and surprise of passers by; the spontaneous dancing of children in the audience.
‘The circumstances of those performances created an environment which eroded the barriers between performers and the audience. We were all simply a collection of people grateful for live music.’
The 2021 Season marks not just our homecoming, but also the tenth anniversary of the Young Artists Scheme, something Williams was part of in 2017. As a Young Artist Williams played another Mozart role – Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni.
Outwardly, Donna Elvira and Countess Almaviva seem very similar: two aristocratic women who have been wronged by the men in their lives. However, Williams sees real differences between the two that come from the atmospheres of the two operas. ‘Donna Elvira goes through many vicissitudes to come to an uncertain outcome, whereas with the Countess, the tragedy of the downturn in her marriage occurs within the context of a comedy. In the hands of another composer this could descend into banality, but Mozart’s handling of the opera gives huge poignancy and subtlety to the character of the Countess.’
Williams is a performer in much in demand. Even during the run of The Marriage of Figaro she’s scheduled to sing the role of Belinda in Errollyn Wallen’s Dido’s Ghost in concert at the Barbican. But as a self-proclaimed perfectionist, she’s constantly aiming for new levels of performance, and she takes a pragmatic view of her own obvious success. ‘There’s no monolithic standard I set for myself; in fact it’s constantly evolving, which is perhaps why I haven’t been able to obtain it yet. At least, that’s what I tell myself!
Interview by Philippa Peall