Can you tell us about your role at OHP this year?
I’ll be playing Itchingham Lofte, a science-mad teenager who is on a mission to collect all of the elements on the periodic table.

You are taking on the title role of a brand new opera: what are you most looking forward to about this role, and what do you think the challenges will be?
There is so much for me to look forward to in this piece. Simon’s book is a great adventure story, filled with fantastic characters, drama and danger. Bringing this story to the stage will doubtlessly be challenging given its scope but it is also a hugely exciting prospect. From a musical perspective, the chance to work with Jonathan on a new opera is something of a career highlight for me. I’m a huge fan of his music and I think he’s come up with something really special for Itch. As a student one of my formative experiences was performing in Jonathan’s The Little Green Swallow for British Youth Opera. To be able to come back to London and make my debut with OHP in the world premiere of one of his pieces feels very special.

How does working on a new and contemporary opera compare to working on something more traditional and well-known?
The main difference when preparing for a brand new piece is access to recordings. When learning a role for a well-known opera, one of the first things any singer will do is go and listen to as many recordings of the piece as possible. It is a great way to immerse yourself in a new work, and also it’s helpful to see how other singers dealt with the more challenging sections of music. This is not an option when preparing for a brand-new piece, so by comparison it feels a bit like taking a step into the unknown. However, it is exciting to know that once in the rehearsals we will work on something never seen before. It will be my first time creating a role from scratch like this, so I’m looking forward to seeing what we can come up with.

How do you prepare for a role like this before the rehearsal process begins?
Before receiving Jonathan’s score, I got my hands on a copy of Simon Mayo’s book. It was a lot of fun to read and to guess how we would bring this epic adventure to the opera stage. It also gave me plenty of material to start building up a picture of Itch in my head.

I’m currently in the process of learning the music; at this stage I’m working by myself “note bashing” to become familiar with the music. This can sometimes be a slightly frustrating process, but for Itch it’s really exciting to dive in and discover the world that Jonathan and Alasdair have created.

How do you approach playing a teenager?
Luckily, I’m something of a child at heart, so I don’t think it will be a huge problem! In all seriousness, I think the key is to bring a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the rehearsal room and be willing to try out whatever crazy ideas we have during the rehearsal process.

Itchingham Lofte is a science enthusiast – do you have any interest in science, or any other passions outside of music?
I was certainly a science geek as a child. My grandfather, who was a scientist himself, bought me an at-home chemistry set when I was quite young. It was the sort of thing I’m not sure you could buy again today as I’m almost certain that many of the things included were toxic or dangerous. However, much like Itch, I took great pleasure in mixing things and setting them on fire. Unfortunately, any ambitions of seriously pursuing the sciences were crushed by the realisation of just how much academic rigour would be required – singing struck me as the better career path.

As for other passions, most come a distant second to music and opera. But you can normally find me watching an Arsenal game or Formula 1 at the weekend.

What kind of music do you enjoy listening to when you’re not performing?
I’m an unashamed opera geek and most of my listening time is spent finding recordings of great tenors that I haven’t yet heard.

What’s one piece of advice you’ve been given as an artist that has stayed with you?
It’s difficult to pick a single piece of advice. I’ve been lucky to have had great teachers and mentors over the last few years, all of whom have been able to give me a huge amount of advice to help me along the way.
But a few things that have stuck with me are:

1. Learn to recognise your instincts and trust them. They are the most valuable thing you have as an artist.
2. Support and be kind to your colleagues. Singers should look out for each other.
3. Make sure you get enough rest during production.


Interview by Lucy Hicks Beach