As we continue our new series, The Artist Q&A, we hear from opera singer Stacey Alleaume about her Australian upbringing and the influences that have shaped her career to date.
Where are you from and how does it influence your work?
I was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia and both my parents were born in Mauritius. My passion for music and opera stems from my paternal ancestral roots – it’s in my blood. My granduncle was the décorateur of Le Théâtre de Port Louis and he also played first violin in the travelling orchestras that visited the Island with the Moutia Opera Company. My grandfather played the cornet à pistons and my great-grandmother played the piano. My uncle played the violin, and composed many sacred music compositions. My Dad tells me that I am living his dream of being an opera singer. He shared his love of opera with me from a very young age.
Where are you while you answer these questions, and what can you see when you look up from the page/screen?
I am sitting in my local café, on a sunny winter’s day, sipping coffee while my dog sits patiently by my side, waiting for treats and observing everyone that walks past.
What motivates you to create?
I love the process of creating a production from the beginning, adding layer by layer. The journey starts on your own with yourself, a score and piano. As you become more familiar with the score you begin to work with coaches to understand it on a deeper level. Sometimes depending on the difficulty of a role, we begin preparations a year in advance. Then, finally we are in a rehearsal room with the other principal singers and we are singing harmonies together, then add a chorus, an orchestra, costumes, sets and lights. It’s a magical journey.
What are you currently working on?
About to start rehearsals with Welsh National Opera for their production of La Traviata which will tour around the UK to Cardiff, Llandudno, Bristol, Plymouth, Birmingham, Milton Keynes and Southampton. This will be my UK debut.
When do you work?
I usually practice singing 1-1.5 hours a day but then many hours are spent doing character research, translating the libretto, memorising the score, reading research material or listening to recordings. Generally, once we commence rehearsals in the studio, we work approximately 6 hours a day. As it is not possible to sing that many hours a day, 6 days a week, so singers often use a technique called “marking” which means singing with half-voice. This is so not to tire and overexert the voice.
How important is collaboration to you?
Opera is a collaborative art form that requires the artists to communicate a story to an audience. Having a great rapport and working as a team with the other cast members, director and conductor enable the creation of a believable story together. Personally, I want to feel connected to a character and make the deliverance of their emotions genuine and real. Having open discussions with colleagues and a willingness to share ideas makes the art of story-telling more engaging and exciting.
Who has had the biggest impact on your work?
I would actually say my life experiences and travelling the world have greatly influenced my work. To completely embody a character, you must discover and convey their emotional journey. Being able to connect to a feeling of a past personal experience can enrich your performance.
How would you describe your oeuvre?
Fun, exciting, entertaining, imaginative, innovative, a rollercoaster, intense, and emotional.
What was the first book you remember reading?
As a child I loved reading the children’s classics The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle and Possum Magic by Mem Fox.
What was the last book you read?
The Duenna – A Comic Opera by Richard Brinsley Sheridan.
Is there a painting/sculpture you struggle to turn away from?
There are a few watercolour paintings by local artists that I have collected during my travels overseas. When I saw them, it was too hard to turn away.
Who is the musical artist you know you can always return to?
I am very inspired by American lyric-coloratura soprano, Anna Moffo. I love the timbre of her voice and I feel a strong connection to her musicality and artistry.
During the working process of your last work, in those quiet moments, who was closest to your thoughts?
My parents. Since relocating to Sydney with my husband two years ago it has been difficult being separated from our immediate families. It was wonderful to finally have my parents visit and spend some quality time with them.
Do you believe in the power of art to change society?
Absolutely! The power of art helps broaden people’s perception and encourages open-minded thinking.
Which artist working in your area, alive and working today, do you most admire and why?
Nadine Sierra, is an incredible singer and a captivating performer that illuminates the stage. She always speaks truthfully about the demands of this profession.
What is your relationship with social media?
I enjoy using social media in short bursts. It is useful as it helps me to stay connected and informed about the music industry and performers.
What has been/is your greatest challenge as an artist?
I believe the greatest challenge for an artist in this industry is when you are an understudy and receive “the call” to jump-in for a performance. This happened to me as a young artist. I made my debut as Violetta in La Traviata at the Sydney Opera House for a matinee performance at four hours notice, and received a standing ovation.
Do you have any words of advice for your younger self?
Be real, not perfect.
What does the future hold for you?
More travels overseas, and many wonderful performance opportunities.
Stacey Alleaume will be appearing in La Traviata which plays from Thursday 21st September until Saturday 25th November as part of the WNO’s autumn season. Further information is available here.
La Traviata Stacey Alleaume