PREFACEHow Opera Taught Me the Key to Gravitas

Would it surprise you to learn that the first nugget of an idea for this book came from opera — more specifically, from my life performing in the world of opera? But then I have come to believe that life is an opera or a fabula praetexta (an ancient Roman drama with a theme or legend from Roman history), and so I should not be surprised that opera is precisely where this idea started.

My career in singing was not about talent, but regime. Like an Olympian training, as singers we kept fit, we practised at length, we never sang popular music and we had few friends, if any, outside the world of classical music. Life was insular but tremendously fulfilling in the simple rewards of doing what we did well and being praised for it. It was a total discipline.

As a performer, I sang, studied, lived and made friends with some distinguished figures in the opera world, including those famed in the industry such as Sir Peter Ustinov and Dame Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, and was fortunate to be consumed by their worlds of excellence.

In Europe, we sang and communicated in at least five different languages, relying heavily on the use of signing to help our audience understand despite the language barriers. Whatever the language we were singing in, when we appeared on stage we worked to engage our audience at an intimate level, who were intrigued by the seeming magic of the world of music performance.

As Rodelinda in Rodelinda at the Aldeburgh Festival ...

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