Singer So Proud of Her City and Culture; MUSIC Birmingham Soprano Abigail Kelly Talks to Christopher Morley about Her Busy Shedule with the English Touring Opera

The Birmingham Post (England), April 24, 2014 | Go to article overview

Singer So Proud of Her City and Culture; MUSIC Birmingham Soprano Abigail Kelly Talks to Christopher Morley about Her Busy Shedule with the English Touring Opera


Byline: Christopher Morley

YOU can find Birmingham Conservatoire alumni on many operatic stages both here and abroad.

Off the top of my head I can think, for example, of performers with Welsh National Opera, Opera North and Munich Opera (one of the world's most sought-after Wagnerian sopranos).

And currently Handsworth-raised Abigail Kelly is wowing audiences on tour with English Touring Opera.

The soprano tells me about her involvement with the organisation.

"ETO was the first professional opera company I worked for and I've been working with them regularly ever since. I've been involved not only in their main stage touring productions but also in their education and outreach projects, which can range from operas for primary school children to prison projects to performances for children and adults with special educational needs," she begins.

"The current productions this year are three of the most contrasting pieces that you can put together in a tour!

"You've got your standard operatic repertoire in Mozart's Magic Flute, an operetta verging on musical theatre in Britten's Paul Bunyan and a tour de force of dramatic, contemporary opera in Tippett's King Priam. I'm currently enjoying Paul Bunyan the most, though, as it's such a fun opera to be in. Much of the onstage laughter is genuine, especially during the lumberjacks' dance!" With so many things going on in Abigail's professional career, how does she manage to maintain a focus on everything? "It can be very difficult to juggle all the different aspects of my job, especially the constant pull in opposite directions between teaching and performing," she admits.

"However, because I'm lucky enough to be doing what I am passionate about it rarely feels like a chore. There's usually a panic period in which all the different projects that I'm involved in at any one time are just swimming around in my head, but eventually I prioritise and slot it together like a jigsaw puzzle.'' She adds: "My first experiences of performing were at a little dance school in Birmingham, performing song-and-dance routines and tap dancing along to 1940s jazz standards, so I've been hardwired to break down multiple pieces of information and to memorise music, words and movement from a very young age. It certainly comes in handy now when I have to remember entire operas and recital programmes often in foreign languages. "In fact I'm considering going back to my roots and dusting off my tap shoes to perform a classical cabaret sometime next year!" Abigail remains deeply attached to Birmingham Conservatoire. "My time there was very special indeed," she remembers, "and just last year I was invited back to adjudicate the Cecil Drew Oratorio Prize. I'd actually entered that competition as a student whilst there (and unfortunately didn't win!), but adjudicating was just as nerve-wracking as competing, to be honest. …

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