HITTING THE NOTES WITH NICOLA SAID

Location: London, UK

Star Sign: Aquarius

Media-related occupation: Opera Singer

Maltese Soprano Nicola Said had made her professional début singing Zerbinetta with Opera Project at West Green House Opera in August 2015. She studies with Yvonne Kenny, and has completed the Guildhall School Opera Course. She also coaches with Juliette Bisazza in Malta, and has studied at CSULB with world-renowned performer Shigemi Matsumoto.

As a Drake Calleja Trust Scholar, Samling Scholar, a Walter Hyde Memorial Scholar, and a Peace and Prosperity Trust Young Artist, Nicola has received support from the BOV Joseph Calleja Fund and the Janatha Stubbs Foundation, as well as a Malta Arts Scholarship and an Ian Tomlin Scholarship. In 2014, she was nominated by Joseph Calleja to attend the Salzburg Mozarteum, where she won second prize in the Strauss Competition. She’s performed the role of Echo in Laurence Osborne’s opera Narkissus and the Reflektions at the Royal Opera House. She often performs alongside Calleja in his Maltese concerts, and has recently recorded and premiered works by composer/conductor Paul Carroll at Abbey Road Studios with the Commonwealth Youth Orchestra.

In 2015, Nicola was appointed ambassador of the Malta Airport Foundation, which gives her the opportunity to use her frequent travels to promote the Foundation’s projects aimed at enhancing what the Maltese Islands have to offer in terms of culture, heritage, and the environment.

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Image Source: Kris Micallef – Courtesy of the Malta Airport Foundation

 

How would you describe your relationship with your audience?

This very much depends on a number of factors, including what the performance is, the venue, the production as a whole, and indeed the audience itself. I find that the reception generally varies according to whether the audience is made up of frequent opera goers or first-timers, and whether or not they’re familiar with the music.

But I have had wonderful experiences where audience members, who would have never been to an opera or a recital before, come to tell me how much they enjoyed it. I’ve had discussions with audience members about the music, the text, which piece they preferred most and what they thought of the production. On the other hand, I’ve had responses where the audience members were completely baffled by what was going on, and not necessarily through of any fault of their own.

Should more children be encouraged to take up music?

I feel that Malta has a number of talented singers. However, I also think that there’s the flawed mentality that all singers are automatically qualified to teach, and sometimes this ends up damaging children’s voices. There’s a well-known saying among classical singers that not all great singers are great teachers, and this is usually said even of singers who’ve had world-class careers.

I certainly think that more children should be encouraged to take up music as it’s beneficial for the child on a personal level. Moreover, there are many studies that show that music promotes development of cognitive skills and character traits such as discipline, perseverance and problem-solving.

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Image Source: Kris Micallef – Courtesy of the Malta Airport Foundation

 

Do you feel you have enough space and opportunities to spread your wings in Malta?

I’m afraid not. Malta is very small and its budget on the classical music and opera scene is extremely limited. Most European countries have at least one major opera house and a world-class concert hall with the proper acoustics, where they’re able to welcome international artists. Unfortunately, we have none of this, which is a shame really. However, I believe that things are gradually changing and an appreciation for the arts is growing.

The Malta Airport Foundation sponsored this year’s Joseph Calleja Summer Concert in which I participated. It’ll also be sponsoring a concert with the Vienna Young Philharmonic Orchestra at the Manoel Theatre, organised by the Malta Community Chest Fund in October. The BOV Joseph Calleja Foundation is giving young singers in Malta wonderful opportunities, as is the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra with whom I’ll be performing for at the New Year’s Eve Gala at the MCC.

There are a number of festivals being organised which invite local artists to participate alongside international artists, including the Malta Arts Festival, the International Spring Festival, and the Three Palaces Festival in which I’ll be performing in November.

As the Malta Airport Foundation Ambassador, I also have the wonderful privilege of being able to represent my country on my travels. In truth, I enjoy spreading my wings all over the world, but I’m proud of my country and all it has to offer. However, I cannot help but feel disappointed, as do all my colleagues, that there’s a lack of platforms on which to perform.

If you have to meet an artist from the past, who would it be and what would you talk about?

Maria Callas, about her life and her career.

Any behind-the-scenes anecdotes you could share with us?

I took a recital dress to school for one of our evening concerts, and half an hour before the show, I went to put the dress on, but the zip tore! We were all panicking in the bathroom, and then my friend sent her boyfriend running to Boots to buy some safety pins. Once it was fixed and I went out on stage, the first thing I heard was an elderly lady “whispering”, “That’s the girl whose zip tore.” I couldn’t help but giggle to myself in embarrassment… But anyway, the show must go on!