Sound Bites spotlights up-and-coming singers and conductors in the world of opera.
Sound Bites: Claudia Boyle
Photographed by Patrick Redmond at the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Ireland
Makeup and hair by Val Sherlock
© Patrick Redmond 2013
Claudia Boyle always seems amused by the promising career that is unrolling in front of her. Her air of easy self-confidence added immeasurably to her snappy comic turn as the heart-of-glass Countess in Ambroise Thomas's La Cour de Célimène at Wexford Festival Opera in 2011. She was a student at Dublin's Royal Irish Academy of Music, pursuing a degree in cello, when she decided a career as a coloratura soprano sounded more her speed. "I was sitting in the pit, not happy," she remembers, "and thinking, 'This isn't the place for me. I want to be up there.'" My singing teacher encouraged me to finish my degree in cello, and I'm happy I did. It's great when I'm singing with an orchestra. I have a real musical understanding and sensitivity because of my background."
Unlike many Irish-born singers, who go to London or Europe to train, Boyle studied at home. (Her current teacher is Suzanne Murphy, with whom she shares much repertoire.) "Big fish in a small pond," Boyle says, without apparent regret. "I got a lot of experience that I might not have had in a bigger place like London. I did a lot with the Irish theater companies, and Lyric Opera Ireland took me under their wing, giving me a lot of roles when I was young. I don't think I missed out."
Boyle admits that the Irish opera scene is a little grim at the moment, largely a victim of the country's economic woes. "But I think music is in Irish people," she says. "Our national symbol is a harp, and we are passionate people who love the arts and music. Even in a pub, when you hear Irish music, everyone is singing along with it, so I think Irish singers do bring something to the mix." Boyle has sung Konstanze in Komische Oper Berlin's Entführung aus dem Serail and Cunegonde in Teatro dell'Opera di Roma's Candide, among many other roles. Next month, she stars as Violetta for Lyric Opera Ireland, opposite the Alfredo of Luigi Boccia, at Dublin's Gaiety Theatre.
Boyle always makes sure she is thoroughly prepared for any new engagement, but she thinks singing may not be quite so hard as some make it out to be. "I am a firm believer that people can overanalyze," she says. "At the end of the day, singing should sound like second nature. I've been with singers who are talking about these minute details of the anatomy, and maybe it works for them. But sometimes simplicity is the key as well. I believe that if it feels right, it probably is right."
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