Artist in the spotlight
Soprano Gemma Summerfield, winner of the 2015 Kathleen Ferrier Award, recently became a Classical Opera Associate Artist.
She makes her full company début as Berenice in Jommelli’s Il Vologeso in April.
When did you realise you wanted to be an opera singer?
Really, I’ve fallen into opera. At school singing was just a hobby to me – a serious hobby, but a hobby nevertheless – and I never really expected to pursue it at conservatoire level. I applied on a whim, got in, and learnt my craft through the song repertory. Opera is a new venture for me in the grand scheme of things but recently I’ve had the opportunity to discover and play with some great roles. I’ll never abandon the song repertoire (there’s so much to gain from it!) but I’m absolutely loving the route that opera is taking me on.
Whom do you most admire?
If we’re talking in terms of opera singers, then it has to be Maria Callas. I know that perhaps seems a cliché, but she really meant every single note that came out of her mouth; it wasn’t always the most beautiful sound you’ll ever hear but every word had organic integrity and an incredibly well pitched weight of intent.
What is your favourite opera?
My favourite opera tends to fluctuate with whichever role I want to sing at the time! So, at the moment it’s Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore – Hilde Güden’s Adina is winning out at the moment. It’s a light and precise voice but beautifully fluid to listen to.
What has been your favourite performance to date?
This is a real toss up! Option one is playing Rosalinda [Die Fledermaus] for the RCM in December under the direction of John Copley – she was such a vivacious character to inhabit and I was surrounded by incredible colleagues. We really bounced off each other’s energy and helped each other up our games for a truly enjoyable set of performances. Option two is the Ferrier Final at the Wigmore Hall – such an incredible building and acoustic, and singing there for a second time (after the semis) meant that I was really comfortable in my performance. I can’t wait for my next opportunity to sing there!
When you are not singing, what is your favourite pastime?
I’m a real foodie off stage – one of my favourite things to do is a casual wander around Borough Market. I find cooking incredibly relaxing and had my first success with a Tarte Tatin recently (the soundtrack to that particular revelation? Ariodante).