Katie Coventry on her English National Opera debut

Katie Coventry

Katie's journey to the English National Opera's stage for her debut in the revival of Mike Leigh’s Pirates of Penzance  has been  the quintessential dream of many a fledgling opera singer.  

Building on solid foundations at the Royal College of Music, Katie progressed through the Graduate Diploma (predominately for students who didn't train at a conservatoire for their undergraduate - Katie did her BA in History and Music at Royal Holloway, University of London) through the 2 year Masters and into the Benjamin Britten Opera School. Katie is quickly gaining deserved renown for the beauty and power of her voice and her magnetic presence on stage.

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The pin up girl of the British Youth Opera Katie sang The Fox in Janácek's The Cunning Little Vixen and Kate Julian in Britten's Owen Wingrave. Roles for the Royal College of Music's International Opera School include include Ramiro in La Finta Giardiniera (Harry Fehr, Buxton Festival Revival), Hänsel, Ariodante with the London Handel Festival, Prince Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus with John Copley, Nancy for Liam Steele's Albert Herring, Zweiter Knabe in Die Zauberflöte (Jean-Claude Auvray) and L’Écureuil and La Chatte in L’enfant et les sortilèges (James Bonas). Katie graduates from the RCMIOS this year as the winner of the prestigious intercollegiate Joaninha Trust Award of £6,000.

Katie joined the ranks of English National Opera as a Harewood Artist (the ENO's Young Artist Scheme) for their 2016-17 season - which means we can expect more news of covers/roles in the coming months! - And yet, with all this wonderment before and behind her, Katie remains practical, grounded & the Queen of Haggis dinner parties, she's Scottish, don't you know!

How does it feel to be working alongside a fellow RCM student (Soraya Mafi) and your former professor (Lucy Schaufer)?

It has been so lovely working with Soraya and Lucy, not only for the obvious reasons, that they are extraordinary artists, but also as they are such kind and supportive colleagues. Soraya performed Edith the first time so has been able to bring me up to speed with the production and as someone who has had such great success in the early stages of her career [awards include the Royal Overseas League 2015, the Maggie Teyte Prize 2014, an Independent Opera Award and 2nd Prize in the 2015 Kathleen Ferrier Awards], she always has advice and support to offer for me as I'm starting out. I always found Lucy's classes so crucial at college ["She occupies an undefinable space in the 'who's who' of classical music." – Gramophone Magazine"] and having built up that teacher/student relationship I know that she will give me honest feedback when I ask for it, and she's great fun to share a dressing room with!!

I always found Lucy's classes so crucial at college... I know that she will give me honest feedback when I ask for it!

Before doing Pirates what did you think of G&S music - has your relationship to it changed since Pirates? 

I admit that I didn't go into it with a huge knowledge of the repertoire. We had a Gilbert and Sullivan society at university so I had performed in a couple of productions there. At music college it definitely has a stigma to it, nobody wants to be cast in the G&S scene, everyone wants to do some Mozart or something more 'operatic'. For me it has been the perfect start to my career, a relatively low pressure role that I can sing confidently however I feel, with a superb cast and wonderful chorus. It's incredibly witty and lots of fun.  

Tell us about opening night?!! 

Katie Coventry

Opening night!! The most excited I think I have ever been.  I can't describe how emotional it was walking into my dressing room  with a desk full of cards from the cast and company and my family and then the buzz of skipping out onto the stage in front of a full Coliseum! It definitely confirmed for me that this is where I want to be and I can't imagine ever doing anything else.

You're working alongside a living legend - Sir John Tomlinson. Can you see why he's had such an enduring career? - and what's it like working with him?

He is inspiring. He walks into every rehearsal ready to work hard and sing well.  He's had nearly 50 years in the profession but still seems like he's keen to learn and take on what everyone has to offer.  

I think my favourite moment in the show is just before he comes on stage, not only as I never lose my excitement when he sings, but also you can feel the excitement from the audience.

What's your favourite watering hole near the Coliseum? (- and are opera singers really as noisy as we think when they go out drinking!?)

The Marquis is the pub of choice. Singers only go out and drink when they know they don't have to get up and sing the next day so I think that's a good excuse to be able to let off steam!

What do you do on a double day between shows?

On double show day there's only an hour or so in between so it's important to keep the adrenaline up.

Nick's family came to the last one [Nick Morton is Katie's fiancée and fellow opera singer, they met at the Royal College of Music! "His baritone is its own luxury casting" - Classical Source] so I spent the whole break feeding off their post show excitement! 6 nations has been coinciding as well which keeps the cast in high spirits.

Favourite / silliest lyrics from the show...

Anything that Andrew Shoredoes seems to have the whole cast in stitches. It's fresh every show so you never know what to expect!   

What are the last 3 playlists/albums you played on Spotify? 

This evening I've been listening to Il Trovatore as it's totally un-work related. I've been listening to some French song to find some inspiration for some new repertoire and I always have Shania Twain on my ipod when I'm walking to work to get psyched up!

Katie Coventry, mezzo soprano Lucy Colquhoun, piano Recorded at RCM Studios 2016 Producer and coach: Norbert Meyn
interviewLizzie Holmes