Written By: Mark Armstrong
Welsh National Opera (WNO) are about to bring a number of their shows to Liverpool’s Empire Theatre. Amongst the talented cast and crew is Heather Lowe, a home-grown performer who studied opera for a number of years, which opened the door for her to integrate herself within WNO. Now, she’s taking on a major role in La Cenerentola, and in her hometown no less! We caught up with Heather to discuss this show, her experiences so far, and why La Cenerentola is a treat for all to see.
First of all, tell us about your Tisbe character in La Cenerentola.
I’m playing Tisbe, and she is one of the Ugly Sisters. She is very opinionated and forthright, and basically her entire persona is that she will do whatever to make her life what she wants it to be. So, if somebody says to her “You need to walk over people to get to the top”, she will. She’s not a little princess or a little flower; she’s someone that will do whatever it takes to get to where she wants to be.
For those unfamiliar with Cenerentola, what is the main concept of this particular opera?
It is basically an Italian operatic take on the classic story of Cinderella. I think it’s very special for anyone who loves that story; it’s really funny and really exciting. It’s basically Cinderella but in Italian! (Laughs)
When did you first become a fan of opera?
I always studied music in school, and I appeared at a lot of the local music festival competitions, like the ones in Southport and Crosby. I did a lot of that when I was little, but I didn’t really think anything of it. But then my music teacher at A-Levels said “I really think this is something that you should go on to do”. So, I applied to study opera at university, and my mum also took me to see Aida at the cinema, which I came away from thinking that it was really cool. I went into university, and I just fell in love with the opera music. I hadn’t been massively introduced to it; it was something that I just fell into.
How did you find your experiences studying at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester and the National Opera Studio in London respectively?
Manchester was amazing. Because I grew up in Southport, and I’m from the North, I went to Manchester feeling really naive. But I got there and I learned so much from my tutor. She was a wonderful teacher, and she taught me so much about techniques, stage-craft, business; I learned so much. When I went to London, it was a completely different experience, because I’d never ever been to London. It was daunting but exciting, and you feel it even more intensely because it wasn’t just 25 of you in a room all learning; here, it was 3 or 6 or even just 1 of you in a room learning. It becomes a lot more concentrated. It was amazing, it really was.
Tell us how you became a part of the company at Welsh National Opera (WNO).
When I went to the National Opera Studio, they were affiliated with WNO and the other major opera companies in the UK. You had to pick a role in the Studio that you would then study for the year, and you could then see where you started from and how you progressed during that year. My core role was Rosina from The Barber Of Seville, and at the time WNO happened to be doing The Barber Of Seville. They had most of the cast filled, but they didn’t have cover for this particular role. So, they heard me and contacted me to say “Would you like to cover The Barber Of Seville?” I said that I’d love to, so I went to WNO in the January after I’d finished in the Studio, and I covered Rosina for them. But the girl who had been playing Rosina went off sick, so they asked me to sing for them again, and I was able to perform in the main role for a show in Milton Keynes. I went back to work for them again after that, and now Cenerentola is the first show where I’m debuting in one of the main roles from the start.
What would you consider to be your career highlights so far?
Ooh, that’s a tricky one! (Laughs) I have loved every single moment of this job; there are always highs and lows. I can’t really pinpoint a career highlight at the moment, purely because I think everything I’ve done is so new, as I’m only four years into it. Every single thing has been completely different and exciting on its own merit. I don’t want to say “this has been the highlight”, but I have to say that when I covered for Opera North, I went on to perform there again, and going on to cover as Rosina for WNO as well; these were both amazing experiences for me, because it came straight out of university, to go and do the role that I’d studied for a year. It was absolutely amazing, and something I never thought I’d be able to do right after studying. So, I definitely look at this as a highlight. But because the job is so exciting and always changing, you’re always doing something new and thinking “I can’t believe I’m doing this”, I can’t really say that this was the pinnacle of my career so far. That’s all I can say! (Laughs)
Finally, why should the Liverpool audience come to see La Cenerentola?
I think that Cenerentola is a story that everybody will enjoy. It’s full of fun and kindness; every single person watching it will be able to understand it and see themselves as every single character on the stage at some point. It’s a beautiful production to watch, the singing is wonderful, the orchestra band is amazing, and I just generally think that it’s a wonderful and fun show. People will watch it and laugh their socks off to the end, and hopefully they will leave feeling really invigorated having really enjoyed themselves watching it from start to finish. I think it’s such an enjoyable show that the Liverpool audience will get a real kick out of.
WNO: La Cenerentola performs at the Empire Theatre on Thursday November 8. To book your tickets, click here.