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Classical special: Waltz back in time

PUBLISHED: 16:06 30 January 2009 | UPDATED: 15:39 29 October 2010

Abigail Saltmarsh

Strictly Strauss is a chance to waltz back in time to the glittering ballrooms of 19th Century Vienna with enchanting music, elegant dance and songs from the Strauss family. ABIGAIL SALTMARSH spoke to soprano Elena Xanthoudakis.

Strictly Strauss is a chance to waltz back in time to the glittering ballrooms of 19th Century Vienna with enchanting music, elegant dance and songs from the Strauss family. ABIGAIL SALTMARSH found out more with its star, soprano Elena Xanthoudakis.

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t Can you tell us a little about Strictly Strauss?

“It's more than simply an orchestral concert of the joyous music of the Strauss family. We have eight wonderful dancers in beautiful Victorian period costumes choreographed by the renowned Christopher Hampson, plus violin solos - and of course me!”

t What do you enjoy most about the show?

“The show is loads of fun. But I would have to say I enjoy playing Adele best as she is such a cheeky character! Of the dances, I love the Pizzicato Polka most. This is a clever little character piece choreographed with umbrellas - well, now you'll just have to see it to know why I like it so much.”

t You started singing at such a young age, when did you realise you wanted to make a career from it?

“I have a very strong memory of my first stage performance at the age of four. Looking out to the audience, I thought 'I like this!' Then I was fortunate to always be doing some kind of performing throughout school, but it wasn't until I was at university, studying physics, that I realised how much I missed doing music everyday. This was hard as I had come from a high school where I had singing lessons and flute lessons, and played in a vocal ensemble, concert band and woodwind ensemble every week. After my first year of physics I bit the bullet and dropped the science degree in preference of seriously pursuing singing as my career.”

t Do you have any regrets about not becoming a gymnast?

“I wish I had taken it further, particularly when I was one of two girls singled out for special training for the Commonwealth Games. It became a very tough practice schedule and then there was softball and net ball and piano - something had to give. A few years later when I saw the other girl was competing, well yeah, I had some regrets but was always pleased that I had already achieved a high level before I gave it up.”

t What do you consider to be your greatest achievements?

“I am really proud to have won the Maria Callas Grand Prix in the category of Oratorio and Lieder with higher marks than all the opera singers competing. And I am very proud to have had the opportunity to sing for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and The English National Opera. I am also proud of how I managed myself in the Operalia competition in September. It is a high pressure event with many rounds, some of the best opera houses on the panel, some of the best up and coming talent in the world and the finals with an orchestra.”

t What kind of singing work do you most enjoy?

“That is a very difficult question. I enjoy so many different types of singing work for different reasons. Opera is loads of fun and full of challenges. However, you gain so much fulfilment from preparing a lieder recital and then it is something very special to communicate direct to an audience in recital that this is also a real joy to perform. Then there is oratorio and concert work which I believe I have a flair for. I adore singing oratorio, like those by Bach, Handel, Mozart, as I love to bring the music to life.”

t You travel a great deal, do you ever get fed up with it?

“I would be lying if I didn't say it sometimes gets very tiring, but I wouldn't change my job and I do love to visit and learn about new places. It's actually a real bonus about this career.”

t Do you have any life ambitions you still hope to achieve?

“Absolutely! I would love to have a major role for the Metropolitan Opera in New York. I am also interested in making recordings, maybe even one with my brother Jason (a clarinet and saxophone player). There are so many roles that I would love to have the chance to perform.”

t Strictly Strauss is at the Theatre Royal on Sunday, £5-£19.50, 01603 630000, www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk

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