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Elizabeth Watt's return to sing about

PUBLISHED: 08:58 14 November 2011

Elizabeth Watts

Elizabeth Watts

Archant

Her voice has been described as one of the most beautiful BRitain has produced in a generation. Elizabeth Watts is 'coming home' as she makes her Glyndebourne opera debut. NEVILLE MILLER reports.

Everywhere she would sing — at Hethersett Primary, at Norwich High School for Girls and in the first Norwich Cathedral Girls Choir.

Now, at 32, Elizabeth Watts is an acclaimed international soprano who has just enjoyed one high profile concert back in Norwich and is looking forward to a swift return with the prestigious Glyndebourne touring production.

With a voice described as “one of the most beautiful Britain has produced in a generation”, the soprano has estab-lished herself as one of the brightest new talents on the classical stage.

Elizabeth was a chorister at Norwich Cathedral before leaving to go to university and attend the Royal College of Music. He won the Kathleen Ferrier Prize in 2006, before gained international recognition at the 2007 BBC Car-diff Singer of the World Competition.

These days she is much in demand as a recitalist and concert singer. She has given recitals at the UK’s leading venues, including Wigmore Hall, Bridgewater Hall, Purcell Room, the Aldeburgh and Cheltenham festivals, but she has retained strong links to Norwich.

Last month she shared a programme with Norwich Baroque and the illustrious counter-tenor Michael Chance, who, like her, has a Norfolk connection — his home is at Hindringham.

It was Michael who inspired this programme and he said: “The wonderful Elizabeth Watts is recognised as one of the best young singers we have. I thought it would be great to get her here before she’s in the stratosphere.”

Next week she is back for another home town engagement when she will appear at the Theatre Royal in the leading role of Almirena in Glyndebourne Touring Opera’s production of Handel’s Rinaldo, a role that marks her Glyndebourne debut.

“It will be nice to be home,” says Elizabeth, who spends so much of her life travelling. “ Sometimes there’s just the journey from hotel to airport.”

Elizabeth is the youngest of three sisters. Their late mother, Rosemary Watts, was a buoyant personality, active in local politics and in later life of tours round Norfolk churches. Her father David, now living at Little Melton, was a sound engineer for Anglia Television.

She studied archaeology at Sheffield University, earning a first class honours degree but at the same time she was studying singing and giving concerts.

While at Whitby in Yorkshire for a concert she sat down on the famous Whitby Steps and asked herself how she wanted to spend the rest of her life, in archaeology — “I was always rather an armchair archaeologist” — or music?

“I thought music was what I was called to do,” she said.

What she did then showed evidence of a practical determination.

She wrote what she called her ‘Whitby resolutions’ which included the decision to spend a year consolidating her vocal technique, practising piano, working at theory and aural skills and applying to the Royal College of Music the following year.

She auditioned for a place and won a scholarship.

There have been a number of important wins since then, for instance in 2006 the Kathleen Ferrier prize and the following year the Rosenblatt Song Prize at the Cardiff Singer of the World Competition. Another success was being selected as an artist in residence at the Southbank Centre.

Her recording debut in 2008, a collection of Schubert songs, was greeted with huge praise.

The International Record Review described her voice as “one of the most beautiful Britain has produced in a generation”.

Tim Ashley wrote in The Guardian of a concert in which she sang Strauss: “She is already a major artist but this struck me as a transformation into a great one.”

Elizabeth keeps an objective view of what the critics say.

“It’s very nice to be complimented but I know myself what I can do and where I stand.”

An anticipated date of the classical diary, Glyndebourne on Tour 2011 will again present three productions over the space of a week at Norwich Theatre Royal.

Following the extremely successful production of L’elisir d’amore in 2007, Glyndebourne continues its exploration of Donizetti’s work by staging his other great comic masterpiece, Don Pasquale, in a new production from Mariame Clément, making her Glyndebourne debut.

David McVicar’s production of La bohème, which premiered on the tour in 2000, returns with a young and talented cast, many of whom have graduated from the Glyndebourne Chorus and are embarking on exciting solo careers.

The trio is completed by Robert Carsen’s production of Handel’s Rinaldo, featuring Elizabeth, which comes direct from the 2011 Glyndebourne Festival. The work marked the composer’s London debut and was also the first Ital-ian opera specifically created for the British stage.

It follows the love story between the knight Rinaldo and the beauty Almirena. When the couple are separated by powerful spirits, Rinaldo goes into battle to claim back his love and conquer the city. Carsen’s production takes some unlikely inspiration from St Trinian’s.

■ Glyndebourne on Tour is at Norwich Theatre Royal from November 15-19. La bohème November 15 and 18, Don Pasquale November 16 and 19, and Rinaldo November 17. Tickets £50-£6.50, 01603 630000, www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk

■ There will be pre-performance talks on November 15/16/17 (6.15pm-6.45pm), free to ticket holders, pre-book via Theatre Royal box office.

www.glyndebourne.com

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