Welcome to Con Fuoco, CutCommon’s interview series with emerging musicians in Australia.
Australian mezzo-soprano Laura Griffin graduated from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music with a Bachelor of Music Studies in classical voice. After completing her degree, she spent a year living in Vienna to undertake training in singing and language under the tutelage of Julia Conwell and David Aronson. She now studies under the tutelage of renowned Australian soprano Amelia Farrugia.
Recent operatic roles include Prince Orlofsky (Die Fledermaus – Operantics), Edith (The Pirates of Penzance – Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Sydney), Yum-Yum (The Mikado) and Emmie (Albert Herring – Australia National University). Laura’s recent solo performances include soloist at Maroubra Carols, soloist in Operantics’ WWI Rememberance Day Concert and soloist at the Mosman Concert series. Concert performances include Faure’s Requiem and Mozart’s Requiem. The mezzo-soprano has an upcoming role as soloist in Schubert’s Mass in G Major this year; and has performed as a soloist for various diplomatic and state events, including singing for Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Governor-General Dame Quentin Bryce, and the ambassadors for France, Austria, Switzerland and Sweden.
Laura will perform with Apollo Opera Collective this month.
Your all-time favourite piece of music?
My all-time favourite piece of music would have to be La Mer by Claude Debussy. I absolutely adore impressionist instrumental music, and this piece has so much life and imagery, it swells and transports me to a completely different place. That’s what music should be about!
Biggest fear when performing?
My biggest fear when on stage is probably shared by a lot of us performers: forgetting the words. Or forgetting what I’m meant to be doing. Of course, these things happen from time to time, and we are taught to just keep on going no matter what. But it is such a big fear. I guess no one really likes to make a fool of themselves
Most memorable concert experience?
Since a young age, I have had a huge crush on Anna Netrebko. One time when in Europe, I really wanted to see her for the first time, so I saved up and booked tickets to see her in La Traviata at Covent Garden. A week before the show, she broke her ankle and cancelled the show. Devastated, I searched high and low for any other concerts she may be doing whilst I was in Europe. Luckily, the day before I left, I managed to get tickets to see her in a recital in Lucerne. Seeing her live in concert was one of the most amazing experiences, and I cried like a baby.
How do you psych yourself up for practice on a lazy day?
Practice is not always the most exciting thing to do, especially when you’ve had a long day at work, or are feeling tired or not in the mood. Normally, I play a piece or two on piano to get me into the musical mood, and if that doesn’t do it, then I sing one of my favourite Disney songs to get me into the singing mood. But I’ve learnt over the years that if you are too tired or really just not feeling it, its best not to practice, and come to it in an hour or two, or the next day, to avoid any vocal strain. It makes such a difference singing when energised that its simply not worth practising to me if I’m not feeling like it. Quality over quantity!
Most embarrassing moment on stage?
One time when I was 12, I was in a community musical singing in a kick line at the front of the stage. My shoes were a bit too big for me, and halfway through the song my shoe flew off and hit the flautist in the orchestra pit below. I then finished the song with only one shoe, and had to retrieve my shoe from the pit before going on for the next song. Not my greatest moment; I was very embarrassed, although I can imagine it would have been very entertaining!
Best piece of musical advice you’ve received?
As singers, I feel we have a few pivotal light bulb moments in our careers; I know I’ve had quite a few myself. One of the biggest ones for me was when someone simply told me, ‘Stop singing loudly’. I have a bad tendency to push and drive sound, but its not such an easy habit to break. When someone just said, ‘Why don’t you stop singing so loudly?’, it all just clicked!
Favourite post-gig ritual?
This is an easy question! Usually after a gig, I am very hungry. And with the convenience of food delivery services, I have the terrible-yet-delicious habit of ordering a burger and drinking a beer post-show. I know, I know; it’s not the greatest habit. But I figure I worked it off during the show, right?
What are you most proud of in your musical career so far?
Probably this role. It has been a huge mountain to climb; it is the biggest role I’ve done. I have had to learn so much music and in a style I’m not used to. I’m really proud of what I’ve achieved in undertaking this role. It has really opened up a new genre and style for me, and I cant wait for more!
What do you love most about making music?
Making music is like nothing else. It is not comparable. I love the wonder of the moment, after months and months of tiresome rehearsals and note-bashing and singing lessons and tech runs, to finally be in that moment on stage and realise that you’re standing there, making beautiful music, to a crowd full of people. It’s so many things – the people you meet, the things you learn, the music that gets to be given to people for the joy of listening and entertaining; there are so many things to love.
What’s your ultimate goal?
I hate to be cliché, but I think my ultimate goal is probably pretty similar to most opera singers – to be able to do what I love and get paid to do it. To actually use my degree to get a job. To stand and do what I love and be acknowledged for it, and to make ends meet from it. Ultimately, yes, I would love to be on the stage at Covent Garden or the Met, and hopefully there’s a tiny chance that could happen one day. But I would be really happy in life if I could just sing and not have to do anything else.
Laura Griffin will perform the title role in the Apollo Opera Collective’s performance of Handel’s work Ariodante. The show takes place on February 9 and 10 at Mary Immaculate Church, 45A Victoria St, Waverley. Tickets online.
The Apollo Opera Collective is a new company through which young singers present Baroque works. It’s led by artistic director Keiran Brandt Sawdy, and this show is presented in partnership with the Orchestra of the Sydney Baroque Music Festival.