John Butt and Anna Dennis are on @BBCInTune now talking about our Dangerous Liaisons concert next Tuesday… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
We chased down the wonderful Victoria Simmonds; aka Flamel in our up and coming concert performance of Offenbach’s Fantasio, to talk about some of the finer things in life (books, opera, Brad Pitt, that sort of thing…)
How did you get into music?
My father was a vicar so my earliest experience of music was probably being taken to church. I learned the piano from the age of 6, then sang in the choir from about 9.
When did you realize you wanted to make music your career?
I wanted to be an actress at first, then I went to see an opera and thought it looked quite a cool thing to do. It was thanks to my first singing teacher, Coral Gould, though that I went to music college – I didn’t even know what a conservatoire was until she suggested I apply.
Do you still get nervous when performing?
Yes, definitely! I’ve never been wracked with nerves, but a little adrenaline is usually a good sign, I think. It means you care about your performance.
What has been your worst concert experience?
Most of my worst professional moments have taken place in operas – like when my skirt fastening malfunctioned during a performance of Carmen in the Albert Hall, and I spent the rest of the act holding it up.
What’s special about Fantasio?
It was premiered at the Opera Comique in Paris in 1872 (where I’ve just been singing a new piece by George Benjamin), but was dropped after just 10 shows, with Offenbach receiving much criticism in the press, largely because of the Franco-Prussian war, his imperial connections and German birth. Apparently Offenbach was very sensitive to criticism of Fantasio because he identified himself with the ‘bitter clown’ of the title role.
Who’s your musical hero?
Just one? Too difficult! Mozart, Handel, Rossini, Berlioz, Gary Barlow. The list is endless.
What are you listening to at the moment?
I hardly ever listen to recorded music unless I’m learning something, but if I do it could be anything from Lenny Kravitz to Schubert. I’m going to have to start listening to Cunning Little Vixen soon, as I’m singing Fox next year for the first time for Garsington Opera.
What was the last good film you saw?
Gravity. I came out of that film gasping for air.
If you had one piece of advice to give to aspiring artists, what would it be?
Go for it!
Who would you most like to meet and why?
Brad Pitt. Shallow, but honest (me not him!). Because.
What are you listening to right now?
My children doing ‘arts and crafts’ in the dining room.
Which book do you think everybody should read?
Can I be cheeky and say ‘His Dark Materials’ by Philip Pullman, which is sort of three books…
Send us the best photo on your phone.
Well the best photo is of my kids, but you’re not having that, so here’s my best ‘selfie’.