Sophie Bevan features on the cover of this month’s Opera Now magazine, for an interview with Robert Thicknesse about her current role as Hermione in Ryan Wigglesworth’s The Winter’s Tale, which opened this week at English National Opera, and reprising the role of Beatriz in Thomas Adès’ The Exterminating Angel at the Royal Opera House.
With thanks to Opera Now, below is short extract from the interview. You can read the full article here.
“When we meet, Bevan is feeling especially jolly after a run of singing Sophie in the new production of Der Rosenkavalier at Covent Garden, alongside Renée Fleming and Alice Coote. ‘I first sang the role at ENO, and even when the Royal Opera asked me a few years ago I wondered where my voice would be by the time I came round to the role again. Actually it’s no longer very comfortable for me – I doubt I’ll sing it again. My voice isn’t right any more, at least for the way the role starts: it’s not easy to sit there singing quietly and high for ages! But Sophie goes on quite a journey and grows up during the piece, so the last act works better for me. Well, I’ve done what I set out to do.’ She laughs, as she explains: ‘The first proper opera I saw was Der Rosenkavalier at Covent Garden with Renée Fleming singing the Marschallin, and I thought if I could sing it there with her I would have achieved my dream. Now I can give up!’ She asks what I thought of her singing and I tell her the voice did now seem more womanly than the ideal Sophie. This Sophie genuinely doesn’t read reviews: ‘I couldn’t bear to read anything mean about me!’ Not that there’s much of that about, frankly; and The Family makes sure all the nice stuff gets back to her somehow.
Her next two roles, for a complete change, are in high-profile new pieces: first English National Opera’s newly commissioned A Winter’s Tale by the young conductor-composer Ryan Wigglesworth; and then a Covent Garden rerun of Thomas Adès’s Exterminating Angel, first seen at Salzburg last year. It’s not unusual for Mozartians to make good contemporary singers, of course: they often require the same sort of vocal tone. ‘At the Royal College I sang a fair bit of new stuff, because we performed the music of composers studying at the same time. But nothing much since then.’
The role of Hermione, the wronged wife of Leontes, in Wigglesworth’s opera is more than a lucky chance: Bevan and the composer are a couple, and Ryan wrote the opera for Sophie – ‘which was nice!’ she laughs. ‘I had no idea how hard it would be, though. When you’re first confronted with contemporary music you think, “How on earth will I be able to sing this? I don’t understand the language”. But it’s a bit like learning any language: after a few days of playing it, suddenly it begins to make sense. It’s not wacky. Ryan’s music follows proper old rules of harmony and counterpoint, though it certainly uses dissonance too.’
Wigglesworth’s music is still a closed book for most of us. Being composer-in-residence at ENO was obviously a handy fast-track to getting his first stage work performed with all the trimmings (including a great cast of British talent), but his work is not widely known. So I have to ask Sophie, ‘What it’s like..? ‘Well, it sounds like Ryan! I guess if you have to compare it to anything it’s somewhere between Berg and Stravinsky. Luckily Ryan writes very lyrically, so there are beautiful lines to sing.’”
You can read the full article here, on the Opera Now website.