Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Her Voice

Interview with Nadia Vella

Soprano, Nadia Vella has a God-given talent as a performing artist. Professionally trained at Hertfordshire Theatre School UK, Nadia obtained an advanced diploma in Acting and Musical Theatre where she was mentored by Jo Croydon Foster and Samantha Lavender. Her versatile achievements include roles in musicals, plays, concerts, opera and TV work in Malta, England and Germany. Nadia gave a sneek peak into who she is. 

What influenced your choice to pursue music? 

Ever since I was a little girl I loved to sing. Back then it ranged from Disney to nursery rhymes to Elvis songs (my mother is a huge fan.) I was particularly infatuated with Ariel from The Little Mermaid; singing was always a way to express myself. Aged 5 I started taking piano lessons and joined the local children’s church choir and it was a natural progression from there onwards. 

What does music mean to you? 

It is a very important aspect in my life. Not just career-wise but on a personal level. I always find it quite amazing how a piece of music takes me back to the exact moment in time in which I first heard it and the exact feelings that I felt then. To quote Hans Christian Andersen ‘Where words fail music speaks.’

How do you find a perfect balance between your full-time job, singing and a personal life? 

I am a full-time professional performing artist and vocal coach. While I am lucky enough to have a job that I love, I will be the first to admit that I have not yet found a ‘perfect’ balance with juggling my work and personal life. Due to the nature of the business, I normally work long hours and most evenings and holidays are taken up by work commitments. I understand that this is the price I have to pay to be in this industry. Luckily, I have a very supportive and patient partner and family and I have become a very good multi-tasker. 

Is there enough appreciation towards opera by local society? 

Although the local scene has improved and there are a lot more opportunities for aspiring artists then there were say 10 years ago, I still feel that the general attitude towards those who pursue music as a full-time career in Malta is that of ‘a hobby’ and ‘not a real job.’ Of course, with classical music there are those who dismiss it as ‘boring’ or ‘old-fashioned.’ Everyone has different tastes and, in my opinion, every musical genre is beautiful in its own right. 

How do you think opera can be made more appealing to a younger audience?

In my opinion, it needs to start with instilling a love for classical music at a young age in schools. The general attitude of arts subjects not being as important as other subjects has to change. Opera is sometimes seen as something to be enjoyed only by the ‘elite’ which is ironic considering that most of the great composers of all time spent most of their life in poverty. A greater cultural awareness and a change of attitude towards the arts, from a young age, should definitely impact the way classical music appeals to the younger generation. 

Franz Schalk once noted, “Every theatre is an insane asylum, but an opera theatre is the ward for the incurables.” Do you agree? 

Not really. Viennese conductor Franz Schalk (1863-1931) was the joint director (with Richard Strauss) of The Vienna State Opera between 1919 and 1924. Therefore, I feel that his comment needs to be considered within the time in which he made it. ‘Madness’ has been the running theme in many famous operas ever since the 1600s, attached to minor characters and protagonists alike. Psychology became an independent scientific study in the 19th century and the Romantic era became a showcase for some of opera’s most shocking and poignant mad scenes. Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor is a perfect example of such an opera. Many of opera’s mad characters reflected cultural and historical context as well as the contemporary attitude of the time towards such characters. Schalk was making reference to the often-tragic theme that circled operas in the sense that most plots revolved around tragedy and this is what the audiences were entertained by. I do feel that there is a little madness in each and every one of us and audience members can relate to the emotions portrayed by the characters. Luckily the study of mental health has moved ahead in leaps and bounds in this day and age, and there isn’t the stigma and lack of help that was present back in Schalk’s time. I therefore do not feel that one must visit the theatre or watch an opera to witness ‘madness’ – it is everywhere in differentiating amounts! 

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the opera? 

The pandemic has wreaked havoc on an international level. Unfortunately, many opera houses around the world have closed down at some point or another and although some have re-opened most are not operating to their full capacity yet. In an already difficult industry, many have been left jobless, with entire season programmes being postponed or cancelled. Locally we have seen this effect as well. Following a very difficult 2020, we staged Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas in our national theatre but only being able to utilize a quarter of the theatre’s seating capacity due to restrictions. I was cast as ‘Naiad’ in The Manoel Theatre’s production of Strauss’s ‘Ariadne auf Naxos’ which was postponed from 2020 to 2022 and sadly has now been cancelled. Let us hope for a better year ahead. 

What projects are you working on at the moment? 

I have two upcoming concerts, ‘Versatile Christmas’ at The Manoel Theatre on the 7th December and a Christmas concert alongside The Malta Philharmonic Orchestra at the Mdina Cathedral on the 21st December. I am lucky to be singing some beautiful arias and sacred music for these. I am currently playing ‘Karolina’ in Sharpshoot Media’s new tv drama ‘Ic-Chalet’ which will be released on Go on Demand very soon and will feature as a soloist with The Monteverdi Project during the Valletta International Baroque Festival in January 2022.

A word of advice for those vying a career in the industry? 

It is not an easy industry -one must grow skin as thick as a crocodile’s to be able to survive. However, if you are passionate and driven and cannot see yourself doing any other job, then go for it. For me there is nothing quite like the feeling of being on stage, it takes me to another world and gives me life. If this is how it makes you feel then go for it and do not let anything stand in your way.

Photographer: Justin Mamo

Aqra Wkoll