It wasn’t until after she had completed a double degree in Business and I.T, that Natalie focused on her singing and realized her potential to be the incredible opera singer she has become. After studying with the Armenian Mezzo-Soprano, Liliya Ovchian, Natalie auditioned for The Sydney Conservatorium of Music and studied with some amazing language and vocal coaches. In 2009, Natalie moved to New York to commence her Professional Studies Diploma at Mannes College, and in 2010 she performed in her first main stage opera as Fiordiligi in Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte. This paved the way to many more exciting roles such as Alice in Verdi’s Falstaff, which was instrumental to her future success.
Natalie has participated in a number of programs in Italy, Austria, and the United States. In 2011, Natalie was awarded first place in the prestigious Italian Opera Foundation’s competition, in which she competed against other young talented singers. This allowed Natalie to spend a year in Italy working with some of the top Sopranos and coaches in the field. Recently, Natalie was accepted into the Young Artist Program of Opera Australia and has since taken up the role of Mimi in La Boheme. She is currently performing as Micaëla in Bizet’s Carmen.
We recently caught up with Natalie and asked her to share some of her experiences with her fans and the opera community.
What was it like to be competing against other young performers during the Italian Opera Foundation’s competition?
Personally for me when I perform in a finals concert for any competition I feel a sense of pride – proud to be sharing the stage with a handful of the many talented singers in Australia, and proud that there is so much talent in such a remote country from the rest of the operatic world.
How has winning the competition and spending a year in Italy working with the legendary Soprano Mirella Freni helped you in your career?
Winning the competition couldn’t have happened at a more opportune time. I had just returned from Modena, Italy after having awarded a place in the Opera Studio of MIRELLA FRENI after 5 gruelling rounds of Competition, but unfortunately without the funds to support such an amazing opportunity. Winning this amazing scholarship not only enabled me to work extensively with my Operatic Idol, but also introduced me to the great Italian Culture and Culture of Opera in Europe, which of course I was able to adapt into my technique and development of my artistry.
When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in the opera?
After I completed my double degree at University I wanted to focus on my singing career so I approached Armenian Mezzo-Soprano Liliya Ovchyan and told her I wanted to be a pop singer. I auditioned for her singing some gospel music and she told me I wasn’t meant to be a pop singer, I was born to be an opera singer. After a few lessons with her, listening to her powerful voice in awe, and realising the power of moving someone with just your voice, made me fall in love with Opera, and I haven’t looked back since.
What was the first opera you ever performed in? How did you feel going on stage?
The first main stage opera I performed in was Cosi fan tutte as Fiordiligi while I was studying in New York, USA. I remember I wasn’t sure if I would be able to memorize an entire score in Italian, while simultaneously remembering the staging while acting and everything I had been taught up until that moment. It was my first major role in a different language and I thought, if I was able to do it, it would prove to me that anything is possible. I did it, and it was the happiest moment knowing that this is what I am supposed to do with the rest of my life. I remember how excited I was throughout the entire performance, surfing waves of music with the orchestra underneath, never wanting the opera to end.
Who has been your favourite character to portray?
To date, my favourite character is also my dream role and funnily enough I even made my professional debut portraying her, and she is called … Mimi. She has so many beautiful surges of emotion throughout the opera, and I was able to experience all these different sides of strength, fragility, sweetness, passion, innocence and heroism. It was a real honour to begin my career with the character that made me fall in love with Opera.
Which opera composers do you enjoy the most?
My favourite composers are Verdi and Puccini.
What upcoming performances are you currently working on and how do you prepare for them?
At the moment I am in production performing Micaela in Carmen at The Sydney Opera House during the week and on Sundays I am part of the “Greatest Hits Concert Series” in the same theatre. I’m also coaching a couple new roles for the future and about to commence studying Pamina from The Magic Flute. When studying various roles, the first person I like to see is my language coach, Nicole Dorigo, because I believe everything starts from the language – all the intentions of the composer are all written out for you in the way he uses the language, and gaining a better understanding of the poetry puts everything else into place with far more ease. Once I have the language and diction organised I proceed with learning the music with my teacher and vocal coaches and after all the repetition, the memorization happens naturally.
Who or what would you say inspires you to perform at your best during each performance?
What inspires me to perform my best is – the audience. My job is to provide a sense of escapism for audiences; transportation to fantasy and allowing the expansion of their imagination. By inspiring to communicate a transcendent quality of emotion I am able to express something universal about the human condition. I aim to do my best in each performance to give the audience this experience, because they don’t deserve anything less, and if we are able to do that with a simple phrase of music, then opera becomes a cultural platform that enriches our lives, our communities and our society at large.
What advice would you give to young operatic talent pursuing a career in opera?
My advice to young talents pursuing a career in opera is to never give up on chasing your dreams. Set your goals high and keeping pushing “onward and upward”. You may experience tough times and hardships, you may even have to make sacrifices, but two things that define the future of a singer are: having patience and perseverance. There are many talented singers in Australia and even more around the world, but what makes a successful singer doesn’t solely rely on talent and artistry, like Muhammad Ali said, “It’s not about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward.” Believe in yourself, and no one can take that away from you. Work hard enough and your dreams can become reality.