Ahead of her role as Lucia in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor for Victorian Opera (April 12-21 at Her Majesty’s Theatre), Jessica Pratt talked to Joseph Newsome of Voix des Arts about the influences on her career, and the path it has taken her so far …
Born in England, Pratt relocated to Australia in her teens but now makes her home in Italy. It seems only natural that an artist with an insatiable thirst for knowledge of her chosen profession should reside upon the land from which the first founts of operatic creativity sprung, but Pratt is delightfully clear-sighted about the benefits of her intercontinental upbringing. “As a singer growing up in Australia, Joan Sutherland and Nellie Melba were and are great examples whom I find extremely inspiring”, she says with obvious affection and respect for her forebears.
In opera, there’s nothing like a Dame from Down Under, but this sophisticated soprano’s musical perspective is unusually global. “I also adore listening to recordings of Sills, Cuberli, Studer, Devia, Scotto, Olivero, Anderson, Moffo, Caballé, and Callas, among others,” she confides. “I also find Fritz Wunderlich to be a very healthy singer to listen to. I think [that], as time goes on, I have started to realize that the wonderful sounds these singers produce are done with their minds and without forcing.”
An equilibrium of mental acuity and physical exertion is critical to vocal well-being, especially among singers at the starts of their careers, Pratt advocates. “As young singers, we always try to make something happen physically: however, the more that you step out of the way and just let your body do what is essentially a natural thing, the better the quality of sound. Less is more.”
This is wisdom with which one of her Australian idols concurred. “Nellie Melba writes at the beginning of her treatise on singing, The Melba Method: ‘It is easy to sing well, and very difficult to sing badly! How many students are really prepared to accept that statement? Few, if any. They smile, and say, It may be easy for you, but not for me. And they seem to think that there the matter ends.
‘But if they only knew it, on their understanding and acceptance of that axiom depends half their success. Let me say the same in other words: In order to sing well, it is necessary to sing easily.’ That phrase struck me as a young singer, and only after years of study and performance experience am I actually, really understanding it”, says Pratt.
Read the full article, which was submitted to Classic Melbourne and reprinted with the permission of the author, Joseph Newsome, and Voix des Arts.
Jessica Pratt previously enjoyed a triumph at La Scala as Lucia, as Deborah Humble reported for Classic Melbourne.
The picture of Jessica Pratt in the title rôle of Lucia di Lammermoor at Teatro di San Carlo, Napoli. Photo by Luciano Romani, © by Teatro di San Carlo