My first opera audition was for Opera de Lyon in Paris at the Opera Bastille. I had just done chorus in the musical Carmen Jones at the Southbank Centre and a cast member, Herve Goffings, said: “They are doing Porgy and Bess in Paris. You must go and audition.” I said: “What is Porgy and Bess?”
He gave me a form, I sent it off and they answered. I was so shocked, as this would be my first experience on a main opera stage and I had not had a singing lesson. I travelled by overnight coach to Paris and was very nervous on my arrival. I walked into this massive opera house and down five floors to the audition room and said to myself: “Wow. How did you do this, Nadine?”
I had been asked to learn a specific piece from the opera and sing it at the audition. Along with that I also brought Io Son L’Umile Ancella from Adriana Lecouvreur. I was so nervous that they got me to sing the piece I had learned for them line by line because they could see that I had potential and was feeling a little overwhelmed. I coped by just doing one thing at a time and taking direction from the panel. There were four of them.
Looking back, maybe I could have been a fully accomplished, trained singer. At the same time, if I had not just gone for it and taken that leap of faith and got the job, I would never have had the opportunity of being on a main stage and realising what I had to do next. It was after this job that I took my career seriously and set about getting sponsorship to aid my training. I had spent so much time working and watched such talented people that I knew what I wanted was to aim to be a soloist in the world of opera. I have achieved that goal with the help of many mentors, teachers and wonderful guidance.
CV: Nadine Benjamin
Training: Private tuition, City Lit, Morley Opera School, APS Opera Studio, National Opera Studio (Singers of Tomorrow programme)
Opera includes: Aida, Madama Butterfly, Le Nozze Di Figaro, The Ice Break, Naciketa
Theatre includes: The Man of Mode, Peer Gynt, The Sound of Music, Ghetto
TV includes: Blue Peter, BBC London
Manager: Rita Grudzien
Nadine Benjamin, lyric soprano, London Music Masters ambassador and founder of Everybody Can! was talking to John Byrne