Anush Hovhannisyan was nominated for the young singer award at the 2018 International Opera Awards and has won prizes including the 1st and the audience prize at the 2016 Stella Maris Vocal Competition. She chats to Giverny Masso about her upcoming role at the New Generation Festival in Florence, which celebrates young opera talent…
How did you get into singing opera?
I played an instrument from the age of 10. In Armenia, we have separate musical schools and I went to one of those. My father is an opera director and I came from a family that has worked in opera and the arts. I didn’t start singing until I was 17. I woke up one day and felt like singing and it was such a strong feeling that I dedicated my life to it. I never played my instrument again.
Do you ever wish you started singing at a younger age?
There is not an age you have to start. For me, it was really the right time. It was when the natural mutations of the voice have happened already, so I have never had to sing through my voice change. When I was younger, I would sing along to Whitney Houston or Stevie Wonder, but I never thought about singing opera. As I was surrounded by it with my family, it did make sense.
What has been a highlight in your career so far?
La Traviata with Scottish Opera, because I never thought I would be able to physically sing the role of Violetta. It was a very interesting time for me to find out what my limits are. It is a very demanding role: if Violetta does not carry the night on her shoulders then it can be a disaster. I was well aware of that. The singing, technical and acting pressures and bringing it all together meant that it was one of the most important times of my life so far.
What will you be performing at the New Generation Festival?
It is very exciting, I am doing one of my favourite operas: Don Giovanni, playing Donna Anna. I’ve always wanted to sing Donna Anna and am absolutely delighted that the New Generation Festival thought I would be suitable to take on this role.
Why are festivals like these – which give a platform to emerging talent – important?
The festival not only tries to give the stage to young talent, but also to create a young audience for opera. The festival brings so many new audience members to classical music, who enjoy not only the music, but the entire experience. We have picnic tables during the day and every night we have an after-party with fantastic musicals and cabaret. It’s very important for the young opera singers and musicians and artists who work in operatic and classical music, as well as directors, conductors and every single person that puts their effort into making a performance. And for me, having the chance to do larger roles lets me find out my strengths.
Don Giovanni is at the New Generation Festival in Florence, Italy, from August 29-September 1. Other performance dates for Anush Hovhannisyan can be found here: anushhovhannisyan.co.uk
Training: BMus, MMus and postgraduate at Yerevan State Conservatory, Armenia (2003-10); Master of Music in vocal performance (2010-11) and Master of Music in opera school at Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (2011-13)
First professional role: Princess in El Gato Con Botas at the Royal Opera House, London (2013)
Agent: James Black