Young Artist Interview: Charlotte Forrest

Charlotte Forrest

Opera coach, pianist and accompanist Charlotte Forrest read music at the University of Edinburgh before gaining a double masters at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama (GSMD) and joining the National Opera Studio as the Leonard Hancock Scholar. She is a regular visiting member of music staff at opera companies including Opera North and English National Opera (ENO), and a regular pianist for Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the Monteverdi Choir. Charlotte performs in the UK and abroad with LFO and the BBC Concert Orchestra, along with regular broadcasts on BBC1 and Radio 3.


Who or what inspired you to become a musician?
My father’s extensive record collection got me hooked on all kinds of music. He and his parents are quite theatrical. The first time I thoroughly enjoyed performing was when my best friend and I played Saint-Saëns ‘Carnival of the Animals’ aged 17 at St George’s, Brandon Hill. At university, I had a great teacher who encouraged me to go to music college. Before then I’d never considered music as a career option. I got into the Guildhall and the opera course there makes you feel like you’re already working in a small company. It’s very special.

How did you get into opera?
I always sang as a child (I sang years before I spoke), and I’ve always been drawn to the world of singing. My singing teacher at the time got me my first job, aged 16, singing in the semi-chorus of Turandot with Bristol Opera Company. I think I earned £15 a night! I then lost my voice and ended up playing for and taking choir rehearsals at school and university. After the GSMD I trained at the National Opera Studio, which really sets you up to work with established opera companies. I love being in a team – I’ve never been one for working solidly on my own, far too lonely. And there is always something magical about working in a theatre with all the different skilled forces involved.

Which pianists or other musicians do you most enjoy listening to?
My tastes keep changing but there are records I keep coming back to. Any of John Eliot Gardiner’s recordings are going to grip you one way or another. At the moment I love Christian Zacharias playing Schubert, Paul Lewis playing Beethoven, Murray Perahia playing anything, Segovia playing Bach, any good tenor singing his open heart out, Esperanza Spalding, Anne Sofie von Otter singing Brahms, Sarah Walker singing French songs…

What prizes (including Company) have you won?
The WCOM Concordia Serena Nevill prize which led to my Wigmore Hall debut with Soprano Laura Mitchell. The 2012/13 Kirckman Concert Society Award with Soprano Elena Xanthoudakis.

Do you do Outreach work?
Educational work, opera workshops and community operas are a huge part of my life and work. It’s vital to continue reiterating the importance of the arts in education and society, particularly when the arts are getting lower and lower on the priority list. Our cultural landscape is shifting so rapidly, and economically everyone is feeling squeezed. It’s also a moral obligation for all musicians to give something back, and to try and make a difference. Music so easily gives you that opportunity. I’m in the middle of a project with the Mahogany Opera Group working on a children’s opera with four different communities around the country. I’ve worked with the education department for Opera North for the last seven years delivering workshops and I’m now a trustee on the board of Opera Prelude, an opera educational charity working in conjunction with Garsington Opera and Cadogan Hall.

What are your highlights of the past year?
Highlights include Brundibar with Mahogany Opera Group; Khovanshchina with Birmingham Opera Group, Graham Vick and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra; touring Europe with John Eliot Gardiner and L’Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique; performing live on BBC1 with the BBC Concert Orchestra; working with the chorus of ENO and the Royal Opera House.

What would you like to do more of musically?
More community operas and educational projects. I already do so many different things in my job from day to day so I’d love to get back into singing and to join my local choir! I’ve also never done much chamber music, that’s my next challenge, and maybe to learn the cello…

What are you most looking forward to this year?
A recital at Wigmore Hall and Versailles with the Monteverdi Choir; Il trittico at Opera Holland Park (a wonderful company and three Puccini’s for the price of one!); Alice in Wonderland, a commissioned children’s opera at the Wilderness Festival in Oxford; helping out on the Aldeburgh Opera Writing Course.

How can we find out more about you?
Follow me on twitter @charliemouse80