Young Artist Interview: Sophie Dicks

Award-winning mezzo-soprano Sophie Dicks is a former student of the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) and Royal College of Music (RCM) where she trained to Masters level. She now studies in London under the tutelage of mezzo-soprano Anne Mason. While at the RNCM, Sophie performed the roles of Lucretia, Cenerentola, Hermia and Tisbe for opera scenes. She also performed the roles of Varochka in Shostakovich’s Moscow, Cheryomushki and Orfeo ed Euridice for RNCM Opera. Professionally, Sophie has worked for Buxton Festival Opera and Opera Holland Park (OHP) where she was a Christine Collins Young Artist in 2015 singing the role of Mallika in Lakmé.

When did you first realise you had lungs?
It’s quite cliché to say I was singing before I could talk, but I really was! All I ever did was sing around the house, yet it wasn’t until I was about 13 at my high school in Spain where my singing teacher at the time said to me ‘You should be an opera singer’ that I realised I could properly sing.

How do you nurture your voice?
I don’t try and live my life majorly differently to non-singers, I don’t have a special diet or anything like that and I do like the odd drink! Sleep is the most important thing for me, as I think tiredness can have the biggest effect on the voice. I have to get at least eight hours a night, and I always make sure I am properly warmed up. I drink around three litres of water a day and steam most evenings. Other than that, I look after my body with a healthy diet and exercise just as anybody else would.

Did you fall in love with opera straight away?
I always feel really bad when answering this question as I didn’t fall in love with opera straight away! It was definitely a gradual process. I loved the music I sang at school, but didn’t listen to or see a lot of opera until I went to the RNCM. It was there that I obviously met fellow musicians and discovered so much more repertoire and heard it being performed on a regular basis. Then I heard the overture to Carmen in my first year and I was hooked.

What’s the favourite role you’ve played and why?
I would have to say Mallika in Lakmé for a number of reasons. I sang it in 2015 as part of the Christine Collins Young Artist programme at OHP and although the role isn’t huge musically (aside from the fact that she gets to sing the most famous operatic duet of all time!), I was on stage a lot and played a large part dramatically. I learnt so much singing that role as I worked with some great directors and conductors, and was guided immensely by the mezzo I was covering. The role was my first professional experience and I am so grateful to have been a part of it. OHP is an incredible company, and to work alongside such great talent and to continue to do so is something I will be forever grateful for.

Who do you have a burning desire to play?
I think most mezzos say this, but Carmen really is the ultimate dream. Alongside this I’d love to sing Lucretia and Charlotte (Werther).

Do you have a favourite opera singer?
My favourite opera singer is Alice Coote. In my opinion her voice is perfect, and seeing her live at the Royal Albert Hall was one of my favourite musical experiences ever. I have also met her and she is incredibly lovely, and extremely down to earth!

Who or what has had the greatest impact on your career?
Alongside OHP, I think the RNCM has had a huge impact on my career. Most of the things I know now, I learnt there. The RNCM staff really know how to keep singers grounded, yet still prepare them for a solo career. I owe a lot to the staff and fellow students at the RNCM. It really is an amazing place to study!

How many languages have you sung in?
Only five so far – English, German, Italian, French and Spanish. Russian and Czech terrify me but I will overcome my fear soon and do it, I promise! There is so much beautiful music in these languages which I am desperate to learn, so that is the next thing on my musical to-do list.

Do you understand everything you’re singing?
Absolutely, I have to. I make sure I know every word’s literal translation, and then put it into my own words in order to be able to give everything I can to a character. It’s also super important for me to know what every other character is singing, even when I’m not on stage.

What are you up to in 2017?
I have a couple of concerts coming up including a Durufle Requiem with the Tredici Choir which I am really looking forward to. I’m back for my third season at Opera Holland Park, singing Suzy in La rondine and then after this I will be making my role debut as Dorabella in Così fan tutte. I will be touring this around the south of England with Opera Holloway. In between all of that I will most likely be in a practise room any chance I get in order to learn it all!

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