Interview with Ella Taylor
Ella Taylor is a soprano with a passion for performing contemporary music and works by women and gender non-conforming artists. They were a Young Artist with the National Opera Studio for 2019/20 season, as well as a graduate of the Royal Academy of Music, where they gained Distinction in MA Performance, a DipRAM for an outstanding final recital, and the Charles Norman Prize. They currently study with Elizabeth Ritchie.
Ella is a keen collaborator and recitalist, making a dedicated effort to work with and perform works by people underrepresented in classical music. Recent collaborations include the project After Violence with _REMIX; an exploration of violence and masculinity through a queer lens with drag artist Rhys’s Pieces, as well as working with composers and librettists in the creation of new, LGBT+ work. They also have performed at Leeds Lieder as part of the Composer and Poets Forum and with Ensemble 360 at Music in the Round.
I caught up with this dynamic soprano this month to talk about their tenure at the National Opera Studio and more!
Congratulations for being a Young Artist at the National Opera Studio this season – what work/projects have you been able to do with them?
Thanks so much, Alex! I’ve managed to have a fruitful and exciting year at the studio, before COVID-19 stopped some of our projects going ahead. I have done projects with Opera North and Welsh National Opera, with a particular highlight being performing a scene from Janaček’s The Cunning Little Vixen, with the orchestra of WNO in Wales Millennium Centre. It was a real privilege and an experience I’ll never forget. I also had the opportunity, over lockdown, to work with composer Ellen Sargen, whom I collaborate regularly with, and CN Lester on a new work commissioned by the Studio. We managed to get in the building to record it and it will be released in September.
Do you have a favourite work/piece that you could sing forever given the chance?
This is a tough one! What I love to sing has changed quite a lot as my voice has changed, but my favourite opera is The Turn of the Screw by Benjamin Britten, and he is my favourite composer of all time.
What have you been up to during lockdown?
Until mid-July, I was fortunate to have lots of online coaching with people from NOS, working on new arias and just generally trying to be productive! Things have quietened down since then, but I’ve been trying to do some advocacy work for freelancers through Freelancers Make Theatre Work, and for young singers in Sheffield through Save Sheffield Cathedral Choir.
Who is your favourite composer to sing? Does it differ to listen to?
Again, my favourite composer has changed over the years with various vocal changes, but at the moment it’s Janaček and Verdi! I don’t often listen to classical music in my free time, but when I do I listen to either very mushy choral music, or vocal works by Libby Larsen!
You have a keen interest in collaborating with new music projects, especially with those who are underrepresented in the classical music scene – why do you think that it is important to do this for the contemporary arts scene?
I don’t think there’s ever been a point where it’s not been important to actively seek out and collaborate with those whose voices aren’t heard in classical music. The Western Canon revered white men for centuries, and we are in a position to change that, so I think we have to! As a trans person trying to make a career in classical music, who actually holds a lot of other privilege, I have definitely felt underappreciated and undervalued, and I want to work to change that for everyone.
What’s your favourite memory of music-making?
I once had the privilege of doing an obbligato duet from a Bach cantata with Rachel Podger on violin. It was one of most rewarding musical experiences of my life. She’s such a fantastic musician and player. I genuinely cried the first time we rehearsed together!
©Alex Burns 2020
Photo Credit: National Opera Studio/Nick Rutter