Opera - it’s not just for posh people

Giselle Allen.
Giselle Allen.

If you’ve never been to see an opera before, then this is the perfect one to start off with.

This is the advice of Belfast-born Soprano Giselle Allen who stars in the acclaimed ‘The Turn of the Screw’ by the Northern Ireland Opera at the Millennium Forum on March 15.

“Opera’s not just for posh people,” Giselle told the ‘Journal. “The Turn of the Screw is in English. These days we do a lot of opera in translation, so the audience has that immediate understanding of what is going on.

“Based on a novella, this a ghost story, and a psychological opera with real emotions. It allows the audience to connect with the story immediately, and if you can connect with the story you can understand it.”

Giselle, who was given her unusual name by her ballet loving mother, said she grew up not realising the true potential of her voice.

“Perhaps my mother had a premonition that one day she would have a daughter that was on the stage and that’s why she gave me my name,”she said. “I have always been involved in music but not always singing. I played the recorder and the oboe primarily until I was 18.

“Singing then was just for fun. But when I was 17 I was told that my voice was good and it might be a good idea to train it so I started taking professional lessons.”

Giselle went on to study music at Cardiff and it was at this famous university she decided that singing, in particular opera, was the way in which she would steer her life.

But her big break came when she cast as the witch in Dido and Aeneas.

“The lead actress fell off the stage and I ended up with the part,” said Giselle. “It was a scary thing to step into that role but it was great. I had only one day to learn the part. Luckily I am very quick in learning my lines.”

The rest is history, and Giselle has travelled the world singing, and she says she’s looking forward to returning to Derry, where she performed Tosca several years ago.

“I like to be physical on stage,” she said. “Opera was once about standing on stage and singing, but now we do the exact opposite, I like to be physical. In fact to be an opera singer you need lots of energy and I have to make sure I keep myself healthy by going to the gym.

“If you have never been to the opera before this is a great starter one.”

The Turn of the Screw is widely regarded as one of the finest operas by perhaps the greatest British composer Benjamin Britten. . Scored for a small chamber orchestra and a cast of six, its haunting music and dramatic plot has also made it one of the most popular twentieth century operas. It plays the Millennium Forum on March 15.