Q&A with Michalis Angelakis

This year sees a new leader take charge of the Morley Opera School. Tutor Michalis Angelakis takes the reigns of the school, previously the senior opera coach and now course leader.

We talk to Michalis about his background in opera and what he has in store for the Morley Opera School.

Can you tell us a little about your background in music and what attracted you to the opera course at Morley?

Music has accompanied me throughout my life. I started learning the piano, music theory and choral singing at the age of 7, however it was not before my early twenties when I made the very hard decision of dropping out of engineering studies at a very high-profile university in Greece, and focus on my studies at the Conservatoire of Athens instead, in order to embark on the much more uncertain path of a music career.  This was followed by master’s studies at the Trinity College of Music, further training at the National Opera Studio and work experience in several opera companies (HGO, Opera Up Close, Kentish Opera etc) including the Royal Opera House.

At Morley I started teaching back in 2008 and I first started coaching at the opera course two years later. What has particularly attracted me to this course was the high standard of students, which has kept growing over the years, regardless of their age and background. The general structure resembles that of a professional company with its varied staff and detailed rehearsal schedule. The purpose is to offer professional experience and skills to singers aiming at a career in the competitive world of opera, which many of our alumni have successfully achieved.

You recently completed a Fellowship in Opera at the Royal Academy of Music. What was that experience like?

It was what I had hoped for:  non-stop hard work! I auditioned for this programme as it would offer me the challenge of working alongside some very experienced conductors (Peter Robinson, Jane Glover, Gareth Hancock) in a variety of capacities (assistant conductor, chorus-master and repetiteur) in five operatic productions of very high standard and with full orchestra. It was also very inspiring to get to meet famous directors and singers, like John Copley, Sarah Walker, Ian Bostridge, Yvonne Howard and many others, and play for their classes. I hope to involve a few of those contacts at the Morley Opera School opera in the near future.

Can you give us some insight into what we can look forward to from the Morley Opera School this year?

We got to meet some very promising singers in our most recent rounds of auditions, so we are looking forward to welcoming a strong cast this year and work together towards an exciting variety of shows! There will be three staged productions of scenes covering repertoire in all three main operatic languages (Italian, German and French), and possibly some in English. On top of that, there will be one lunchtime concert of arias and ensembles each term. The students will also receive master classes on interpretation, movement and stagecraft by some really well-known names in their fields.

Can you share who some of the directors and coaches will be for this year?

The directors are all confirmed already and happy to return to Morley after their successful work with our students last year! Those are: Shirley McKeane (GSMD), Deborah Cohen (RWCMD) and Jonathan Cocker (Scottish Opera, Opera North).

Some of our highly experienced vocal coaches who will work with us this term include: Nick Bosworth (Glyndebourne), Alice Turner (ENO, GSMD) and Nicola Rose (WNO). There will also be language coaches who work at some of the main opera houses, such as Isabella Radcliffe (ROH, Glyndebourne, Scottish Opera etc) for Italian.

What is your favourite opera and why?

My favourite operas are those in which the composer has achieved a powerful interrelation between drama and music, and especially the ones that combine that unique quality with a range of beautiful melodic lines and powerful harmonic language. In this aspect, I particularly admire Puccini, and I have a special attachment to La Boheme – which I was lucky to work on at the British Youth Opera and the National Opera Studio and perform on the piano countless amount of times at the Olivier-awarded production of Opera Up Close that was running for over 2 years in London! I also can never tire of Mozart, and passionately enjoy Idomeneo which is set in my native island, Crete!

What advice would you give singers interested in auditioning for the Morley Opera School?

Apart from the obvious ‘be very well prepared’, the main piece of advice I would give to singers interested in auditioning for a competitive opera course like this would be: once you walk into that room, present yourself with honesty; show who you really are, what you believe your strengths are, and what you feel you still need to achieve.  Help us understand how we can help you!

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