In 2018, Morgan England-Jones was the second winner and recipient of the audience vote in the prestigious Sydney Eisteddfod Opera Scholarship. Morgan talks about her enduring love of singing from a young age, testifying to the importance of familial support and role models, who helped to nurture her craft. She also shares her future aspirations and passions.
What inspired your passion for opera?
It’s a tricky question and it has a bunch of answers, all equally true. Firstly, I was always a fuller figure girl, and I liked that opera seemed to be a safe, body-positive place for that. Secondly, I loved the music - singing classically, particularly in opera, always felt like being buoyed up, like when you coast over a wave in the ocean, and I love that feeling. Lastly, and most embarrassingly, I saw my first opera production when I was about 10 and was, sadly, less than impressed by it. In the way of 10 year olds, I decided that I could do it better. I’m shaking my head even remembering it - so embarrassing!!
What inspired you to start singing?
Well, I’ve always sung, just wherever. As a kid, I’d sing while doing my chores, or while I was doing swim squad at the pool (it kept me in pace), or while I was pottering about. No word of a lie, I even sang in my sleep. I was just very lucky to have a mum who knew the signs & could teach me.
How did you discover your operatic voice?
Well, it’s been coming on so gradually, I’m not sure I can point to a real germinating spot! I started singing operatic arias at 16 and developed from there. Most of the “discovery” came about by just playing with different things and listening to Lisa & my mum, who both know my voice really well. Like a lot of singers, I still don’t really know what I sound like, because you can’t hear yourself properly in your own head, and there are things that just don’t translate on recordings. I’m still really discovering exactly what my voice is. It really helps, though, to have a set of ears - or in my case, two - that you trust to tell you how you’re going.
Who inspires you and why?
Whoo. Another tricky one. I pull inspiration from a whole bunch of people - my teacher, my mum, my dad, my great-grandmother, Ella Fitzgerald, Anna Netrebko, Bryn Terfel, Judy Garland, Renee Fleming, Maya Angelou... the list is endless. I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by role models who I can look up to and admire, for different reasons. My great-grandmother was a study in patience & unconditional love. My father is a testament to honour & integrity. My mother is a masterclass in determination, diligence and perseverance. My teacher, Lisa, is a marvel of fortitude & generosity. I’m really very spoilt for heroes!
Tell us a little bit about one of the pieces you performed at the Semi-Final and why you chose it.
I chose “Nun eilt herbei” to be in my repertoire list (which I ended up getting to perform in the semi-final) because I really enjoy singing this piece. It’s so much fun! The character, Frau Fluth, is hilarious & so fun to play and the music really wraps you up & makes it easy to get into it. It sounds a little cheesy, but it just gives me so much joy!
Which other performers do you most like to listen, and why?
I love listening to and watching Anna Netrebko, Bryn Terfel & Renee Fleming. They’ve all got a banging technique, excellent stage presence and play their characters well. I know Cecilia Bartoli is a controversial one to list here, but I love watching her stagecraft & character work. I love how, even if you don’t understand the language, the intent is so well-expressed that you know almost exactly what’s happening. It’s a real gift!
What is the best piece of performance advice you've ever heard?
I’ve heard a few good pieces of advice, but the one that really changed my whole perspective was something my mum said, when I was very young, to her students whenever they had set solos for eisteddfods (basically, 20 kids singing the same song, one after the other) - no one can sing a piece like you. No one can bring to a performance exactly what you bring to it. No one else can get up there with your voice and sing it the way you do. That rendition, that moment in time is wholly yours. That’s why it’s so important to get up and sing it the way you do, because you don’t know if someone’s waiting for that moment in time. Music is capable of inspiring huge things and it all starts there.
What are you hoping to achieve next?
I really hope to continue my education by learning overseas, and continue to develop my stagecraft & my language skills.