Australian/British soprano Anita Watson was a Jette Parker Young Artist at The Royal Opera. Most recently she has sung Anne Trulove for Teatro Municipal de Santiago, Pamina for Welsh National Opera and Governess for Teatro La Fenice.
11 June 2018
image © Rubie Love Photography
S: What are you up to at the moment?
AW: Rehearsing the role of the Governess in the ‘Turn of the Screw’ for ENO at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.
S: What do you love most about your job?
AW: That every day is different and you get to meet people and see places you never would if you had a desk job. Singing with an orchestra, and that feeling of holding the audience in the palm of your hand.
S: How long have you been juggling parenthood and your career?
AW: This is my first production back since having identical twins ten months ago.
S: How long after having your children did you return to singing?
AW: I started back singing concerts 4 months after having the babies.
S: What physical changes did you feel?
AW: I had to have a caesarian section, so at first it was just getting strength back and then muscle co-ordination. My first concert back included the Mozart C minor mass which was good because it suits me well and I have sung it before, but is also difficult and forced me to get back into shape quickly.
S: How did parenthood change your career?
AW: When I used to get notice of being offered a job I used to just be excited. Now I am excited then immediately start to worry about childcare.
S: Do you think that being a mother has ultimately enriched your performing?
AW: I think it helps me to focus my practice more and has given me a greater sense of purpose. Time is precious both with my children and performing and I am lucky to be able to have a bit of both worlds.
S: How do your children respond to your job?
AW: I recently had to prepare the final scene of Capriccio and performed it for them in my living room. They kept smiling at me and then tried to join in some of the high notes. I used to sing them the Brahms ‘Wiegenlied’ through the door of the incubators when they were in hospital and they would instantly calm down. It was quite amazing.
S: Have your children ever appeared on stage with you?
S: How do you manage to continue your career alongside your family commitments?
AW: It is tough. Everything is a balance, but I think being a performer makes me a better mum and being a mum makes me a better performer.
S: What changes do you think could realistically be made within the opera industry, to make life easier for artists with families/dependants?
AW: If companies could have lists of local approved childcare providers and family friendly accommodation.
S: Can you think of an example of a job where you have felt really supported by the company as a parent?
AW: When I was pregnant the Reisopera in the Netherlands was fantastic. I only found out I was pregnant right before starting rehearsals. They made sure the direction was safe for me and adapted the costume so it could adapt to my changing shape over a long run of performances. My agent was very supportive too.
S: What advice would you offer to anyone working in the opera industry who is about to become a parent?
AW: Be as organised as possible. Learn your music in advance as time is precious.
S: Have you come up against or heard of any discrimination or bias as a working parent?
AW: Not yet thankfully.
S: Were you ever advised not to have children for the sake of your career?
S: Aside from the challenges of working-parenthood, have you ever considered your gender to be relevant to the challenges of your job?
S: Which operatic character have you most enjoyed playing and why?
AW: It is a toss up between the Governess and Mimì. Both have amazing music and are great acting roles. You find something new every time you come back to them.
S: Which woman in the opera industry most inspires you?
AW: It’s hard to pick one. I am currently working with Janis Kelly who has done every female role in the Turn of the Screw and has had children and a great career.
S: Do you have time for other passions and interests outside of your work and family commitments?
AW: I love going to personal training. That is the one main thing I get to do for myself at the moment.