Anne Sophie Duprels
French soprano, favourite on the UK stages, particularly Opera Holland Park, Anne Sophie Duprels shares her struggles and triumphs as a mother for the entire duration of her career in an unusual and wonderful industry.
15 March 2018
image © Christophe Lebedinsky
S: What are you up to at the moment?
ASD: At the moment I’m singing CioCioSan in Madama Butterfly at Opera North.
S: What do you love most about your job? What would you change about your job?
ASD: What I love most is the constant learning, the endless discovery. You can never stop and say “I know”. You’re always learning and that’s an incredible privilege.
S: How long have you been juggling parenthood and your career?
ASD: I have actually always been juggling the two because my daughters were born when I was a student at the conservatoire. By the time I graduated I had 2 toddlers!
S: How long after having your babies did you return to singing?
ASD: I never stopped singing; I was a student so I went on!
S: What physical changes did you feel?
ASD: I felt more grounded, stronger physically. I struggled a bit with weight but slowly managed.
S: How did parenthood change your career?
ASD: I couldn’t really say as I’ve been a mother all my adult life.
S: Do you think that being a mother has ultimately enriched your performing?
ASD: Definitely, but I would also say that life itself enriches performance. All you experience nourishes you as an artist. You’re made of what you go through. And as time goes by you get to understand more and more layers (and also feel you know nothing!!) …
S: How does your child/children respond to your job?
ASD: My daughters have always been part of everything, they travelled with me, spent a lot of time in theatres, they watched performances etc… They told me they learned a lot and they indeed are fearless young women now. I’m proud of them and I hope they can be proud of me and the choices I’ve made. I always felt that I had to be strong for them, to enable them to be strong too. Show them that if you put your heart and energy in something you can do it.
S: Has your child/children ever appeared on stage with you?
ASD: no never (except if you count when I was pregnant with them!!!)
S: How do you manage to continue your career alongside your family commitments?
ASD: It’s not easy and it was not always smooth. I missed birthdays, school shows… It was often a struggle. But we’re lucky to have all this wonderful technology that allows us to keep in touch easily. I remember helping my daughters with their homework via skype, leaving the computer on to have dinner “together”! It can never replace the real thing but it certainly helps to be present on a day-to-day basis and always know what’s going on!
S: What changes do you think could realistically be made within the opera industry, to make life easier for artists with families/dependants?
ASD: Scheduling in advance is probably a must do. To be able to plan is a very important part. But I also think that we know it’s a difficult job and we choose to do it because it’s a passion; life is full of compromises…
S: Can you think of an example of a job where you have felt really supported by the company as a parent?
ASD: I never felt that being a parent was a problem for the companies I worked for.
S: What advice would you offer to anyone working in the opera industry is about to become a parent?
ASD: Be patient, be strong and don’t be afraid. it’s YOUR life. YOU make it happen.
S: Have you come up against or heard of any discrimination as a working mother?
ASD: Discrimination against working mothers is everywhere, not only in our industry. But I strongly believe that things can and will change.
S: Were you ever advised not to have children for the sake of your career?
ASD: Well in my case it was too late as I was already a mother, but I was indeed advised to not have more children. I felt violated in my privacy; having or not having more children was mine and my husband’s choice, and no-one else can have a say in this matter. Yet some people feel they can tell you….
S: Aside from the challenges of working-parenthood, have you ever considered your gender to be relevant to the challenges of your job?
ASD: I’m a woman, but I don’t feel it should be pointed out. I’m a working mother but it’s my choice. I strongly believe in equity. Men and women are part of the world, together. It made me really angry when I learnt that, for example, I’ve been paid 7 times less than the male part in an opera ( both roles of equal importance). Nothing can justify such a difference.
S: Which operatic character have you most enjoyed playing and why?
ASD: Hard question…. well I’m going to say Zaza and Katiusha ( Risurrezione). Both very strong women making their own choices and not waiting for men to come and “rescue” them!!! Zaza and Risurrezione were both directed by women ( Marie Lambert and Rosetta Cucchi), I don’t know if that’s a coincidence! I believe in strong women and in strong men. Equals. Bringing together the best from each other.
S: Which novel or play by a female author would you like to see adapted for the operatic stage?
ASD: “Réparer les vivants” by Maylis de Kerangal. This book about a heart transplant has already been adapted as a play and a movie. It’s one one the most powerful, beautiful, heart breaking books I’ve read in the last 10 years.
S: Which woman in the opera industry most inspires you?
ASD: I can’t quite single out one but I’m going to talk about Marthe Le Rochois , she was born in 1650 and died in 1728 and was probably one of the first operatic superstars! A very strong and powerful women in a very male dominating world.
S: Do you have time for other passions and interests outside of your work and family commitments?
ASD: I do! I find time a very interesting thing. You can always find some when you really want to. In french we say people who can’t seem to get organised “ drown in a glass of water”. I guess it’s important to learn how to swim!