Bethan Langford

4 December 2017

Former National Youth Girls' Choir, National Youth Training Choir and National Youth Choir member Bethan Langford was selected to join the National Opera Studio's elite training programme earlier this year. We caught up with her at the end of her first term.

NYCGB: What is the National Opera Studio and how do you get in?

Bethan: The National Opera Studio (NOS for short) is a professional development programme for young opera singers. Around 14 Young Artists are chosen each year (this year it's 10 singers and 4 repetiteurs) to receive daily coachings and classes, and work in partnership with the leading UK opera companies on various projects. Among the highlights are three 'residencies' each year at Opera North, Scottish Opera and Welsh National Opera. To get in there is an online application followed by two rounds of auditions. The second round is to a huge panel of industry people which was terrifying!

What have you learned in your first term?

Crikey, where to start...every day is so busy I suppose the biggest thing I have developed is a positive can-do attitude and to attack every task in a positive way- also there is not enough time to be precious about my singing and over-think things, which I really like! We have also done a lot of work on interpretation and audition technique- working on how to be completely present and honest in the drama of the piece, and to perform each line like its the first time you're singing or thinking it. This stops you worrying about the wrong things (such as the panel's expressions!) and creates a really good focus. This term the set of scenes we are doing are all by Handel, so I'm really enjoying developing that style of singing.

When did you discover that your voice was an operatic voice, and what encouraged you to develop it further in that way?

I'm from a choral background, and my family always sang around the house (my Dad being a proud Welshman), so singing and music were a huge part of my childhood. When I was about fourteen my voice started to develop a natural vibrato and my choirmaster suggested I have some lessons. I was told I had a 'pretty' voice but it was never the loudest or the biggest. Even after I got into the Guildhall School to study singing I still don't think I knew that I wanted to be an opera singer - I wanted to be a backing singer for Beyoncé! It was probably only in my last year of undergraduate study that I felt I could pursue opera; my voice and confidence had grown and I absolutely fell in love with performing and the drama of the style. One of the other big factors was having a wonderful singing teacher who I still learn with now. 

What are your memories of your time in NYCGB?

I have so many fantastic memories. I started on Girls choir, went onto Training choir and then into the National Youth Choir so I really did the NYCGB 'journey'! Apart from the great social time I had on the courses, the level of music-making was the highest I had ever been part of. I was blown away on my first day in main choir (and was also completely lost in the score for the first couple of days!) at the sheer sound quality, and the energy of the conductor! My favourite memory is singing at the Classic FM Live concert at the Royal Albert Hall; the choir sang in the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky and I remember screaming during the singing as a cannon went off behind my head! It was thrilling! The opportunities we were given set me up for the path I was going to follow.

Do you still sing in a choir? (If not, what’s the piece of choral music that you’d love to sing in again?)

I don't have a regular choir that I am a part of, but I do still sing with my husband's choir at the American Church in London. I always love to sing carols with choirs at Christmas too- and hope to always do that! If I could sing any choral piece it would be Thomas Tallis's 'Spem in alium'... We did it one to a part in NYCGB and it was just the most amazing experience.

If you had to recommend an opera to a young singer who’s not sure if opera’s for them, which one would it be and why?

Probably 'La Bohème' by Puccini- even though there's no mezzo part in it! The story is easy to follow and the music is just so beautiful it would not fail to move you. I defy anyone not to weep at the end!

What are your plans for 2018?

I'm at NOS until the Summer of 2018, and after that I'll be out in the real world! 2018 is looking quite busy with concerts planned in Germany and the U.K. I'm also determined to own a cat by the end of that year... If I can persuade my husband!

Visit Bethan's artist page at Harrison Parrott