I had the chance to speak to soprano Jordan Auld, whose first year out of her music degree saw her tour China as part of the ensemble of Australian International Opera Company’s production of The Marriage of Figaro. During this tour she was also the cover for the role of Susanna. Jordan later performed the role of Musetta in BK Opera’s season of La Boheme.
Jordan will next be seen on stage during Opera Scholars Australia’s Opera in the Market event at Victoria Market on February 17th. She will be one of the three finalists competing in the Scholar of the Year Aria competition. More information and tickets can be found here You can follow Jordan’s projects through her Instagram and Facebook page.
When did you realise you wanted to pursue classical singing more seriously than a hobby?
It’s quite a funny topic, because when I think about going into music performance seriously, there was never really a definitive decision of ‘right, this is going to happen’. I was performing a lot as I grew up, after my mum put me into a little toddler class of dance, drama and music.
So I went to that class, I loved it, and I mellowed out a bit. I kept it up almost all the way through my schooling. So when it got towards the end of year 12 with talk of career paths, it was pretty inevitable… I was slightly leaning towards pursuing medicine, but really that was because I wanted to be on Grey’s Anatomy, as an actor!
With classical in particular, I came to classical singing really late. I got told at thirteen that I had a classical sounding voice, but I was pretty adamant that I would be the next Beyoncé because of my dancing. And my teacher at the time really thought I should look into classical, but me being a thirteen year old and feeling like I knew better, I danced around it and definitely didn’t come back to it until year 11. For the IB (International Baccalaureate) music subject, we had to present a wide range of genres. My teacher that time said if I wanted to do well, I was going to have to engage with classical voice. So I did, with a bit of reluctance at first.
But I feel like the more that you open yourself up to the world of classical music and opera, the more you fall in love with it. And it’s gotten to the point that there’s nothing I would rather do.
What excited you about opera?
Everything about it! It’s the culmination of so many different art forms and the grandest form of storytelling.
While opera is carried by the voice, I feel like as performers, we are actors first. I feel like I have failed my job if I haven’t portrayed the events convincingly. You can sing through an opera, but if it doesn’t show the emotional side and the intentions of the characters, you’ve lost what opera is about. While you need to be convincing, you need to be vulnerable as well.
When it all comes together, as an audience member I almost feel fireworks in my chest.
So you’re currently working full time alongside performing with Opera Scholars Australia, how do you approach time management and self-care?
During year 11 and 12 I completed IB, the International Baccalaureate. IB is probably the biggest mammoth of a multi-task you can possibly endure at the one time. You’re juggling a lot of stuff for a really small outcome, which feels like the be-all and end-all at the time.
So in year 11 my parents sat me down and instilled in me importance of time management. Prioritising things that were due the next day over things that were due in a week. At the time I didn’t warm to it, because I was one of those people who thought I could do everything, all the time.
In regards to juggling performing and working, I got my first job at fourteen and have never not had a job. So the over time, balancing musical commitments with study and work has become a normal thing for me.
In regards to self-care- being a dancer, I’m able to listen very closely to my body and work out when I really need rest. I find small things like going for a walk or having a bath are helpful. Baths really help, that feeling of lying down and shutting your mind off…
Could you talk to us about the tour of China, which you undertook in March of 2019 with the Australian International Opera Company?
So we toured a version of The Marriage of Figaro, cut down from four hours to a ninety minutes. We took the show across China on a schedule similar to what you would see for a typical musical theatre season. For opera singers, that’s quite uncommon, as seasons normally have rest days between shows. And rest days are so important.
So it was a matter of trying to build up the stamina to be performing either once a day and having the following day off, or doing a double show… That was definitely a learning experience. And when you put travel on top of that too! You really learn that you have to pace yourself, because you can’t really sprint in a situation like that.
It got to a point where we surrounded by so many people all the time, and I’m such an extravert, but there were times where I just wanted a little time to myself… so I’d get up and go to the gym really early in the morning. Listening to what I needed was important. Because we were travelling together, performing together, going out together, explore the cities together… I did need a bit of extra time reading, having a bath, working out at the gym, going to breakfast early.
Looking back at it, during the tour you’re so in the thick of it, everything’s happening. But when a couple of months have passed and you’re looking back, it’s like, oh my god, I can’t believe we got through that and we were all sane at the end!
The beauty of opera and live performance is, depending on how everyone is feeling, each show will be different. When you are on a tour, you have a bit of movement for things changing and adapting. Coming straight out of university, it was such an exciting time to have that as my first big professional engagement.
It was an insanely packed six months… I basically had about a month and a half to learn Marriage of Figaro, which we then performed for about a month, while I was simultaneously learning Musetta from La Bohéme.
What were some of the most challenging moments of your Bachelor of Music and Honours year?
The transition from high school to university can be quite challenging. You get to the end of year 12 and you feel like a big fish in a small pond. Then you get to university and you notice that your pond has expanded… it’s a bit of a cultural shock, but it’s a really healthy thing too. So navigating that and allowing myself to step back was a challenging thing. Especially as I moved down from Sydney, I knew it was going to be hard in some ways.
I remember in second year, I was becoming so emotionally attached to my music, that it was hindering my progress because I was becoming so possessive of what I was producing. And it was becoming quite detrimental and unhealthy. So I realised I had to reach out, and I had a chat to Dr. Margaret Osbourne, who runs the subject Peak Performance Under Pressure. And that was when I noticed I had to step back and realise who I was, outside of a singer.
Because when you are at school, you try so many subjects and you also have extra-curricular stuff. And from that, you pick your favourites, and your favourites become your career, and it’s almost as if you’ve lost that extra-curricular element because that’s now your life. And sometimes you need to take a break and do something else.
And what were some of the most rewarding moments of your degree?
I did the Chamber Ensemble performance subject during my Honours year, and I absolutely cherished being able to work intensely with instrumentalists. When you’re making music with a small group, the sensory experience is so heighted. For me that was really rewarding.
In semester one I got to work with a cellist. I remember there was a time the group was rehearsing and there was something I wasn’t communicating musically. And Andrea said, put your hand on the back of the cello, sing and then listen to Josh while he’s playing. And it completely changed how I was looking at the piece.
A bit of a mean question, but could you tell me some of your favourite composers for the voice?
I’ve been listening to a lot of bel canto opera lately, which I’ve been loving. It can be a little daunting and scary to listen to because there’s typically a lot of coloratura! (Fast-paced virtuosic vocalisations) I’ve really warmed to Rossini in particular. I love Il Viaggio a Reims, which I saw here and I felt like it really changed me. His style is florid and virtuosic, which I see as a bit of a challenge.
I am a sucker for Puccini. I think every soprano is! He writes such beautiful music. And all of his operas somehow connected in a way, so listening to La Boheme and going back and listening to parts of Suor Angelica, there are elements that are really similar. I really love how connected they are. Those are the sort of things you only find out when you get to perform a lot of his works.
Another composer I really love, but haven’t had the opportunity to perform much of his work, is Fromental Halévy. I saw his opera La Juive in Munich and it was life-changing.
Do you have a handful of dream roles?
It’s funny thing, actually thinking about dream roles. During uni I went through a period of having to find out who I was apart from a performer. So you start to detach yourself a little and come to peace with the idea that some things may not happen for you.
I think a dream role would be Rachel in La Juive, that would be amazing. I would love to do Violetta from La Traviata. She’s such a multi-dimensional character and to bring her to life requires so much… I really see that as brilliance.