A TRIO of opera stars from across Europe have paid a virtual visit to the North-East, sharing their insights with secondary school students across the region.

The sessions were organised by Hexham-based arts charity Samling Institute for Young Artists in partnership with three Music Education Hubs to introduce students to the exciting world of opera and classical singing.

Soprano Louise Alder, currently appearing with the Vienna State Opera, bass-baritone Milan Siljanov from the Bavarian State Opera in Munich and London-based tenor Nicky Spence all dialled in to give virtual masterclasses with eight young singers from the region.

In front of an online audience of students from Tees Valley Music Service, Nicky Spence worked with 16-year-old Megan Moffitt from Stockton to demonstrate how a singer can retain the immediacy of the spoken word, how to make an audience really believe in what the singer means and how to transform a performance by adding colour. Megan said

‘I had a super time today and the masterclass was just brilliant- I learnt so much.

"The workshop made me consider a more natural pronunciation – one I have never explored before; It enhanced my text deliverance whilst staying true to my accent, creating a more attractive sound.’

Nicky also worked with Durham University student Ben Munden on characterisation and singing in Italian, in a masterclass that involved thinking about the smell of a Gregg’s sausage roll to show how a singer can focus their sound.

Megan and Ben are both members of Samling Academy, an intensive programme of coaching and performance opportunities for young singers who live in North East England and the workshop gave the audience a taster of what they can expect if they apply to Samling Academy.

Acting and communication skills are very important for singers, so the workshop also included a session from Shakespearean actor James Garnon, who is a regular leader at the Academy.

Using the folk song Go way from my window, James asked the assembled students explore how they could really live in a text by asking them to say the words, with intention, to the windows on their computer screens.

Tees Valley student Kate Short was able try out the Samling Academy experience for herself by volunteering to have a go at working with Nicky, who helped her to make her performance of Vaughan Williams’ song ‘Silent Noon’ something that was unique to her.

Nikki Lycett-Findlay of Tees Valley Music Service said

"This was an incredible opportunity, I’ve had some lovely messages from my students saying how much they’ve taken from the experience and are now inspired to achieve similar goals and standards."

For more information about applying to Samling Academy visit samling.org.uk.