Coppull soprano Amanda Roocroft gets new post at Birmingham City University
Operatic soprano Amanda Roocroft had not even finished her training at college when she was hailed an instant starlet.
Then aged 21, Amanda, who grew up in Coppull, was catapulted into the public eye, with the media watching her every move.Admitting it had its advantages and pitfalls, she feels more than equipped to pass on her knowledge to young budding artists and is looking forward to her new post as visiting tutor of singing at Birmingham City University’s Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.She also offers private classes in and around Lancashire.
The 52-year-old, who attended Southlands High School, says: “The start of my career is like a fairy tale story.“I made my debut when I was still at the Royal College of Music. I was in my fourth year of my six-year course and the college had put on an opera by Mozart called Cosi Fan Tutte. All the colleges were invited, as well as the national press, agents and leading opera houses.“There was a massive response to my performance and Michael Kennedy from the Telegraph wrote a big article about me being a phenomenon.A lot of the national press wrote big things about me and it created a lot of interest.“Opera houses then wanted me to debut with them. I had Glyndebourne, Welsh National Opera, the Opera House and the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London, all wanting to have me.“I still had two years to go at the college and a lot of things happened during that time.
“I got an agent - Jonathan Groves and he got me my debut at the Welsh National Opera in 1989 at the Aix-en-Provence Festival.“This was unheard of at the time. At this stage of my life, still in college, the best you would expect would be in the Glyndebourne chorus.“It was all very exciting. But the down side of all that was that I was in the public eye whilst still learning my craft. People who had put me there were now saying I was so young.“I feel very lucky. I was in the right place at the right time. It was down to luck and talent.“I was expecting to be like everyone else and start in the chorus and move onto small parts, working gradually through the ranks.“But I didn’t. I felt very honoured but also perplexed at the time. It took its toll as the press were ready to throw me off balance.“But I feel I have had a blessed career and seen so many amazing places. I just wasn’t expecting to see them as quickly as I did.“Now I have that experience, I can talk to my students about how to deal with the new-found fame.”
Amanda describes how she was faced a difficult decision when she was offered the chance to work with two big musical conductors at the same time.She recalls: “One weekend I sang to Sir Simon Rattle at Glyndbourne and then to Sir Georg Solti in London for another opera, The Magic Flute by Mozart, which would be at Salzburg. I was in a quandary and hoped I wouldn’t get one of them.“I got both parts and so had to decide. I decided to stay in Britain and work with Simon. I thought if I went to Salzburg at the age of just 25, where do I go from there?”
Amanda’s rise to fame was so inspirational that she was the subject of a Granada Television documentary, Amanda Roocroft: Opera’s Rising Star in 1994. The film, directed by Colin Bell, chronicled the first seven years of her career, beginning with her days as a student and ending with her solo recording debut for EMI Records.Over her 25-year career the former Runshaw College student has also recorded for Deutsche Grammophon, Teldec, Chandos and Opus Arte, and produced solo discs for Onyx, Chanel and Champs Hill.
She has appeared with leading orchestras throughout Europe and North America with conductors including Sir Georg Solti, Sir Simon Rattle, Zubin Mehta, Mariss Jansons, Ivor Bolton, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Daniele Gatti, Sir Neville Marriner, Sir Andrew Davis, Sir Charles Mackerras, Valery Gergiev Sir Mark Elder, Antonio Pappano and Bernard Haitink.Highlights from Amanda’s career include her New York Philharmonic debut; Verdi’s Requiem with Riccardo Chailly in Milan; regular appearances at the BBC Proms in London and at the Edinburgh International Festival; a European tour with the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester; and playing Ellen Orford in Peter Grimes with the Berlin Philharmonic and Sir Simon Rattle.
One of her most proudest moments was achieving the 2007 Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Opera for her performance in the title role of JenÅ¯fa at English National Opera.She says: “This was a big moment for me. I had years of the press blowing hot and cold with me and I didn’t think I could be emotionally strong enough for that. I felt I had to justify myself and I hadn’t ‘earned my stripes.’“I did JenÅ¯fa and I was tired. I felt I could not do this anymore. “At that time, I had a lot of personal things resolved. I was rebaptised and became a born-again Christian.“I think because I did the opera with a fresh attitude and not trying to prove myself, I became more positive and enjoyed singing again.“I enjoyed it so much, that was picked up by the panel at the Laurence Olivier Awards. This was a massive turning point for me.”
With an impressive career on the stage, Amanda turned her hand to teaching.She admits: “I have always enjoyed teaching. When I trained at Royal College of Music I thought I would return to Coppull and teach, as I didn’t then realise what potential I had. Luckily someone spotted my potential and I ended up with the career I have.“I am fascinated by the mechanics of how singing works and making it palatable for others to do it themselves. I enjoy the magic of interpretation.”
After years living in Cambridgeshire, Amanda is now residing in Walton le Dale, following a near tragedy.She adds: “Four years ago my dad nearly died as he had a triple A aneurysm. Helicopters flew in from Wigan on a Bank Holiday weekend and saved his life.“He stayed at Royal Preston Hospital for seven months and as I was living in Cambridgeshire I was travelling up a lot. I realised my parents needed me. They had given a lot of time to supporting me, looking after my three sons whilst I was working so I knew it was my turn now. My two eldest sons are at university, with my youngest starting his A-levels, so it was a good time to move back.“I wanted to reestablish my roots professionally up here and so I contacted Royal Northern College of Music and Royal Birmingham Conservatoire about work.“I did a masterclass at the Royal Birmingham and now I am working at the vocal and operatic department one or two days a week as a visiting tutor.“I am thrilled and excited to be joining the department there. I have heard great things about Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and I feel proud to be joining a fantastic team of colleagues.“I will be teaching students one-on-one, helping them with their technique and language and supporting their stagecraft and interpretation. I will be helping to build up their confidence and put them on the stage.”
Paul Wingfield, head of vocal and operatic studies, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, says: “We are delighted that Amanda will be joining our team this year. She brings with her a wealth of experience both as a performer of international standing and as a highly-regarded teacher.“She comes to the department at an exciting time in its history as, together with Royal Birmingham Conservatoire as a whole, we look set to go from strength to strength.”