British-born Chiara Vinci began performing at an early age, when she followed her older sister to the ice-skating rink and then the ballet studio. Chiara has worked hard for everything she has accomplished, including becoming an opera singer.
“You’ve got to be ready to seize the moment when it comes and not worry what other people think or will say about you. No one can tell you what you can or can’t do,” she says.
Switching Roles On The Stage
At 7 years old, Chiara auditioned for her first company, The National Youth Ballet, and for the next 10 years danced alongside the young adults in the company. She then earned her place into vocational schools like The Arts Educational School in London and The Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance through training grants and scholarships.
“Each step was a total unknown. I never decided the path, the path almost decided me. I just loved it, I turned up to class every day, practiced and went to auditions,” she says. “I was fortunate to receive encouragement from both my parents, my siblings and my teachers. Without the support of those people I don’t think I would be here now.”
Chiara’s transition began when she was working as a dancer with several opera companies, such as English National Opera, Grange Park Opera, Garsington Opera, and Longborough Festival Opera. While rehearsing, she would watch the opera singers and became utterly fascinated by them, how strong and physical they were while singing.
“For me singing is an extension of dancing. It’s another form of story-telling, of communicating and connecting with an audience,” she says.
When Chiara discovered she could sing soprano, she became enthralled with how to link these two parts of herself together and found a teacher, Jenny Miller, director of Barefoot Opera.
“At times, I feel singing is a more direct way of communicating, like bearing your soul,” she says. ”But I didn’t want to sacrifice one part of myself for the other, this is why I have never stopped dancing. The dancer and the singer are both a part of who I am as a performer.”
Finding Success In A Dual Career
One of Chiara’s proudest moments was being nominated for best female opera singer by the Welsh Theatre awards for singing the role of Sophie Scholl in Kommilitonen! by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. The production was part of the Welsh National Youth Opera and was one of the best experiences of her career. The production won the award for best opera that year.
“Coming from a background in dance and theatre, it was a real honor for me to be nominated for my singing. What more can an artist hope for than to be part of something that has moved an audience?” she says.
This summer, Chiara will sing the title role during Longborough Festival Opera’s performance of La Calisto. It is a brand new production, set in a derelict shopping center with broken vending machines, trolleys, and various female shoppers with different animal heads.
She was drawn to auditioning for La Calisto with Longborough as she knew the company is always aiming to push the boundaries with its young artist productions. “Mathilde Lopez is making such exciting work, and equally I knew that Lesley-Anne Sammons would bring something musically exquisite and unique to the fore,” she says. “I relish working with directors who don’t shy away from challenging their audience and who can utilize and push the skills I have to offer.”
The production is also part of the festival’s efforts to try and encourage new, younger audiences to experience opera. Chiara had the opportunity to tour with Pop-up Opera for a few years, performing operas in their original language with a cast no larger than seven people and using very simple props. The company took advantage of great story-telling, affordable prices, and taking opera to unique places, whether it be in a barn, church, office and even people’s homes.
“People are afraid about what they don’t know, or think it isn’t for them but telling stories is what makes us human, we’ve been telling stories throughout history,” Chiara says. “I believe there is a way to make a younger generation of theatre audiences excited about opera without dumbing it down but by making it available, affordable and relevant to them.”
Going Beyond The Stage
For those who desire to be a dancer, an opera singer, or other type of artist, Chiara says there are plenty of opportunities to perform and sing out there. Often she found these chances by jumping in at the last moment or hearing something through the grapevine, and playing up her strengths in addition to working hard and practicing.
“It is a bit like a snowball effect sometimes, if you have the courage and the bravery to keep believing in yourself, keep showing up, life eventually finds a way to bring it back to you,” she says.
Chiara believes open-mindedness is key in how to create work. Much of the professional work she did and still does as a dancer is about being creative in the room, collaborating, and coming up with solutions. Dancers are incredibly adaptable and hard-working: the first to arrive, the last to leave, and they know how to work as a team. Each dancer is just as important as the next, and there is no hierarchy.
“Without a chorus, there can be no soloist, without a technical team there can be no show… everyone counts and dancers have this incredible ability to support one another,” she says. “This is something I try to bring with me into the opera world. … Working in ensembles as a dancer helped me to understand that we can make something even better if we work together.”
The sad thing is, Chiara says, it isn’t just music leaving the general school curriculum but also dance and theater. Through story-telling, play, and music and dance, we learn empathy and how to respond to one another; theatre teaches us about life. We need to change the image of what an artist is in the public eye, and teach children that it is a legitimate and respectable profession that benefits all of society.
“We need people like Hans and Sophie Scholl right now, and we need brave writers, composers and performers who will keep telling these stories to inspire a whole new generation to know that they can change the world and make it better than we left it. I like to think this is theater at its best,” she says.
Learn more about Chiara on her website.