Q&A with young British tenor Joel Williams

© Benjamin Ealovega

© Benjamin Ealovega

We spoke to tenor Joel Williams, currently at the Royal College of Music International Opera Studio, about awards, dream roles and all things singing.

Joel is already in high demand and can list such companies as the Royal Opera House, English National Opera, Glyndebourne Festival Opera and Opéra de Paris amongst his employers!

Joel as Basilio in The Marriage of Figaro at The Royal College of Music © Chris Christodoulou

Joel as Basilio in The Marriage of Figaro at The Royal College of Music © Chris Christodoulou

Our Q&A with Joel:

What age where you when you decided you wanted to be a singer?

I had a busy third year of my undergraduate degree - I was studying for my finals in History and singing a daily service in the chapel choir of King's College, Cambridge, when I took on the role of Tamino in Mozart's The Magic Flute, and Phantom in Phantom of the Opera. I missed Flute and Phantom so much when they finished.  I even had a little cry.  Something about being on stage really connected with me in a way nothing had before. I missed it and I wanted more.  

Who has been the biggest influence on your career to date?

I've had three different singing teachers at the Royal College of Music and many different coaches. I'll spend the rest of my career learning how to sing and interpret 500 years of musical history, and teachers are essential to that. I don't feel that any one has the magic key to singing, but you can take something from each of them, practice, practice, practice and discover what works.  I'm so grateful to Justin, Ben and Tim.  

Congratulations on being awarded the Kiri Te Kanawa Scholarship at the Royal College of Music, how does an award like this help in your career development?

There are few names that resonate quite so clearly across the international opera world as Kiri's. To have her and her team behind me not only financially but with their mentorship is a huge support in my last year at the RCM. Kiri gives me coaching and career advice, along with performing opportunities. 



Joel pictured with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa

Joel pictured with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa

You've recently sung with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Vladimir Jurowski in Stravinsky’s Threni, how was that?

When Stravinsky conducted his own performance of Threni it was a complete catastrophe - he refused to take a bow.  It is SO hard.  It's his longest completely dodecaphonic work - in other words there are no tunes - when it's right it might sound completely wrong.  I was so nervous going into the first rehearsal despite having done hours of practice. Vladimir and his team were demanding, but so supportive and it turned out we all found it as difficult as each other (apart from Vladimir who made it look easy) so I relaxed and ended up enjoying it.  

What’s your guilty pleasure?

I listen to Winnie the Pooh audiobooks in bed.  

Dream role, now and in 5 years’ time?

I'd love to sing Tom Rakewell - from Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress (MUCH easier than Threni) - Tom gets to sell his soul to the devil - the show follows his depravity and decline. Sounds like great fun.  

In five years I'd love to be singing Rodolfo (La bohème) - young man, poet, dreamer with soaring Puccini lines.   

Tell us what the immediate future holds for you?

I'll be taking on the eponymous role in Offenbach's Robinson Crusoe at the RCM, then off to Garsington Opera for their Offenbach opera Fantasio all the whole auditioning all over Europe for more work.  

And what we all want to know, are you a cat or dog person?

Dogs. Obviously.  

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John Porter