NIGERIA’s young female opera singer based in the U.S., Miss Francesca Chiedu Chiejina, is among the five singers from around the world who has been selected to join the Jette Parker Young Artist Programme 2016.
A statement from The Royal Opera House said, “The Royal Opera House is delighted to announce the five singers who will join the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme in September. They have been selected from 440 applicants from 58 countries: 220 sopranos, 85 mezzo-sopranos, one countertenor, 50 tenors, 53 baritones and 31 basses.
“They are American (Nigerian) soprano, Francesca Chiejina, British mezzo-soprano, Angela Simkin, New Zealand tenor, Thomas Atkins, Hungarian baritone, Gyula Nagy and South African bass, Simphiwe Simon Shibambu.
“The application process was run online for the first time and the audition process began in September 2015. 60 artists were selected to sing in the first of three rounds with 26 progressing to the second round. They were joined by two candidates who were invited straight to this round, as they were unavailable for the first. Round two involved a one-to-one coaching session with David Gowland, Artistic Director of the Programme, and an audition in front of Peter Katona, Director of Casting and David Syrus, Head of Music for The Royal Opera, as well as international soprano Yvonne Kenny and David Gowland. A final shortlist of 12 singers auditioned on the main stage in front of a panel comprising Antonio Pappano, Music Director of The Royal Opera, Kasper Holten, Director of Opera, Peter Katona, David Syrus, Yvonne Kenny, David Gowland and Siri Fischer Hansen, Administrator of the Programme.
“The five new young artists will join the six who continue on the Programme into their second year in the 2016/17 Season: Russian soprano, Vlada Borovko and Irish soprano, Jennifer Davis, Australian mezzo-soprano, Emily Edmonds, Korean tenor, David Junghoon Kim, British bass, David Shipley and British stage director, Richard Gerard Jones”.
The statement further said, “The Jette Parker Young Artists Programme supports the artistic development of young professional singers, conductors, directors and répétiteurs. The young artists are an international group of outstanding professionals at the start of their careers who have undertaken formal training and have already worked with professional companies. They are not students, but contracted, salaried employees of the Royal Opera House, who work here full-time over two years”.
NIGERIAN-AMERICAN soprano, Chiejina studied at the University of Michigan with Martha Sheil and James Paterson and at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama with Susan McCulloch. Competition successes include reaching the semi-finals in the National Mozart Competition, and winning the English Song Prize at GSMD, and Second Prize in the Classical Singer Competition. She also came third in the Young Artist Competition and the NAMN Vocal Arts Competition, and was a finalist in the Concerto Competition. She has received Loveday, Marianne Falke, Maurice H. and Evangeline L. Dumesnil, George Shirley Voice and Willis-Patterson scholarships. Previous operatic performances include Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly (scenes) at GSMD, and Pamina (Die Zauberflöte), Berta (Il barbiere di Siviglia), Countess Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro) and Alice Ford (Falstaff) in opera scenes at University of Michigan.
In a telephone conversation with Chiejina from base in the U.S., she expressed delight at her selection into the elite British classical music house. According to her, “It felt pretty exciting and surreal for a while and now, I’m thinking of the work and the pressure. As young artists we will have to sing with all those professionals; we will get on stage and just sing. It’s the main thing and I hope not to crack under pressure”.
Chiejina said she applied for the position last October and went through a rigorous process of auditioning before being selected. Part of her preparation included providing an Mp3 of herself singing with the piano, five operatic excerpts and one song. By the second round, there were 26 of them from 440 that initially applied. Although she couldn’t particularly say which of her performances helped her selection, Chiejina said it was a tasking process and she hoped to make the most of it.
Her last visit to Nigeria was last July. Chiejina left Nigeria at an early age for the U.S where she got her music education from the prestigious University of Michigan. Although her two-year musical programme at The Royal Opera House will end in 2018, Chiejina has her sight firmly set on Germany, a country she said, “They have a strong opera tradition, and they have smaller opera houses and more opportunities to explore”.
Chiejina said she once made efforts to perform in Nigeria at MUSON Centre, but the sheer logistics of the venture put paid to it. According to her, “I tried to do a recital at MUSON Centre, but the logistics was something else. But it’s something I’d like to explore again in future”.
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