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Musicals were the first love of Natasha Marsh. Now she's taken the opera world by storm.
If anyone was destined for a career on the stage, it was soprano Natasha Marsh. Born in Wales into a musical family (her father is a director of music, her mother a vocal coach), Natasha’s childhood was one of intense music-making. Her mother taught her and her two brothers to sing “from day one”, and the Marsh children participated in everything from choirs and orchestras to plays and musicals.
“It was very diverse – I enjoyed every realm of performing,” says Natasha.
The young singer also learnt to play the oboe and piano, but it was her love of singing that led Natasha to join the National Youth Music Theatre when she was 15. It was a life-changing experience: “This was when I thought, ‘I want to be on stage.’”
When Natasha went on to read Music and Drama at Birmingham University, musicals were still her first love – but then, something changed.
“Bit by bit, I was developing this upper end to my voice. I thought, hang on a minute, I really like singing opera.”
She performed her first opera – Handel’s Acis and Galatea – in her third year and decided to audition for a post-graduate course at the Royal College of Music. She was accepted, aged 21, and her love affair with opera began in earnest.
“I was surrounded by this wealth of talent. It was so exciting.”
After a year at the RCM, she won a scholarship to study on the opera course. Her superb acting and command of the stage attracted her first agent even before she left college. On graduating, she sang the role of Micaela in Carmen with English Touring Opera and was then offered her big break: creating the title role in Michael Berkeley’s new opera Jane Eyre. “It was a great chance for me to make my mark.”
Natasha has performed with Opera Holland Park, Glyndebourne Touring Opera and Opera North, and also given concert performances around the country.
But Natasha isn’t someone who likes to be pigeon-holed – which is why, when she heard that EMI was setting up a new label, Angel, she decided to approach the company. She auditioned and was signed immediately – a decision that left Natasha “completely blown away.” She was very involved in choosing the repertoire for her debut album, probably because EMI recognises that this is a woman who knows who she is and what she wants. “Opera doesn’t have to be stuffy. I want the average person on the street to find this album appealing.”
It’s an eclectic mix, featuring core repertoire – arias from Verdi’s La Traviata and Catalani’s La Wally – alongside ballads by Ewan MacColl and Jimmy Webb. “I’m in love with every single one of these songs, which means I can sing them from the heart. That’s a wonderful start.”
So what’s next? “The great thing about opera is that the voice continues to grow, and that brings a whole new selection of opportunities.” And would she sing in a musical again? “I wouldn’t rule it out, but I don’t think it’s naturally where my voice is right now, and besides - I love opera!”