Dame Felicity Palmer’s advice for young singers

17 November 2017, 12:57

By Lizzie Davis

The brilliant mezzo-soprano shared some… controversial advice on breath control, diction and making the most of your career

What’s your advice for young singers?

“You need to look at whether becoming a singer is a life or death issue because if it isn’t, it’s a tough kind of a life”

There’s no guarantee that you’ll actually make it.

What's your advice on breath control?

“Singing technique as it’s generally taught doesn’t engage that free breath at all, in my view”

“When we speak, we don’t breath and think ‘I’m going to say a really long sentence so I’d better stoke up on the breath’. The body is designed to provide the breath we need. If you link the singing mechanism with speech, you engage the breathing mechanism we’re born with and that knows perfectly well what to do.

“It’s a lifetime’s work – and I think singing is a lifetime’s work. There’s always stuff to discover.”

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Zubin Mehta said: “Remember that it was now possible to go from Los Angeles to Edinburgh, that this wasn’t necessarily the wisest thing for any musician to do – and certainly not a singer”

Use your career in music as a way of seeing the world, and not to be sitting in hotel rooms and looking after my voice resting and not doing anything.

Do you have any advice on diction and making sure the audience can hear the words you’re singing?

“Words have always been important to me. Our job is basically is to use the techniques that we’ve got to communicate. If we don’t communicate, in my view we’re failing.”

How can you best look after your voice?

Save your capital for the big moments. It’s very easy to almost give a performance in a rehearsal. Save the performance for the performance.

Dame Felicity Palmer and pianist Simon Lepper's new recording 'Two Little Words' is out now