We use cookies to track usage and preferences. See Cookie Policy
Pocketmags Digital Magazines
Pocketmags Digital Magazines
   You are currently viewing the Australia version of the site.
Would you like to switch to your local site?
Digital Subscriptions >  Latest Articles > Life with my voice: Roderick Williams

Life with my voice: Roderick Williams
Opera Now

Life with my voice: Roderick Williams

Posted Wednesday, 26 October 2016   |   792 views   |   Music   |   Comments (0) This has been a fulfilling year for British baritone Roderick Williams, who is currently appearing with Opera North in his debut as Billy Budd. He explains why he is so drawn to the music of Benjamin Britten, and how his opera career is flourishing in an easy-going sort of way

Who were your biggest influences when you started to sing?

I started singing as a treble when I was six in the shadow of my older brother, a head chorister with perfect pitch. My first experience of opera was my mother singing along to recordings of Maria Callas as she cooked us Sunday lunch. My father was a self-taught guitarist for a hobby and I could hear him practise from my bedroom. So my family and Maria Callas probably set me on my path more than anyone else.


You began your formal training as an opera singer at the Guildhall when you were 28 – which is relatively late. Why did you wait?

I sometimes think that people who have a burning ambition to be a singer (and nothing else) from a young age face the prospect of crushing disappointment if things don’t work out. My career path was more haphazard and so I was content to pursue my own singing as far as it went, ready to fall back on teaching if required. I know this philosophy doesn’t suit everybody, but it’s not in my nature to be hugely ambitious. I aim to enjoy the moment without worrying too much about the future.


This year has been something of a milestone for you in terms of opera, singing Eugene Onegin and Billy Budd. Did you consciously decide that the time was right to take on these substantial roles?

I’ve wanted to singing these two roles for some time now, but it is coincidence that they have both occurred in the same year. I wouldn’t say that they feel much more substantial than previous singing, so it doesn’t feel like a particular leap for me in terms of my vocal development.


Are you a natural ‘stage animal’? What sort of preparation do you have to do to explore the characters that you portray?

I hardly ever acted on stage as a schoolboy as I was required in the pit band. I didn’t know whether I would enjoy acting but eventually I signed up for the opera course at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama anyway; the syllabus sounded like a lot of fun. It turned out that I loved being on stage. Finding a sense of character in a song or an operatic role turns out not to be so different afterall. It’s just more common for an operatic character to continue throughout an evening whereas a song recital can comprise a great many vignettes. To prepare, I think a lot about what my characters say and what is said about them. I wonder about what might have happened to them before the opera begins and how this affects the choices they make on stage. I like to people-watch too; the way people behave, move and talk in real life is as fascinating if not more so than anything that happens on a stage.


Does your mixed race heritage inform your approach to music in anyway, or does it just lead to annoying stereotyping?

In all honesty, I don’t think my mixed-race heritage is a part of my approach to music or my career at all. I was raised within a very safe, middle-class household and my frames of reference have little to do with my mother’s Jamaican past. If anyone ever asks me about my roots, I immediately think of High Barnet, Hertfordshire. I am not privy to casting meetings so I cannot say whether I have been rejected in the past for roles because of my skin colour or whether this has worked in my favour. I can guess, of course, but that is a fairly pointless exercise. I like to imagine that people like the way I sing and employ me accordingly. I have hardly suffered from journalist stereotyping or political programming any more than, say, Thomas Allen with his County Durham heritage. That is both a part of him and also nothing to do with his career.


You’ve sung a lot of Benjamin Britten. As someone who writes songs yourself, why does this composer appeal to you?

Britten’s music was among the first that awoke me to classi

For more great articles like this get the November 2016 issue of Opera Now below or subscribe and save.

Single Issue - March 2018 Replica Edition included
Or 499 points
Annual Digital Subscription
Only $ 2.36 per issue
Or 2599 points
Monthly Digital Subscription
Only $ 3.26 per issue
Or 299 points

View Issues

About Opera Now

Opera Now magazine takes you to the heart of the opera world, capturing all its colour and drama both on stage and behind the scenes.

More great content like this...

For more great articles like this subscribe to Opera Now today.

Most read articles this month

Failsafe  fingering

Failsafe fingering

In answer to a reader’s question, Graham Fitch addresses the complex subject of how to find fingering that works for you More...
Christmas Gifts for Her

Christmas Gifts for Her

Stuck for gift ideas for the lovely lady in your life? The Pocketmags team have pooled all their best ideas for gifts for her this Christmas. Get ready to earn some serious brownie points! More...
Christmas Gifts for Him

Christmas Gifts for Him

Why are men so hard to buy for?! If you're looking for gift ideas for the deserving gent in your life, look no further; the Pocketmags team have found some amazing gifts for him this Christmas. Boring socks begone! More...
Lift your  chances

Lift your chances

Be ready for your sixty-second chance to shine with Adrian Magson’s pitch correction More...


Nashville songwriter Mark Cawley shares some tactics for reviving those elusive creative juices when you’ve lost the flow More...
Baking Heaven's Banoffee Loaf

Baking Heaven's Banoffee Loaf

Brought to you by Baking Heaven, this Banoffee Loaf is just the sweet treat you're looking for. It's sure-fire family hit, here’s how to make the most of this delicious Banoffee Loaf... More...
3 Free Reads for the New Year

3 Free Reads for the New Year

Spend all your money in December? Us too. We’ve pulled together our 3 favourite free reads available for you on Pocketmags. Everyone loves a free read! More...
Great British Food's Pomegranate & Chocolate Cake

Great British Food's Pomegranate & Chocolate Cake

If you visit Morocco in autumn you will notice fresh pomegranates wherever you go. The beautiful seeds are eaten after a meal, squeezed for a refreshing drink, or scattered, jewel like, over sweet and savoury dishes. This fantastic cake uses tangy pomegranate molasses in the base and the vibrant ruby red seeds are scattered over the top to add a pop of colour and refreshing bite. More...
Did your ancestor leave a will?

Did your ancestor leave a will?

For non-family historians, the appeal of a long-lost relative’s will is that they might find themselves a beneficiary. But for us, wills can provide an invaluable collection of names, relationships and clues to family members from times gone by. June Terrington examines this rich collection of records More...
Glasgow Museums’ collection  of Anchor Line posters

Glasgow Museums’ collection of Anchor Line posters

Emily Malcolm, Curator of Transport & Technology, explores a colourful collection of historic travel posters, which convey the excitement of world travel in years gone by More...
Vouchers Gift Cards A magazine subscription is the perfect gift but you'll need something to show on the big day. View All
Ways to Pay Pocketmags Payment Types
At Pocketmags you get Secure Billing Great Offers HTML Reader Gifting options Loyalty Points