Devon Radio presenter Judi Spiers Interviews Opera Singer Natasha Marsh

PUBLISHED: 21:48 14 January 2010 | UPDATED: 09:52 20 February 2013

Natasha Marsh

Natasha Marsh

Having Her Cake...<br/><br/>Judi finds out why wearing the right shoes is vital for Natasha Marsh when creating her stage characters. <br/><br/>Will you just look at this girl? Is there no justice in the world?

Having Her Cake...

Judi finds out why wearing the right shoes is vital for Natasha Marsh when creating her stage characters.

Will you just look at this girl? Is there no justice in the world? Natasha Marsh, 'the fast-rising and outstanding soprano,' not only has a sublime voice but bakes cakes and eats them!

Over the last few months, Natasha Marsh has been thrilling audiences around the country with her virtuoso performances in a series of live concerts. Apparently, when she walked onto the stage to join Jos Carreras at the Royal Albert Hall just before Christmas, in a glorious gold-sequinned gown, the audience gasped in delight. I had no idea when I talked to her recently about her new album and forthcoming tour with Russell Watson, that she had been brought up in Devon.

"For the first nine years of my life I grew up near Cullompton, in a little village called Blackborough. My mum taught at Kentisbeare School, and my dad taught at Uffculme School." Mum and dad were actually music teachers so, as Natasha said, there was "...huge amounts of music as I was growing up. I had everything from Shirley Bassey to Whitney Houston to Mozart, to world music... the full works."

Natasha's chosen career wasn't opera, which she had always thought of as "stuffy and boring", but musical theatre. She was also deterred by the fact that the voice takes longer to mature in opera. I discovered there was actually a far simpler reason, The Sound of Music.

"I was Julie Andrews a lot when I was little, and I still run up hills and pretend to be Maria!"

I wondered if there had been a defining moment, say in the middle of Doh, a Deer, when she had thought 'no this isn't right, I want O Sole Mio'? I've obviously watched too many films because that's not how it happened at all. Natasha sang in dozens of school productions and spent four years with the National Youth Theatre. At 17 she started taking singing lessons with her music teacher, April Cantillo, who is still with her to this day. At 21 she graduated with a first in Music and Drama from Birmingham University and won a coveted scholarship to the Royal College of Music opera school.

"I realised, bit by bit, that I had a top end to my voice and I wasn't actually using the higher notes, so I went away to the Royal College of Music and studied there and developed a technique."

Once there, 'stuffy and boring' was the last thing it was.

"I was surrounded by this wealth of talent, and once you've got the lighting, the costumes, the staging and all the rest of it, it's wonderful. The exhilaration of singing, because you're pumping so much oxygen around your body as you go, is a real feel-good factor."

Natasha made her critically acclaimed debut with Grange Park Opera in Fortunio by Andr Messager. She was also fortunate enough to have created the title role of Jane Eyre, a newly commissioned piece written by Michael Berkeley.

"That was fantastic. Very hard to learn, because it wasn't your obvious opera in many ways, but it was a contemporary piece of music. She never leaves the stage - from 7.30 right through to the end - so I'd come off absolutely exhausted. But really rewarding, incredibly challenging to sing."

Apparently, like the late, great Alec Guinness, Natasha finds shoes central in helping to create a character. "Absolutely vital, so important because they affect the whole way you move on stage. I know it sounds a weird thing to say, but if you're playing a peasant then you'll have flat shoes and the way your body moves, the way you communicate, is completely different from if you're, say, aristocracy. So I try and get the shoes on as quickly as I can."

Natasha has already had some wonderful reviews. The Times called her performance at Opera Holland Park 'glittering', and the Observer 'dazzling, showing promise of an illustrious career'. Thrilling as it must be to receive reviews like that, it must also be a pressure.

"I do feel the pressure sometimes but it's part of the fun. Opening nights are always horrible. Don't get a good night's sleep before that, you know, press night. It's always a bit tense because you know everyone's there with their pens scribbling away, but I think it's healthy to have a bit of adrenaline pumping round you. It gives a good electric performance."

I wondered what had gone through her mind as she stood in the wings waiting to join Jos Carreras?

"I couldn't quite believe I was there. It was one of those surreal moments. He was so close to me, we were doing a duet, and I was looking at him and thinking 'I can't believe that's Jos Carreras!'"

Natasha's language of choice is Italian "because the vowels are so pure that they just flow one into the next, and although it would be amazing to sing one day with Pavarotti, I'd quite like to sing across the board, with somebody like Sting. He'd be fantastic to sing with, I'm sure."

Well, she'll have to wait for a while because when we spoke she was about to kick off a tour with Russell Watson, who she hadn't yet met. "Apparently he's a good laugh. That's what you need, isn't it, when you're on the road?" she said.

Having interviewed Russell a couple of times I was able to concur that he was indeed a good laugh and being also a good Northern lad (and given her ability in the baking department), suggested that a few Eccles cakes would go down well.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if she doesn't bake him some. And introduce him to the "gorgeous cream teas" that she loves to eat when she comes home. Just isn't fair, is it?

Russell Watson and Natasha Marsh are at the Plymouth Pavilions on 24 March. Natasha's debut album, Amour, is out now on EMI Classics.

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