My Opera Experience

Soraya Mafi

Born in Lancashire, this award-winning sopano is a graduate of the Royal College of Music and an ENO Harewood Artist. Her most recent roles include Musetta in Puccini’s La bohème for English National Opera at Alexandra Palace.

Award-winning soprano Soraya Mafi

What was your first opera?

The first opera I saw was Opera North’s production of La bohème (The Bohemians, Puccini, 1896), directed by Phyllida Lloyd. The first opera I performed in was at school: The Little Sweep (1949) by Benjamin Britten. I loved it!

What was the last opera you saw and where?

The last opera I saw was Anthony Minghella’s production of Madame Butterfly (Puccini, 1904) at English National Opera.

What is your favourite opera and why?

This is impossible to answer as I love different operas for different reasons. Rather than name a favourite opera, I’ll mention one that I’m loving listening to at the moment: Hänsel und Gretel (Humperdinck, 1893). The music is so charming, the orchestration is incredible and the familiarity of the story is somewhat comforting, despite being pretty scary in parts!

I made my debut as Gretel for Grange Park Opera last year, and it was so hard not to cry at the end of Act 2 when the orchestra takes over from Hansel and Gretel once they sing the evening prayer. Utter magic!

How did you get into opera?

I always enjoyed performing – dancing, creating girl groups with my friends in the playground! But what really inspired my desire to go into opera was when I won a bursary through a local music festival to pay for singing lessons. I auditioned, under the advice of my music teacher, for the Junior Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM). At the RNCM, I met the wonderful singer and teacher Sandra Dugdale who became a mentor to me and encouraged me to pursue a career in opera.

What opera would you recommend to a newcomer and why?

Any! Opera is exactly the same as other forms of music or art – there is such a variety out there. Go to a few different operas and see which ones you enjoy – you might love some for the music, others for the storyline or the production. There’s a lot happening on stage during an opera, and in the orchestra, so explore!