Katerina Mina is the international prize-winning British spinto soprano, and guest soloist for our upcoming concert 'Last Night at the Derngate Proms'. Katerina’s passion for singing is evident in her new CD Album with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Grzegorz Nowak. The CD entitled, Angel of Fire, features arias by Verdi, Giordano, Beethoven, Wagner, Cilea, Puccini, Hodel and Barber and can be purchased from the RPO website.

We caught up with Katerina to find out more about her experience recording the new album and what we can expect from the upcoming concert, 'Last Night at the Derngate Proms' in Northampton, Sunday, July 15, 7:30 PM.

What inspired you to choose a career in music? 
I must have been born with this inspiration, as my mother pointed out several times to me how I had specific musical requests from a very young age. When I was four, I told my parents I wanted to take classical ballet lessons and at the age of six I asked them to buy a piano, so that I could start learning the instrument. Singing came into my life much later on, when at the age of 16 I joined the choir of the National Conservatoire of Cyprus, where I was already studying piano and ballet. I entered the Guildhall School of Music & Drama as a concert pianist but my passion for singing took over. At the end of my 2nd year at the GSMD, I auditioned and successfully joined the singing department, graduating as an opera singer!

How does the feeling of recording an album differ from performing live on stage? 
I have to admit, this recording with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra was very different than any other recording I’ve done so far. The sessions felt to me like live performances, where about the only thing missing was the audience! The inspirational venue we recorded at (Henry Wood Hall), combined with the incredible energy, passion and commitment of the musicians, conductor Grzegorz Nowak and producers, made this recording into an extraordinary experience for everyone involved, and one that I will cherish and have forever.

What can audiences expect from the programme on 15 July? 
The Last Night of the Derngate Proms will be an evening of absolute fun for all, with a brilliant program featuring the best of British music and much more. I am so thrilled to be performing the popular Proms numbers like ‘Rule, Britannia!’, ‘Jerusalem’ and ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ and can’t wait for the moment the audience will join in the singing! I will also perform Tosca’s aria ‘Vissi d’arte’, and the well-known aria from Franz Lehár’s operetta Giuditta, ‘Meine Lippen sie küssen so heiss’. Nick Davies will conduct and present this orchestral extravaganza! Bring your union jack flags and get your voices ready for some exciting singing!!

What goes through your mind just before you go on stage? 
Relax. Have fun. Enjoy every moment. Allow yourself to let go. If you forget any words, make them up!

Do you have a favourite piece on the new album? 
That’s a difficult question to answer, as I absolutely love each one of the pieces. The new album begins with the very first piece we recorded (‘Pace, pace mio Dio’ from Giuseppe Verdi’s opera La Forza del Destino), and ends with the very last piece we recorded (Andromache’s Farewell, a dramatic scene for orchestra and soprano by Samuel Barber). I have to say that Andromache’s Farewell is probably my favourite piece on the new album, not only because I have a special affinity with the piece itself and its dramatic possibilities, but also because we used the last three-hour session to record it, having already had nine hours of recording sessions beforehand; so, it kind of ‘stretched’ us all in a good way, on our emotional, physical and intellectual levels. Similarly, all the Italian repertoire on the new album (arias by Verdi, Puccini, Giordano and Cilea) is also very close to my heart, so are the two German arias from Beethoven’s Fidelio and Wagner’s Lohengrin, and the two world-première recordings composed by Stephan Hodel, Love & Angel of Fire, which are based on my own poetry.

On the album, there are two world-première pieces by Swiss composer, Stephan Hodel, how did that come about?
This is another very special moment for me in relation to the new album, as it is the first time my poetry has been set to music. I met Stephan Hodel a couple of years ago, we became friends and he attended most of my performances. One time, Stephan invited me to a cultural event at the Swiss Embassy in London, which was where the idea of a recording with a symphony orchestra was born. A few months later, my agent at the time introduced me to the Permanent Associated Conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Grzegorz Nowak, who organised an audition for me at the Cadogan Hall in London. After my audition, the conductor spoke to me of the possibility to record a whole Album with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. At that point, I emailed Stephan Hodel some of my poems and asked him if he would be interested in composing two pieces for the recording of the Album. He was very much touched by two of my poems called ‘Love’ and ‘Angel of Fire’ and began to write the music straight away. I am so thrilled these two beautiful pieces are part of my new Album!

What advice would you give to an aspiring soprano? 
My first advice would be to develop a solid vocal technique earlier than later. This is achieved by working with the right singing teacher and vocal coach from earlier in vocal development, and then throughout the career. Learn to accept criticism and work with it for your own benefit, without ever losing track of your purpose. Be aware that you will face huge competition at every step of the way, even when you reach the top. Live a normal life and be in the moment, while being true to your moral values. As well as being creative, it is important in today’s market to develop a business mind and combine it with your instinct and talent. Take the lead on your social media and promote yourself as best as you can. Nobody else will do it for you!

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