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Young singers make opera debut in Tosca

Two young singers are preparing to make their operatic debuts as they get ready to perform a solo in Tosca.

Matilda Hazell, 13, who attends Prince Henry’s School in Otley, and Ben Hayes, 14, from Roundhay School in Leeds, have been selected to share the Shepherd Boy solo between them both at Leeds and on tour. Matilda and Ben are members of Opera North Young Voices and it was there that they found out about the auditions for the part.

As Matilda says: “We had to do quite a few audition sessions. My Mum got an email to tell me I’d got the part. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. It’s a massive opportunity and I’m so pleased to have been chosen.”

Robert Hayward as Baron Scarpia and Giselle Allen as Floria Tosca rehearsing Tosca © Tom Arber

‘Io de’ sospiri’ (which Matilda and Ben will be singing in Italian) provides a moment of calm at the opening of Act III, before the opera’s tragic denouement. Having been in rehearsal for a few weeks, the young singers have already watched the opera several times.

Ben reflects: “I really love the opera Tosca. It was the first opera I ever saw and after I watched it, I thought it would be amazing to sing the shepherd – and two years later I am! But my favourite part of the show is at the end.”

Matilda is also a big fan of the opera: “I love the opera. The music is really pretty. I like it when Giselle sings ‘Vissi d’arte’ as it’s really beautiful and her voice is amazing. I also like the school children scene that I take part in, because it’s fun and active.”

Matilda and Ben at the Tosca rehearsals in Leeds © Tom Arber

Both teenagers have really enjoyed the rehearsals, meeting the singers and getting to perform with them.

Ben comments: “The rehearsals are amazing, especially because I get to rehearse with professional singers and I get to perform on a set in a studio – I’ve never rehearsed on a set that’s not on a stage before! And it’s great making new friends and getting to share the role with Matilda.”

Matilda is equally enthusiastic: “Although the rehearsals can be quite long, I never get bored. I said to my Mum after one of the rehearsals that I didn’t want to go back to school and I just want to perform in opera productions all the time.”

Tosca in rehearsal © Tom Arber

As opening night approaches, Matilda says that she is “a bit nervous” but excited too. She is most looking forward to “the applause at the end”. Ben is also feeling “slightly anxious” but is “so excited to step on stage and feel the adrenaline rush of performing.” They both want to become performers after they have finished their schooling. As Matilda says:

“I love singing and I am working really hard at trying to get there, but I know that to be an an opera singer you need to work for many years.”

Tosca opens at Leeds Grand Theatre on Sunday 16 September, before touring.

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