It’s Sunday again…
Time moves slowly in Amsterdam. But I realise I’ve been here for a month already. I’m cycling from Noord to meet Opera singer Grace Carter. Whenever I take pictures I find my senses heightened, sounds are more visceral. Amsterdam is full of clicking sounds; the three gears on my bike, the traffic lights click rapidly, bridges open and close, there is a rhythm to this city which is comforting, like everyone is synced.
Grace has chosen to be photographed close to the Artis (Zoo) and the botanical gardens. Just a few minutes from the Amstel River but still as ever surrounded by canals. It’s the other side of town to the Opera venues but whilst babysitting she found the area calming, a place to be with her thoughts and away from music, carrying children on her bakfiets. She lives in the West of Amsterdam in an area called De Baarsjes, which is more grey and concrete so to be in this area full of green is a welcome contrast.
We talk about her life, as a student turning opera singer…
As with many art forms, there are more people than ever competing for the few roles available, Grace says that directors can now choose a singer that fits the part according to appearance as well as singing ability. Maybe amongst other factors this encourages artists to travel to find their niche.
Opera singers typically sing in; Italian, French, German and Russian. Although this doesn’t mean that singers can speak the languages fluently, they must convey through language and drama the expression of the moment in the opera narrative.
Grace confesses that she was a shy student, secretly wanting to be a singer and at the age of 16 began singing lessons. Specialising in piano for her music degree, as she neared the end of her studies she began singing more and more. After two years teaching piano, Grace moved to London to undertake opera singing. As she tells me this, a great heron swoops by making a squawking sound. I wonder for a moment if the canal Herengracht is named after birds, but then catch myself when I remember the word I see on the men’s toilet door is ‘Heren’, so maybe not!
I ask Grace if she sings in the shower. She laughs and says sometimes, although she is more likely to hum as she moves through the city. I know that if I’m nervous in a social situation I sometimes take photos, maybe Grace hums. Grace tells me that she finds the rehearsal process the most enjoyable part of the production. Although is sometimes frustrated as directors push her to express more, draining her emotional reserves.
Now 28, Grace is a Soprano. Read more and see her performances past and present below.