Summer Watson Interview

From singing at Buckingham Palace with the Royal Philharmonic to performing to a Chinese audience of over 1.3 billion television viewers, British opera singer Summer Watson has been all around the world and back again. Below we chat with the singer about her debut album, her favorite opera moment, and her new Christmas single.
Cliché: You were raised in Great Britain as an only child. How was it that you discovered music at such a young age? Did you have influences close to you that got you started?
Summer Watson: It all started for me when my dad sang me to sleep with lullabies. One of them was “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands,” I would start singing with him at about the age of 4 and my love of music began. Later when I started to take singing lessons, I would be the one singing my dad to sleep with all the little songs I had learnt when he would come to tuck me in.
I was entered into local music festivals by my singing teacher and had so much fun on stage, especially connecting with audiences, that a desire to pursue music professionally, grew in me. I strived for the very best. I was the first in my family to take a degree, and was able to study at the prestigious Royal College of Music in London—and now, here we are.
How has classical music impacted your life?
Classical music is an amazing genre of music. It touches the soul no matter where or who you are. One especially impactful opera moment I witnessed was when I saw baritone Bryn Terfel and soprano Renee Flemming sing at an outdoor music festival in Wales. It was pouring with rain and yet everyone remained to enjoy the music, transfixed by the singing. An amazing memory with thousands of people in their rain coats, the outdoor arena awash with rain, and yet there were Bryn & Renee on stage. Experiences like that have put me on a mission—I want to take this beautiful music to the masses.
What are some of your most memorable performances and why?
Singing at Buckingham Palace in the Great Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for their 60th anniversary takes some beating. I’m lucky to have had the opportunity to perform all over the world, but talking of taking my music to the masses, I did a performance in China that was seen by 1.3 billion viewers on television. It was an especially memorable experience to reach and move so many people.
What was it like to perform for the Mayor of Jordan?
It was incredible. The whole kingdom was amazing. I got to visit the historical, breathtaking ancient city of Petra and rode a beautiful horse across the desert where they filmed Lawrence of Arabia. Another amazing memory.
Do you ever get nervous before a performance?
Adrenaline certainly is there, but it’s all about having a good time and if you are enjoying the moment, so will the audience. I love to mentor and coach singers; I tell them as long as they are well prepared, then they will have the confidence to go out there and have a great time. That combination of confidence and excitement is what allows the magic to happen.
You speak several languages in addition to English. How many languages do you speak fluently and which language do you prefer?
I speak French, German, and Italian—you learn languages in opera training—but the best language to sing in is Italian, not just because of singing on the pure vowel, but also because Italian is the language of love.
Has your music been featured in any movies?
Yes, I’m thrilled to say it has: in films such as the Hallmark biopic TV movie Hans Christian Anderson; the documentary film by Peter Rodger, Oh My God; and also in recent movie P-51 Dragon Fighter.
What was exciting about recording your debut album, Summer, with Sony Classical?
To get to record with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra was a huge thrill and another was getting to record it at Abbey Road, the studio made most famous by The Beatles. During breaks I got to speak with their producer, Sir George Martin.
Is there new material on the horizon?
My Christmas single is out now. It’s called “If Every Day Was Christmas” (available to download from iTunes and Amazon). That song means a lot to me, as Christmas is my favorite time of year, as you’ll hear in the lyrics. I recorded it with Grammy-winning producer Michael Jay, who has worked with the likes of Celine Dion and Kylie Minogue, and he and I are working of several upcoming singles I’m very excited about.
Of all the fascinating people you have met in your life, which was the most exciting?
I met Luciano Pavarotti after one of his concerts. What an honor to meet such an icon of music. In his presence, I felt like I was 4 years old again, just incredibly excited. He had a white towel over his shoulders and looked more like he’d just played a tennis match than performed a concert. I said hello to the maestro and he said, “Summer! I know who you are.” I was shell-shocked, but delighted. We talked for a while and I got my program signed. I treasure it and treasure the memory.
Who are some of your favorite artists and musicians that you listen to?
I love the soprano Renee Fleming, the wonderful crossover singer Josh Groban and adore superstar Celine Dion; she’s a true inspiration. If you’re reading this Celine, I’d love to sing a duet with you sometime…
Read more about Watson at and follow her on Twitter @summermusic!
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Summer Watson Interview: Photographed by David Aguilera

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