Nardus Williams on being Adina
Nardus Williams will sing the feisty heroine Adina in L’elisir d’amore this Festival.
Press Officer Eleanor Crawforth caught up with her…
Photos: Richard Hubert Smith
‘Tremendous fun’ is how soprano Nardus Williams describes the ‘great ensemble piece’ that is Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore, coming to the 2023 Festival. ‘It’s such a humorous opera […] and beyond that, the music is exceptionally heartfelt.’ Taking on the role of Adina is a significant step in an impressive career that has seen Williams rise from a member of the Glyndebourne Chorus to her second principal role in the Festival.
How did she start out as an opera singer? Williams played a number of musical instruments growing up, but her initial singing experience was as a chorister. ‘I then chose to go to conservatoire (at least temporarily) whilst I decided which academic route to follow. And here I am, still singing!’ She trained at the Royal College of Music’s International Opera School, where she received the prestigious Kiri Te Kanawa Scholarship. Her musical role models included Emma Kirkby, David Thomas and Michael George.
Williams has a longstanding history with Glyndebourne. She joined the Chorus in 2016 (for Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and The Cunning Little Vixen) and credits the experience with helping to hone her skills and confidence as a performer. ‘One of my earliest and favourite memories of working at Glyndebourne is singing in the chorus for [Barrie Kosky’s] Saul. I love Handel and the whole process of creating that show was wonderful – and the end result was such a spectacle!
L’elisir d’amore, Festival 2009. Photo: Simon Annand
She enjoyed the collaborative nature of singing in the chorus: ‘My number one love when it comes to singing is ensemble singing.’
In 2017 she appeared as Maggie/Marjana, one of the adult principals, in Glyndebourne’s youth opera Belongings. The following year Williams went on to become a 2018 Jerwood Young Artist – during which there were ‘lots of great opportunities, from singing small stand-out roles, to song recitals’ – and then a cover artist during which she covered some of her favourite roles, including Armida in Rinaldo in Festival 2019 and Adina in L’elisir d’amore in the Tour the same year. ‘There’s been such a wide variety of experiences, and I’ve learnt from them all.’
She doesn’t see it as a case of ‘coming up’, however: ‘the same musical skills and abilities are required regardless of whether you’re in the chorus or a principal. In my mind there is no hierarchy on stage; everyone is part of the same production, working together to convey the meaning of the music.’
Williams also has fond memories of returning to Glyndebourne during the pandemic to play Ciboulette in the indoor version of In the Market for Love (autumn 2020) and ‘the joy of simply being able to perform again, especially in such a hilarious production.’
She played Anne Trulove in the 2021 Tour production of Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, and returned to the Tour this autumn to play the Countess in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro (a role she also performed several times during the 2022 Festival). ‘Glyndebourne has been hugely influential giving me opportunities at every stage of my career,’ she says.
The Rake’s Progress, Tour 2021. Photo: Sisi Burn
As well as Glyndebourne, Williams has sung at the Wigmore Hall, BBC Proms, ENO and the Edinburgh International Festival, among others. ‘I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate to sing in some fantastic places.’ She mentions her recent trips to Belgium as a particular highlight. ‘As well as singing lots of great early music with lovely people, there’s so much fascinating history, art, and not least, food!’
Williams is looking forward to returning to Glyndebourne next summer and says she is ‘super excited’ to be playing Adina in L’elisir d’amore, a character she feels speaks to a modern audience: ‘The role of Adina is one that seems well-adjusted to modern expectations of female agency. It’s a great joy to play such a ludic and confident character.’
She particularly enjoys developing a role through the rehearsal period. ‘The evolution of the opera throughout the rehearsal process is something that always fascinates me,’ she says. ‘I particularly relish this process at Glyndebourne: a theatre I love, and surrounded by people I truly cherish.’
And her advice for anyone thinking of coming to see the production? ‘Gorgeous music, a classic production, and a wonderful plot… what’s not to like?!’