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Profile: Sian Winstanley, Emerging Artist

What do you love about working in opera?
EVERYTHING! I love doing my passion for a living. I love the music, the drama, the costumes, the thought-processes behind each new interpretation of a piece. I love singing, I love applause, I love watching and learning when I find myself working with truly great artists. I love that I never know what is going to happen!


One of my favourite jobs was playing several roles in a jazz opera. The music was tricky but excellent and it was fabulous when, during the run, the band started deconstructing the music as we went along. Having said all that, I think my absolute favourite aspect is the people. I cannot think of any other job where such a fascinating, eclectic mix of people works together.


I love that a production may be put together switching between languages. Everyone I meet is an artist in their field - painters, builders, costumers, make-up artists, singers, instrumentalists... The most interesting and intelligent people I know all work in opera and as I know very little and love to be educated I can think of no better place to be than surrounded by such people.


What 3 things might people be surprised to learn about you?
1. I ride a Honda Hornet CB600 motorbike. It's red and I call it Harry.

2. I love knitting. I started a few years ago and although I'm far from proficient I'm pretty obsessed. But many singers are knitters so I'm not sure how surprising that is...

3. Most people seem surprised to learn that I used to have pink hair, two nose piercings, an eyebrow ring, lip-ring and tongue-stud. One review characterised me as, "the pink-haired punk soprano" which came as a shock to me at the time as I thought I just looked nice!


What do you do when you're not working?
I read constantly, poetry and novels mainly. I have to ban myself from reading when I have scores to learn. It's how I imagine rehab feeling, but less cleansing. I also like playing the violin, just by myself to backing tracks, but not when my boyfriend's home. Tony, being a violinist, is embarrassing to play in earshot of. This is making me sound very indoorsy! I actually love camping but I haven't been for years. This year I'm going to Menorca for four days and it'll be my first real holiday in eight years. My non-working days are generally rest days. I'm sure many singers recognise that scenario but I love my job so it doesn't feel like work!


If you weren't working in your current job, what would be your ideal profession?
The older I get, the more upset I get by world affairs. The one thing that makes me feel guilty is that I'm performing on stage when there are people in the world who need help. The day I leave music, I will go into politics.


Tell us your favourite place to be in the world?
If I didn't have my work, I wouldn't be happy anywhere. But as long as I have work, the most important thing to me is spending time with my family.


What's your favourite opera moment or character?
Generally, my favourite place is the one I'm in at any given time. I get completely engrossed. The best thing about being a relative newbie is that I haven't performed in most pieces yet! Everything's still to be discovered. That being said, one of my favourite experiences was the jazz opera I mentioned earlier, Postcards from Dumbworld by Brian Irvine. It's a collage of disparate scenes telling stories of incredible depth and humanity, delivered with humour and wonderful music. And it was good fun. At one point we were KGB spies popping out of a bin, at another we were bouncing around popping bubbles dressed as pink bunnies. If I had the money, I would take it around the world.


What is your proudest moment to date?
I honestly can't think of one. As far as work is concerned I'm my own biggest critic, although I am learning to loosen up. If I'm in work I must be doing something right, after all. Outside of work, I don't think I've achieved anything at all. I'm happy every day but that's a lucky personality trait rather than an achievement. I'm often proud of other people - my loved ones or my pupils, but I don't suppose I'll feel truly proud of myself until I write and publish something. That was my schoolgirl dream and it's still got a long way to go to realisation. So, I suppose I should get cracking!