In conversation with: Mary Bevan
Continuo Connect meets internationally renowned soprano Mary Bevan
Praised by Opera for her “dramatic wit and vocal control”, British soprano Mary Bevan is internationally renowned in baroque, classical and contemporary repertoire, and appears regularly with leading conductors, orchestras and ensembles around the world. She is a winner of the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Young Artist award and UK Critics’ Circle Award for Exceptional Young Talent in music and was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours list in 2019. Mary is a Patron of Continuo Foundation.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
It’s pretty simple - sitting on the sofa on a Friday night having pizza and film night with my son Albert and husband-to-be Max, with a free weekend ahead of us.
What is your superpower?
I think it’s probably sight-reading music - I’m pretty sure it’s the thing that’s helped my career most to this day!
What non-musical hobbies or interests do you have?
I like swimming in rivers and the sea, walking, reading, cooking, hanging out with my siblings and their children, charity-shop and antique shop hunting.
Could you describe in a few words what’s so special about early music concerts?
I think because the groups tend to be smaller there’s more of a collegiate energy, there’s no space for ego. Everyone tends to be friends and to be there because they really want to be. That makes for unique and sometimes electrifying performances.
What will someone living 400 years from now think about “early” music?
I think it will be seen as even more special because it will have been alive for so much longer. It will have aged like fine wine and performance practice will be an even more finely-tuned art form.
What is your earliest musical memory?
As a 6 or 7 year old, singing polyphony next to my mum in my dad’s church choir, with her moving her finger along the line so I could follow the music.
Who is your favorite composer, and why?
Bach, I don’t think this requires any explanation! Just that I don’t think I’ll ever stop discovering his work.
How has classical music influenced your life outside of performing?
It has taken me all over the world and I’ve seen things, people and places that no other career could have shown me. It has made me into someone who understands complex emotion and has helped me make sense of life.
Can you describe the feeling of truly understanding a complex piece of music?
It’s like sitting outside on a cloudy day and the sun suddenly coming out. You can relax and enjoy it.
Do you have a lucky charm or ritual that you follow before important concerts?
No, I don’t believe in these sorts of things because I think if you start to rely on them and then for some reason you can’t perform your ritual or lose your lucky charm, then that can throw you off even more. Deep breathing and finding your calm centre is really the only thing that I try and do if I’m really nervous. And remembering that the audience only want the best for me and that my job is to deliver a performance for them, not make it about myself.
Can you describe a particularly challenging or rewarding moment in your musical journey?
Pretty much every time I sing a Handel opera there’s always one aria that I can’t sing, and I mean I can’t physically get through it, and I always think ‘well I’m going to have to cancel this gig / opera / tour’. Then I push through it and start singing every day and somehow it works. That moment when it works for the first time always feels incredible and because the journey to get there is so challenging, the reward feels all the greater. I never seem to learn though, it always feel the same every time!