Clara Orif, soprano – a profile

Clara will be singing the role of Iphis in Handel’s oratorio Jephtha at this year’s Festival alongside soloists from London’s top conservatoires and backed by local choral societies. The concert, conducted by Paul Spicer and accompanied by Southern Pro Musica, takes place on 18th March at 7.30pm in Petersfield Festival Hall.

What are you looking most forward to when performing at the Petersfield Musical Festival this year?

This will be a special occasion: Jephtha’s a special work with a special orchestra. I’m particularly looking forward to Iphis’ beautiful farewell aria, where she bids adieu to the world and abandons herself: it’s so moving. I’ve sung it before.

Who and/or what have been the most important influences on your musical career or interest in music?

My father was the first to introduce me to music. He was a sound engineer. He would make me sit for hours listening to music and learn the violin. When he passed away, my mother continued his wish for me to study music. He was Maria Callas’ biggest fan, and now so am I!

Since I moved from Paris (where I was brought up) to London to study at the RAM, I’ve had some great professional opportunities, including being able to perform alongside James Cheung. I’m thankful for the help and guidance I’ve received from Gavin Carr at RAM, and also for the opportunity to sing with the BSO Orchestra and Chorus, when I sang as a soloist in Fauré’s Requiem performance and will be singing the soprano solo part with them in Haydn’s Nelson Mass in July.

What have been the greatest challenges of your musical career so far?

I think the greatest challenge is to be singing well and being satisfied whatever condition you are singing in. Recently I was asked to roll on the floor while singing Handel’s Tamerlano, which made singing much more difficult!

What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

It’s a pleasure to collaborate with others, be it with pianists, composers, MD’s or stage directors. They give you the energy and input to challenge yourself and be better. I love discussing interpretative ideas with whoever I’m working with.

I’ve found a real pleasure in performing duets with a pianist. You are able to interpret the music very freely!

Are there any composers for whom you feel a particular affinity?

As a former organist, I have a strong affinity with early-music composers. But I also love Romantic music. As a French native, I dream of performing Massenet’s opera Manon one day. As a recital singer, Poulenc is the composer I feel extremely close to, his music really resonates with me.

Which works do you think you perform best?

I perform best the music that I feel a personal connection with. The pianist Arthur Rubinstein once said “you should never touch any piece of music that is not yours, that doesn’t talk to you”.

Which performances are you most proud of?

I’m far too self-critical to think of any, but I’m proud of the work I have done that brought me to where I am now professionally.

What are your most memorable concert experiences, either as a performer, composer or listener?

My most memorable concert experience is when I sang as a soloist in Winchester Cathedral with the Bournemouth Symphony orchestra, singing Fauré’s Reqiuem. The orchestra was so good and the cathedral was so big.

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Be brave, be prepared to jump off a cliff, and climb up the mountain. Always be prepared and organised, take care of yourself, and love your instrument (in my case, your voice).

Here are some links for the next concerts I will be performing in and a YouTube link.

About Clara

With musical roots as a young singer and organist in Paris, Franco-Scottish soprano Clara Orif has recently graduated from a master’s at the Royal Academy of Music in 2022. Here, she was the winner of the Richard Lewis / Jean Shanks Award, and the Isabel Jay prize. Having now joined the Royal Academy Opera, she studies with Mary Nelson, James Baillieu and Jonathan Papp. In Academy opera productions, Clara has performed the roles of Adina, Marie, and Armida, and will be performing the role of Barbarina in The Marriage of Figaro. She is now working with the English Touring Opera on their Handelfest productions of Tamerleno and Agrippina.

On the concert stage, Clara has been collaborating since 2020 with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra & Chorus as a soloist in their productions of Fauré’s Requiem, Orff’s Carmina Burana, and next year in Haydn’s Nelson Mass. She made her London solo recital debut in 2022 in the Blackheath Halls with pianist James Cheung, following a masterclass with Christian Gerhaher. Clara and James have since performed together at the Chipping Camden Music Festival. Clara is now an Oxford Lieder Emerging Artist and is supported by the London Women’s Clinic Foundation Award.