In Conversation with Natalie Aroyan
On balancing commitments, learning new roles and the perks of having a business degree.
Your upcoming recital for Opera Australia will see you perform Armenian and Argentinian songs alongside the acclaimed baritone, José Carbó. What is special about the repertoire that you'll be performing for this concert?
This has to be a career highlight for me, and one I will cherish forever. To be able to sing the songs from my motherland is such an honour and a blessing, and I am proud to be able to present these beautiful Armenian pieces to the Australian public. Through music and poetry, we can glimpse the Armenian people’s struggles but also their strength and triumph in the face of adversity. Performing alongside the great José Carbó is an added bonus. I am blessed to share this concert with someone of his high calibre, who undoubtedly will bring much fire and passion through his Argentinian songs.
Can you tell me about your process for learning music, particularly when working on multiple roles, as well as concert repertoire and other works? What's your trick for committing all the notes to memory?
Firstly I sit with a calendar and make a schedule for myself, and include information on what I need to learn by when, checklists of page numbers learnt and page numbers memorised. Then I take my role to my diction coach to ensure my diction is correct, which will ultimately help everything else. I then study the pieces for my role at home until I present it to my teacher and coach. As a young child, I used to recite Armenian poetry for school events, which has helped me greatly with the skill of memorising notes and words; it’s a matter of repetition and focus.
As a young artist, balancing all the different aspects of your life can be difficult - you're performing, studying music and attending rehearsals while juggling a social life and family time. How do you find time for everything? Do you have any tips for young musicians struggling with those same issues?
Over the years I have had to make significant sacrifices. It has been a difficult journey at times, but having the support of my family and my friends has been an immense help, especially as they understand my commitment to my singing career. However, I know others have it harder than me, those with children or those who live far from their families for long periods of time… It’s difficult in different ways for different people. But if this career is everything you dream about doing and if it truly makes you happy, then sometimes great success requires greater sacrifice.
Before you came to the world of opera, you studied business and IT. How have those skills helped you in your operatic career, and do you think it is important for other young artists to develop an understanding of management and business to help with their own musical development?
For me, it was a blessing in disguise. It relieved me of the pressures of making it in this industry, as I had a couple of degrees to fall back on and I never felt like I didn’t ever have other options. It also prepared me in presenting myself as a package when applying for scholarships, which played a huge part in my development. My early training was filled with competitions and study plans. I was extremely thorough in presenting my case to the adjudicators and my Marketing Degree immensely contributed to this… my programming skills, I am yet to utilise!!
Later this year you'll be performing the title role in Aida for Opera Australia! When you're performing such a role, what does your character development process look like? Do you find yourself doing a significant amount of research, or is it more about getting the character into your body?
It’s both. I will always research every role I am performing to enable me to have the greatest understanding of my character, the characters around me, and the place and period the opera takes place. This all contributes to creating a character that is believable. I then draw on my own life experiences to deliver a very real and raw performance. This is challenging but I find the process more comprehensive and fulfilling. Having studied Ancient Egyptian History and visited all the ancient sites in Egypt, finally performing Aida is a dream come true.
If you could give your past self one piece of advice about navigating the opera industry, what would it be?
I’d need more than one! Be patient but persistent. Work hard. Don’t stress. It’s ok to make mistakes. It’s ok to fail. Believe in yourself. Keep moving forward.
Natalie Aroyan and renowned Argentinian-Australian tenor José Carbó join together as part of Opera Australia’s Studio Recital series to perform a range of works from their birth countries. Saturday 3 June 2017, 2:30pm, The Opera Centre, Surry Hills. Natalie will then debut as Aida in Opera Australia’s outdoor Griffith Opera on the Beach – Aida at the Gold Coast. 21 - 30 September 2017, Coolangatta Beach, Gold Coast