A succession of rave reviews has turned soprano Lisa Milne into Scotland’s most glittering young opera star. She tells Alan Morrison about life on the high Cs.
on should see my dress in Act Two — talk about a plunging neckline. My mum‘ll have a heart attack.’ The stuffy black—tie image of opera isn’t for Lisa Milne. The 25-year-old. Aberdeen-born soprano is looking forward to her latest role for Scottish Opera — as Adele in Die l’letlermaus — not so much for Strauss's showcase arias. but because ‘I get to misbehave unbelievably on stage.‘ Every sentence in her description of the fun-filled. outrageously camp production is punctuated by a giggle. so it’s no surprise she was cast in the part that includes the famous ‘l-.aughing Song‘.
Die I-‘letlermaus marks the end of Milne’s contract with Scottish Opera. Alter three years of supervised coaching and career advice. she’s about to step out into the big. bad world. Already the Glasgow-based company has secured her as a guest artiste for a l998 production of Mozart’s (‘nsifun tune. and her diary is filled with other opera engagements — Handel in Germany. more Mozart in Wales — as well as recording a solo album of Hebridean songs.
liver since she appeared with Scottish Opera in Donizetti's L'lflisir I) 'Amure while a student at the RSAMD. Milne has been a regular principal in the company’s repertoire. garnering bigger and better reviews to become Scotland‘s greatest hope for diva stardom.
‘lt was great to come out of college and know that l was going to be nurtured by my national company.‘ she admits. ‘There's this belief that singers have to go south to make a career. but that‘s a false assumption. It really annoys me. this attitude that you must be crap if you‘re still here.‘ Nevertheless. it was a trip to the other side of Hadrian’s Wall last May as understudy to American soprano Dawn Upshaw in Peter Sellers‘s Glyndeborne Opera production of Handel's Theodora that provided her most exciting experience yet.
‘We’d finished rehearsing. and l was planning to go home for the weekend.’ says Milne. ‘but they asked me to come in at lunchtime the next day for a costume fitting. then I got sent up to the office where they said. “It’s official — Miss Upshaw‘s not going on tomorrow." My first reaction was “Can I phone my mum. please?” ‘
At this point. the story turns into one of those old Hollywood backstage movies where the girl from the chorus line goes on a youngster but comes back a star. After rushed rehearsals that weekend. she was on-stage in the lead role at
one of liurope’s most prestigious opera venues.
‘l‘ve never been more scared in my lil'c.' she admits. ‘At the end of an emotional scene in Act Two. I just finished. collapsed on the ground and realised I was sobbing my heart out because it suddenly hit me where I was. what I was doing. The buzz you get from that kind of fear is like nothing else. You don‘t need alcohol or drugs to be an opera singer.‘
It’s far removed from her first singing experience — a full-throath rendition of ‘Mary. Mary. Quite Contrary' at nursery school. Although she relished the piano lessons that her granny took her to as a child. it was some time before Milne actually caught the opera bug
after seeing a Scottish Opera production of
Soprano spice: pig-tailed Lisa Milne knows what she wants, what she really really wants
Berg‘s Lulu. Later. as a teenager. she took singing lessons at the Northern School ofMusic before auditioning for the RSAMD.
Now. both on stage and off. she radiates confidence and a down-to-earth personality. Her sense of humour will be perfectly at home amid the party atmosphere of Die Fledermaus. In fact. one of the best known songs in Strauss’s masterpiece is a celebration of the virtues of champagne. Sparkling. intoxicating. Qualities that brim over in Lisa Milne.
Die Fleclermaus' opens at the Theatre Royal.
Glasgow; on Wed [2 Feb and the Festival
Theatre. Edinburgh, on Tue 25 Feb. ’ qr
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