About the artist(s)
Nigerian-American soprano Francesca Chiejina is a recent graduate of the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
Here are highlights from Francesca’s conversation with The Enormity of Now.
How did you get here?
In 2012, I moved to London to study at Guildhall to pursue my Master’s, after finishing my undergrad at the University of Michigan. After the two years of study, I got my first big job at the Royal Opera House — that was another two years. Since then I’ve been freelancing. I’m here now!
I started out singing as a therapeutic thing in high school. After doing it, I always felt like I was releasing something — I felt good and calm, and had done something I was meant to do. That feeling has stayed despite my making something that I love into a career. That core feeling of ‘I’m doing something I’m meant to do’ is still the core of why I sing, and I’m going to find a way to use my singing as a form of self-love and self-healing.
How has the journey of your art/career engaged your voice – personal, artistic, political?
My voice has made me hyper-sensitive and hyper-aware of how I’m feeling and how my body is doing. So when I’m not speaking my mind, or telling the truth, or not standing up for myself, or doing something I should do or say, the voice doesn’t work. It keeps me honest. My voice is a reflection of my honesty. It has helped me to be courageous outside of singing, so I can be clear and clean enough to be the ‘vessel.’
What is the voice that you found while finding your voice?
Right now, the voice I’ve recently rediscovered is reconnecting with my childhood voice (which has been quiet through the pandemic). To find joy and self love through my singing has been heightened by reawakening my childhood voice, which for me has always been a voice of joy and excitement.
Nigerian-American soprano Francesca Chiejina is a recent graduate of the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, where her roles included Countess Ceprano in Rigoletto, Lady-in-Waiting in Macbeth, the Voice from Heaven in Don Carlo, and Ines in Il trovatore. She also sang Micaela in La tragèdie de Carmen at Wilton’s Music Hall, Melantho/Love in The Return of Ulysses at the Roundhouse, and the soprano solos in Gorecki’s Third Symphony for the world premiere of a new work by renowned choreographer Crystal Pite for The Royal Ballet. She has covered Ifigenia in Oreste, Antonia in Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Giannetta in L’elisir d’amore, and Arbate in Midridate, re di Ponto.
In the 2020-21 season she sang Miss Jessel in The Turn of the Screw for OperaGlass Works, Freia in Das Rheingold for Birmingham Opera Company, and Anne Trulove in The Rake’s Progress for Blackheath Halls Opera. She also sang Handel’s Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall and Schubert’s Winterreise in recital at Blackheath Halls.
Recent highlights include her debut with Capella Cracoviensis as Aldimira in Sigismondo and her house and role debut as Clara in Porgy and Bess at Grange Park Opera.
Other recent performances include her debut with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal (Serena, Porgy and Bess); Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music at the Last Night of the BBC Proms; Cio- Cio in San Madama Butterfly (scenes) at Guildhall School of Music and Drama; and Pamina in Die Zauberflöte, Berta in Il barbiere di Siviglia, the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro (scenes) and Alice in Falstaff (scenes), all at the University of Michigan.
Chiejina has participated in masterclasses with Martin Katz, Kamal Khan, Gianna Rolandi, Joyce DiDonato, Brigitte Fassbänder, Edith Wiens, and Felicity Lott. Competition successes include reaching the finals of the inaugural Glyndebourne Opera Cup in 2018, the semi-finals in the National Mozart Competition, and winning the GSMD English Song Prize, the GSMD Aria Prize, as well as second prize in the Classical Singer Competition. She was a finalist in the 2017 Kathleen Ferrier Awards. She has received Loveday, Marianne Falke, Maurice H. and Evangeline L. Dumesnil, George Shirley Voice and Willis Patterson scholarships.
Chiejina previously studied at the University of Michigan with Martha Sheil and James Paterson, and at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama with Sue McCulloch.