On the Couch with Celeste Haworth

Celeste-Haworth-AAR-On-the-CouchWho is Celeste Haworth?
I am an opera singer and sing as a principal artist for Opera Australia in the Sydney Opera House. I have also performed extensively in Australia, as well as in Europe and Asia – with Singapore Symphony Orchestra, the Vienna Residence Orchestra and the State Theatre of Wiesbaden to name a few.

I am a mezzo soprano, a darker colored voice type, and live for what I do. Opera singers don’t use microphones – we transform our body into one! So our voices carry to the back of a theatre and over an orchestra, it’s a thrilling way to make a living.

What would you do differently from what you do now? 
In terms of a profession? I love opera and what I do, but in another life, I would have dreamed to be an antiques dealer, art gallery curator or a tv presenter. I would have said chef, as I love cooking and celebrating food with those I love – but chefs work long and odd hours like opera singers do, so perhaps I will stick with my first choices!

Who inspires you and why? 
On a human level – anyone who goes out of their way to be kind will always have my respect. I sometimes worry that how we treat each other at a basic level is eroding. So anytime people come together to create positive changes, or have initiates to help those who need it, I am reminded there is still a lot of good and selflessness in the world. In terms of singing, Christa Ludwig is my inspiration. Her career encompassed both lighter and more dramatic roles, but all with her true voice and incredible technique.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
I would like to bring classical music to everyone I possibly can, but particularly kids! I was the presenter on the radio station Fine Music, hosting the evening Drive program when parents would be picking their children up from school or after work. Sometimes the station would receive calls from parents saying what a difference some of the songs and pieces had made to the journey. Siblings would stop bickering because of the peace this music gave, a bad day at school would be soothed – those phone calls meant a lot to me.

Young school children don’t always have the privilege of music education. Even if they don’t pursue a career, music helps the brain with maths, science, reasoning and thought. It teaches discipline, dedication, responsibility and gives them beautiful sounds to actively listen to and examine. Classical music has lasted not just because of its beauty, or the stories and universal themes it tells. There is something for everyone and every mood. It can comfort and be a source or solace, it can uplift and inspire all by itself.

Kids can work as teams just like sport, but in a different way – listening to each other, building trust and dedication by working together in bands, orchestras, choirs or groups they start themselves. Children should have that opportunity no matter what school or background they have. I can’t change education policy, but I can talk about it at every opportunity.

Favourite holiday destination and why? 
I lived in Europe for about 6 years – an opera summer program in Weimar, then in Vienna to complete my Masters, then in Germany where I sang in the State Opera Theatre of Wiesbaden. I travelled whenever I could, and everything is so much closer together by Australian standards, so I covered a lot of ground! I would love to revisit some old haunts and discover new ones.

The Italian, French and German country sides were my absolute favourites – charming small towns, great provincial food, and chatting to the locals about where to go next. More of Spain is on my list, and I have never been to Greece.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why? 
Sydney is stunning in so many ways, but what I love most about it is the water. I would take them for walks along the harbour, or coastal cliff walks on the northern beaches where the rugged coastline is wilder.

What are you currently reading? 
I just stayed up far too late to finish Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, which I really enjoyed. When you discover a new author, you are not used to their familiar writing style yet, and they could take you anywhere – I love not knowing where a story is heading.

Other than that, it’s memorising my lyrics for the opera stage – some in French, some in Italian and some in German – I have lots of music to learn, and happily so!

What are you currently listening to? 
Usually, it’s music that I am working on. I try and save time listening in the car, or out walking. If I am switching off and cooking however – that’s unwinding time. Then it might be Spanish guitar by Francisco Tárrega, or a playlist of some of my favourite rock/pop/jazz/world music songs. There is a little bit of everything on there!

Happiness is?
My family with good food and good wine. A performance done well. Relaxing in the garden with friends. Road trips!

What does the future hold for you?
I am currently working with a new cast to sing Flora in Verdi’s La Traviata at the Opera House. I performed the role in Melbourne earlier in the year (although Covid took me out of opening night), and it’s such a sumptuous, stunning show – if you haven’t been to the opera before this is a great one to go to! Party scenes, romance, glamour with music so beautiful and famous you might even recognise some melodies without having stepped foot in an opera house!

Then I have some private and corporate concerts for Opera Australia in Sydney, before stepping out on the Sydney Opera House stage again in 2023 with the Great Opera Hits Concert Series. It’s another perfect introduction to opera, a great date night, or lots of fun for a seasoned opera fan. Four soloists come together, usually with hysterically funny host Guy Noble, to sing famous arias and beautiful duets, highlighting of some of the best moments in opera.

Next year I will also be preparing two Wagner roles, both debuts for me, which I am so very excited about: I will be singing the role of The First Norn, and also then covering the role of Erda in Wagner’s Ring Cycle for Opera Australia in Brisbane.

Celeste can be seen as Flora Bervoix in Opera Australia’s production of Verdi’s La Traviata in the Joan Sutherland Theatre – Sydney Opera House from 22 October 2022. For more information, visit: www.opera.org.au for details.

Image: Celeste Haworth – courtesy of Opera Australia