Opera soprano Siobhan Stagg returns to Australia in 2023 to perform with Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

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Fortunately, she had sung it before, but nothing to this level – with one of the world’s largest orchestras in three sold-out concerts, broadcast internationally. “If you have your debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker in your calendar two to three years in advance, you have plenty of time to freak out about it,” she says. “But within a few hours of that phone call, I went to rehearsals and just jumped in.”

Not even time for nerves? “That’s something I’ve been working on a lot. I think people should invest as much time and energy in developing their mindset and performance psychology as they do in actually developing their craft and technical skills. Because one cannot do without the other.”

On her first visit to Australia since 2019, Stagg will perform concerts in Sydney and Melbourne. Peter Braig

For Stagg, a healthy performance mindset is aided by lots of running and swimming, yoga, meditation, proper nutrition and sleep, which is difficult given her nightly performance schedule. In September, to mark the end of a six-week performance at the Grand Opera House in Belfast, Stagg took part in her first half marathon, running through ‘all the venues I had come to know’. It was a great, sort of closing day.” And no, she doesn’t listen to music while she runs, she prefers to be “alone with my thoughts”.

Stagg’s story could be glorified as a series of stunning debuts in the world’s most prestigious concert halls, but of course that’s only part of it. In fact, the work to get there is lonely and ongoing.

“You never really feel ready,” she says. “I think you have to fall in love with the process, the practice and the discipline, and then enjoy each day as a step in your development. If you like that, the rest will take care of itself. You can’t chase the milestone.”

Stagg’s month-long visit to Australia will be her first since 2019, and she looks forward to visiting Debussy’s Ariettes Oublies arranged by Australian composer Brett Dean, and sharing a stage with Young. “Every time I work with Simone I am reminded that she truly is one of the best conductors of our time. She is so extraordinarily skilled.”

And in Melbourne, family is in the audience. “They are very supportive and proud. I think they are beginning to understand this life that I lead. Even for me, I’m so immersed in day-to-day work that it often takes a major milestone to stop and look back.

“I could never have imagined this would have happened – that I get to make music regularly, at the highest level all over the world. I feel fundamentally grateful.”

  • Siobhan Stagg will perform four concerts with the Sydney Symphony from February 8-11 and four concerts with the Melbourne Symphony plus a masterclass from February 24 to March 3.

The February issue of AFR Magazine – the Arts issue – will appear in The Australian Financial Review on Friday 27 January. Follow AFR Mag Twitter and Instagram.

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