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The shops are busy, houses shine bright with fairy lights, and Michael Buble’s Christmas Album blares wherever you may go. There is no doubt about it: Australia is abuzz with the Christmas spirit. This doesn’t stop in the classical music world either; Handel’s Messiah is being sung universally everywhere and singers are preparing their renditions of those popular Christmas carols. Whilst you prepare your presents for family and friends, SwanSongs has prepared a treat for their listeners to enjoy this Christmas season: a concert called Noël featuring the international star mezzo-soprano Caitlin Hulcup.

Caitlin returns to Perth to work with pianist David Wickham to explore Christmas through the magic of art song. Revealing unexpected gems by Ravel, Debussy, Strauss and Britten, spicy Spanish treasures by Joaquin Nin and Rodrigo, this is Christmas quite like you’ve never heard it! This is an intimate opportunity to hear one of Australia’s best opera singers in action. We were so incredibly lucky to get in contact with Caitlin during her busy schedule performing with Pinchgut Opera in Sydney! We spoke to her about this upcoming concert and all things Christmas this week…

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If you weren’t an Opera Singer, you would be a…
A string teacher and viola player, since I used to do that. In fantasy, a truffle farmer also running a collie breeding project.

Three musical idols:
Only three? Sorry, there’s way too many I’d miss out…

Three pieces of music you love:
Schubert String Quintet op 163. Beethoven 7th Symphony, Bach – again three barely gets me started!

Your greatest concert experience was…
Jumping in at short notice at the Barbican in London for a concert version of Handel’s Ariodante, in the title role.

An embarrassing or awkward moment in your career was…
As Dorabella on a tour of Mozart’s opera Cosi van tutte, early in my career. The baritone accidentally stepped on my skirt during the famous heart-exchange scene. The skirt was heav velvet and too big anyway so it had been fastened mostly with a safety pin. This gave way and the skirt fell to the floor. Thankfully, the audience thought the reveal was amusing, since it happened at that moment.

In your spare time, you enjoy…
Walks in nature or winding through cities, cooking, meeting with friends and family.

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3 Favourite things to do at Christmas…
Spend time with family
A beach swim if at all possible
Deck out a tree.. the usual!

3 favourite Christmas carols…
Holst, In the Bleak Midwinter
Ding dong Merrily on High
Maria Durch ein Dornwald ging.

3 carols you’d happily never hear again…
Synthesizer versions of anything… BUT especially
Jinglebell Rock
Mary’s Boy Child
Do you Hear what I Hear?

Favourite Christmas food:
Christmas fruitcake to a family recipe
Traditional Austrian cookies to the family recipe
and Cold cured ham for lunches the whole week following!

A Young Artist in 2000, working with WASO… How does it feel to return to Perth this Christmas season?
It means a lot to me to return to my home city and make music here. Spending Christmas with family and catching up with friends I’ve missed is going to be amazing.

Why do you like singing Art Song?
I like singing this repertoire for the variety and colours it involves. Art songs are relatively short so a whole recital can offer great interest both for the musicians and the audience. Each song explores a new text through the unique style of each composer.

What was it like finding these Christmas-themed songs by famous composers? What are your favourite things about them?
Discovering that these songs existed has been a real pleasure. I didn’t know most of them before, so the process has opened my ears and I like what I hear!

What will people love most about this music?
I think people will have their own impressions, but I know I find them all attractive works. So much beauty of melody and contrasts in mood; I hope everyone finds a favourite.

Noël is on at the Christ Church Claremont on Friday, 16th December. Tickets are available online here. Do not miss your chance to hear this fabulous mezzo-soprano working with one of Australia’s finest accompanists, David Wickham.


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Thanks again to Caitlin Hulcup for her time and thank you to David Wickham for organising this interview.

Written by Katherine Goyder

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