A Q&A With: Sara Kobayashi

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With opera performances in Bastien und Bastienne, Die Fledermaus and The Tale Of Genji already under her belt, Sara Kobayashi is wowing audiences from Japan to Austria. The acclaimed soprano talks inspiration, reception, musical aspects and her highly anticipated UK debut.

What is your motivation as a performer? Did you always have it in your mind that you would be an artist?

More than anything, I love to be on stage, to do fun things and to make people happy. I have felt this way since I was a child and I’ve wanted to be an artist ever since I can remember.

Who are some of the key figures that inspired you to become a singer? 

I actually wanted to be an actress before wanting to be a singer, because my idol was Audrey Hepburn. Later on, I became drawn to Maria Callas' voice and her expressiveness; she taught me that opera singers are actresses who sing. For someone like me who loves to sing and act, I thought that an opera singer would be perfect for me to aspire to.

What challenges did you face training in Nichibu and how long did it take you to become fully trained?

I was ten years old when I started learning Nichibu but I never found it difficult. I was purely having fun dancing, but lately I’m realising more of its challenges. 'Ma', the Japanese word for space, is crucial in Nichibu. Ma is not something that is created by compositional elements like tempo or rhythm; it takes place in the imagination of the human who expresses these elements. To learn to have a good sense of 'ma' is the key and so I feel that I am only half way there to being 'fully trained'.

You explore flowers and beauty as themes; what other themes do you enjoy experimenting with?

Since I had my first child two years ago, I have been interested in lullabies from different parts of the world. I also enjoy singing variations of ‘Ave Maria’ and a series of beautiful songs about the moon.

Can you tell me some of the most exciting aspects of your work, as well as the most difficult?

What songs have that instruments do not are words. It is of course difficult to sing in many different languages, but each language has its own unique characteristics and beautiful sounds which affect the music. We as singers have the advantage of expressing through poetic words what melodies and chords alone cannot. I enjoy collaborating with artists of different genres and I have recently performed in Don Giovanni, directed by the contemporary dancer Kaiji Moriyama. I have also collaborated with a kyogen performer; I believe that the possibilities are endless.

How is the audience reception in Japan? Do you think it will be different in the UK?

The audience in Japan react differently depending on the region and the programme. Especially in the Kansai area, people seem to show their enjoyment through more applause, while in Tokyo, it might be said that people tend to enjoy performances by analysing the music. It is my first time performing in the UK so I do not know how they will react on Saturday, but I am very aware that the Wigmore Hall audience are regulars to classical music performances, so I am looking forward to how my music will be received.

What is the motivation behind performing in the UK for the first time on Saturday? Are you excited?

I am extremely excited about performing this Saturday. During the rehearsal at Wigmore Hall yesterday, I came across the Hall of Fame of historically renowned singers and musicians, which reminded me of what an honour it is to be able to stand on the same stage as them. I hope to enjoy this opportunity together with the audience.

To end on a fun note, do you enjoy pop music?

Of course I like pop music. When I was in middle school, I was in a band as a guitarist and I used to copy Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel songs by listening to my parents' records. I was into Oasis as well. I don’t often have the chance to really listen to pop music or go to pop concerts these days, but I love music of all types and genres.

Sara marks her UK debut at Wigmore Hall, London, on Saturday 2nd March 2019.

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