Claire Wickes was appointed as Principal Flute of the English National Opera Orchestra in 2015, at the age of 23. She performs regularly as guest principal flute of leading orchestras in London and across the UK, and appears frequently as a concerto soloist in Germany.
When did you join?
In 2015, aged 23, after completing my Master’s degree at the Royal College of Music.
Favourite ENO opera?
My favourite ENO project would have to be Porgy and Bess – the cast and chorus were incredible, and the orchestra worked really hard to achieve exactly the right style and sound. There was a real feeling of everyone coming together to create something amazing.
Best ENO moment?
Performing on stage in Simon McBurney’s The Magic Flute. I had to leave the pit and play a number with the tenor on stage, even climbing up onto a steep moving platform whilst actors with fluttering paper birds ran around us. It’s exhilarating looking out at the audience from the perspective of the stage – you suddenly get a sense of scale which is easy to forget from the pit!
How did you start?
I started playing the flute when I was 9 – I wasn’t very good at it at all for the first 6 months or so! I was extremely determined though, to the extent that my mum had to ban practise before 7am. I hope she’s forgiven me for that by now!
Passion outside of opera?
I love to go travelling. I’ve backpacked around Sri Lanka, India and Bali, and hitch-hiked my way to Morocco. I always learn a few recipes wherever I go so that I can try to recreate the food at home. Next on my agenda is Vietnam!
Claire studied for her undergraduate BA in music at Brasenose College, Oxford, where she held an academic scholarship and graduated with first-class honours in 2012. She subsequently completed her Masters degree at the Royal College of Music, and won the concerto competitions at both institutions; she now regularly returns to the RCM to coach and lead classes.
Claire achieved international competition success as a prize winner at the Aeolus Competition and has been a featured artist at the British Flute Society’s biennial festival. In 2015 Claire began performing with harpist Tomos Xerri; as a duo they explore beyond the conventional repertoire, and have collaborated with composers on new flute and harp works.
At ENO Claire has enjoyed performing some of her favourite operatic works by Puccini and Britten as well as several world premieres, and her undisputed highlight was performing an on-stage role in Simon McBurney’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute.
Last updated: 29th November 2021