Meet ENO's head of training, Jane Robinson

25th February 2016 in Uncategorised

We speak to Jane Robinson, about life as ENO’s head of training.

Jane Robinson is ENO’s head of training. She studied at the Royal College of Music and the National Opera Studio and specialises in vocal and professional development.

Beginning her career as a repetiteur, Jane has worked on the music staff at Glyndebourne, Nancy, Lyon, Brussels and Palermo, and has worked with Mark Elder at ENO and Graham Vick at Glyndebourne and Birmingham Opera Company over many years on vocal coaching.

What is your role as head of training at ENO?

I work with the Harewood Artists and I am vocal director for Opera Works.

John McMurray invited me to work with the then Young Artist Programme in 2007.

Just as any professional athlete trains regularly with their coach to perfect their performance, ENO offers the Harewood Artists the opportunity to hone their skills in a supportive but professional environment.

I work regularly with each singer in one-to-one coaching sessions on their roles and audition arias.

My job is to aid their process of vocal development. A singer always needs another pair of ears to give feedback and perspective on what they are doing.

I help as much as I can in every stage of the rehearsal process. I attend their Sitzprobe rehearsals and their stage and orchestra and dress rehearsals at ENO to support them in their endeavour to sing to their best level whilst performing onstage.

How did you get into this field?

I began learning the piano aged seven and decided I wanted to be an accompanist when I was eleven.

As soon as I went to RCM, aged 18, I began to spend a lot of time with the singers – playing for singing lessons, for their exams and for competitions.

I became very interested in learning about vocal techniques. In fact, singers quickly became much more interesting to me than the piano!

I played for many international masterclasses over the years, including for teachers from the Juilliard School coming over to teach in France and the wonderful operatic soprano Sena Jurinac, who gave classes in Lenk, Switzerland and Vienna. My role was to prepare the young singers for her classes and, in doing so, I learnt so much myself from her.

Can you tell us more about your training and mentoring experiences?

My real interest is in professional development – the nature of allowing that to occur and giving it the time it takes.

I have known baritone Matthew Durkan since he was a student at Birmingham Conservatoire. It is gratifying now, at just 25, to see him complete our Opera Works programme and become a Harewood Artist this season. He is singing Masetto in Rouen this month and returns to ENO as Yamadori later this season.

On the other end of the Harewood Artists’ training it is wonderful to see soprano Rhian Lois going to sing Zerlina this season at Santa Fe. Her first engagement for ENO was covering Zerlina.

I also get great satisfaction from seeing the Harewood Artists moving on and up too – preparing baritone Duncan Rock for his successful Metropolitan Opera audition for Shaunard; working with bass Barney Rea towards his Fest contract in Frankfurt which he takes up next year; also continuing to work with soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn who moved through Opera Works and the Harewood Artists, took up a Fest contract in Magdeburg and remains in Europe to pursue her busy career.

I could carry on with this list but it would become too long for this article!

There is so little high level professional training in this country for opera singers and I am very proud that so many of our singers are doing so well in their careers.

What are your favourite operas?

This is a difficult question! I think I would say that my favourite opera is Manon Lescaut by Puccini.

There is a video recording from ROH that I am especially fond of with Domingo as Chevalier des Grieux and I think he embodies the totality of what we are trying to achieve – beautiful tone quality with the passion and integrity of the role.

I also have a real fondness for Handel operas, for Monteverdi and for Rameau.

And finally – what’s your top technique tip for aspiring singers?

Find yourself a really good singing teacher and develop a really strong personal work ethic.