November 19, 2014

British star soprano Lucy Crowe cites Maria Callas as her greatest influence

The dazzling soloist on Emmanuelle Haïm's new Handel Messiah CD grew up singing along to Bel Canto Callas.

In just a few short years, Lucy Crowe has become one of the most in-demand Handelian sopranos of her generation. But long before she made a name for herself in Baroque, she grew up idolising Maria Callas, with a steady diet of Bel Canto recordings inspiring her to become a singer.

"Callas was a huge influence," Crowe told What's On Stage. "I was badly bullied at school and found comfort and solace in singing along to her Vissi D'arte, Casta Diva, un bel di vedremo etc. Singing these pieces provided escapism and somehow put everything into perspective. Hearing the way she poured her heart and soul into each note was immensely powerful and I wanted to do the same.

"It was when putting on Mum's greatest hits CD of Maria Callas that I really found as though I had discovered something special, and wanted to live in, and be a part of, that world," she recalls. "I never really imagined I'd do anything else."

Crowe's profound admiration of La Divina has never left her, and she cites the legendary soprano as her 'desert island' companion, with La Traviata, La Boheme, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, and Lucia di Lammermoor as her 'desert island discs'.

It's in very different repertoire that Lucy Crowe has her latest triumph on disc, as the soprano soloist in Handel's Messiah. Maria Callas sang very little Handel, with Alcina and the aria Lascia ch'io pianga from Rinaldo being notable exceptions. But the purity of Crowe's rapid coloratura and diction make her the ideal soprano for Handel's English oratorios. "I grew up listening and singing along to Handel's Messiah as this is my Mum's favourite piece, so he got under my skin from a very young age," she explains. "there's no escaping the emotion from a great Handel aria. It slaps you round the face with its raw intensity and to be able to portray it and communicate that to people is amazing."

Watch Lucy Crowe sing Rejoice Greatly from Messiah with Le Concert d'Astrée and Emmanuelle Haïm. The album is out now.