- Reading time
- 5 min.
From the large mirror hanging in the stairwell to the smallest make-up mirror backstage, there are many places at La Monnaie where artists can indulge in self-reflection. Today, soprano Emma Posman – currently performing Talus in Solar – is doing just that.
Do you look in the mirror a lot?
No more often than most people, I think. I need a mirror for my morning skincare routine (laughs) but sometimes also for rehearsing arias. When preparing my interpretation of a role, I like to look in the mirror to see which facial expressions work, and which do not. Overall, I have a healthy relationship with my reflection.
You are currently singing the role of Talus in Solar, the intellectually gifted nephew of Daedalus who warns of a climatic crisis. How do you relate to this character?
Talus reminds me of how important it is to be aware of climate issues. I am part of a generation that grew up with this awareness, which I try to implement in my artistic and personal life as well. For instance, I eat very little meat, and if I can reach my destination abroad by train in less than 10 hours, then I will always choose that over a faster and, oftentimes, cheaper flight. As an individual, however, my impact is limited, which is why Solar ends – quite tellingly – with the appeal: Everyone: wake up!
Which of Emma’s traits can we find in Talus?
When you interpret a role, you always start from your own experiences and beliefs. I am quite vulnerable and sensitive – a trait that is often associated with artists. How else could you convey emotions (that are often intense) if your personality is closed off to them? I think that this sensitivity is fitting for Talus, someone who cares about the world around him. On the other hand, you also need to be able to distance yourself from your own convictions, to make room for other facets. That is why I often look for references. Together with the artistic team, we decided that Greta Thunberg shows a lot of similarities to my character, so during my preparation I also asked myself: What is she like? What exactly is she thinking?
Solar is a performance for and by young people. Is young Emma sometimes present during the rehearsals?
I love seeing how the children in the children's choir have so much passion for what they do. They have all individually chosen to sing at such a high level. I recognise this in myself: I, too, found my calling as a child in musical theatre. Their enthusiasm is contagious and makes me realise that I still cherish it myself. The love for the craft never lets up.
How would you describe yourself in this moment, as a young artist?
I would describe myself as a singer who likes to work creatively. I love working on something new – this gives me a lot of energy. I have been in the business for about five years now, and my experience is mainly in the standard repertoire. But thanks to my father (Lucien Posman, ed. note), who is a composer, I also have a great affinity with contemporary classical music. World premieres offer a kind of freedom that you usually experience a lot less with the classical canon. I find it fascinating to work with Howard Moody, for example, because he can communicate his own vision himself. When working with someone like that, you come up with solutions and certain insights together about what you can do with the music. The options are endless, which is insanely interesting.
What do you think when you look back on the start of your professional career?
I made my opera debut – as a last-minute stand-in! – at the age of 23 as the Queen of the Night in a production of Die Zauberflöte at the Salzburg Festival – during a live TV broadcast, no less. That was incredibly unexpected. Afterwards, I performed this role in a total of nine renowned opera houses. So, unlike my peers, I did not ease into it by accepting small roles. Of course, I am immensely grateful for the opportunities I was able to seize then, as I have gained a lot of valuable work experience in relatively little time, at a very young age. On the other hand, these events have had a significant impact on my life and artistic personality. I was quite self-confident at the time, yet suddenly you are standing there, without much stage experience, among people who are much older, and you are all alone in a foreign country – quite a challenge for someone like me, who likes to socialise. All those factors together were quite intimidating.
But it has made you who you are today, as a singer.
Absolutely. During that period, I realised how important it is to stand strong in this profession. You also learn what it means to be truly appreciated as an artist, to be considered more than just a singer who comes to perform virtuoso tricks. Suddenly, I had to start searching for all those exciting dynamics between different people – something you certainly don't learn at a music conservatory. Now that I am a bit older, I can say that I have grown into this and that I particularly appreciate when there is room for dialogue in the productions I work on. I appreciate that human factor, which sometimes get lost in this industry, all the more now.
What makes you happy right now?
My answer to this question is rather boring, I’m afraid – being at home (laughs). Since I travelled so much in those first years of my career and I was almost always abroad on my own, it feels all the better to be able to base myself in Belgian opera houses in the last few years. I consider that a huge luxury, and it allows me to find more space for my personal life.
To return to my reflection... I am happy with what I see in the mirror, but also with how I feel. Vocally, I find myself in a comfortable position, and mentally, too, things are good. That is important. The more aspects in my life that are in balance, the better I sing. I am looking forward to the next adventures that will come my way...