No limits for Sky
South Australian soprano Sky Ingram is taking her rise to operatic heights one step at a time.
If you'd told Sky Ingram 10 years ago that she would one day become an opera singer, she wouldn't have believed it.
A graduate of the University of Adelaide's Elder Conservatorium of Music with First Class Honours, the 23-year-old soprano credits her university studies with opening her mind, and her voice, to new possibilities.
"At school, I wanted to be in musical theatre or become a pop singer," she says. "Generally you want to be who you hear regularly, and when you're at school you don't hear opera a lot-you don't understand how incredible a voice can be until you understand what they're actually doing with that voice.
"I had done a fair bit of musical theatre and a few classical pieces before I started uni, but at the Elder Conservatorium I got my first real introduction to classical music," she says.
Her training at Adelaide, under voice lecturer Guila Tiver, has been invaluable to her burgeoning career as a singer.
"When you're singing classical music and you're learning the style, if you study hard your voice has the ability to completely open up and make all of these huge and amazing sounds. The Elder Conservatorium is where my voice started to grow, to really grow," she says. "By the time I'd left uni my voice had a bigger, fuller sound-and it's still growing."
Sky has been singing in public for 15 years. She joined the Adelaide Girls Choir (now Young Adelaide Voices) when she was in Year 3 at primary school, and continued to be a member of that choir for over a decade. Sky has been involved with more than a dozen choirs, including the highly acclaimed Adelaide Chamber Singers, current title-holders of the "Choir of the World".
As well as having lead roles in operas staged by the Elder Conservatorium, Sky has performed in dozens of musical theatre productions and operas for a range of production companies. She has been the soprano lead in Carmen, Mozart's Bastien & Bastienne (with the SA Young Artists' Program), The Magic Flute and Metro Street for the Adelaide Cabaret Festival. Other highlights include her performance as Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro, as well as roles in Madama Butterfly and Nabucco for State Opera SA and La Traviata for Co-Opera.
All of this experience has helped Sky to develop her love of music and her natural singing ability. It has also given her opportunities to sing on a vast number of stages in Australia and around the world, with tours in Europe, USA, Germany, Canada and Japan.
Her talents have been widely recognised by critics and through scholarships, competitions and awards. In 2006 she was named the Australian MBS Young Performer of the Year, winning a $10,000 scholarship. She has been named as an upcoming young talent in the first edition of Who's Who in South Australia, and Who's Who of Australian Women. Despite winning all of these accolades, Sky remains down-to-earth about her success.
"I don't know if I feel worthy," she says of the Who's Who entry, "I'm doing the best I can. I know I've done a lot already, but there's so much more work to do."
She's referring to the fact that, as a soprano, her vocal talents aren't expected to peak until she reaches her 30s. Then there's the actual work of all of her studies and preparations for performances.
"As a singer, there are many different elements of performance. There's the actual singing, there's the language that you're singing in-such as Italian, German or French--being able to pronounce it, knowing exactly what words you're singing so that you can get the emotion across. I need to know what opera it's from, where it's set, what time it's set, what the character is, I need to put actions into it, and I need to learn how to engage the audience," she says.
"There are singing lessons, there are ensemble or choir classes, or practising with a friend you're doing a duet with. In between, you're studying how to speak the language, you're studying acting, you're researching the history of the composer, what type of influences they had in their work, you're translating works from different languages and applying phonetics to them... you could spend a minimum of 40 hours learning a song before performing it as a polished piece."
Sky is now studying for an Advanced Graduate Diploma in Classical Music at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA).
Not afraid of taking a few risks, Sky is planning to travel to Europe in December to audition for a number of opera schools. Realising that the competition among sopranos in Europe is fierce, she's taking a healthy attitude with her.
"I don't know what it's like to want to do something else--with all the hard work I've put in, each step has just happened. I've put in the work, I've selected what I wanted to do, and I'm doing it."■
STORY DAVID ELLIS