Young Artist Profile: Hanna Hipp
The Polish mezzo-soprano reflects on two years with The Royal Opera and her final Covent Garden performance in La rondine.
‘Never in my life would I have thought that I would end up as a professional opera singer,’ says Jette Parker Young Artist Hanna Hipp. However, the mezzo-soprano, now in her final months of the Young Artists Programme, has performed numerous roles on the Covent Garden Main Stage over the past two years. She has sung alongside some of the world’s greatest opera stars and is already booked to perform at the Turku Festival in Finland, and with Scottish Opera and Glyndebourne.
‘I realized that could sing when I was about eight and I always got solos in the children’s choir,’ she explains. ‘The rehearsals on a Saturday morning were obligatory, but for me they were a real treat as singing gave me such pleasure.’
Hanna began to focus on singing professionally when she was 17, studying at the Stanisław Moniuszko Academy of Music in Gdańsk and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where she graduated from the Opera Course with distinction. ‘The course at GSMD was spontaneous – fate sort of led me there,’ she explains, ‘but it was where it all started and it’s been a fun journey. It was an inspiring and mind-blowing experience to be part of.’
Hanna joined the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme in 2011, making her Main Stage debut in the Plácido Domingo Celebration as Emilia in Verdi’s Otello. ‘Debuting in the gala was a great challenge and opportunity,’ she says. ‘It was amazing to be on stage with Domingo, the biggest star, but it was also the first reality-check. In a gala, you have to be able to perform a character in just one scene rather than a full opera. I remember thinking: ‘If I can do this, I will probably be ok for the next two years’.’
She has since performed in productions ranging from Berlioz’s epic Les Troyens to Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, as well as preparing cover roles for Wagner’s Ring Cycle, Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, and George Benjamin’s ground-breaking Written on Skin.
‘I absolutely adored Les Troyens,’ she says. ‘To step into a new production as a young singer and prove you are worthy is challenging, but I had wonderful support from the team, including David McVicar and Tony Pappano. It was a real treat for me.
‘Similarly, the whole process of cover roles was invaluable. To learn the role so that it is always under your belt is an investment that pays off.’
Hanna will shortly be performing the role of Bianca in Puccini’s La rondine, which opens on 5 July. Nicolas Joël’s production is set in the decadent glamour of 1920s France and Hanna will sing in an ensemble alongside fellow Jette Parker Young Artists Justina Gringyte and Dušica Bijelić.
‘It’s really surprising that La rondine is not staged more often,’ she says. ‘It has beautiful colours and wonderful orchestration. There is a lightness that just carries you away. I always enjoy ensemble roles as you have to be a team player and very precise in the musical aspects. It’s also something of a farewell as there are quite a few Young Artists on stage at the same time.’
In addition to performances on the Main Stage, Hanna has received training in all aspects of opera, ranging from stagecraft and body movement workshops to vocal instruction and language tuition. However, classes aside, she emphasizes that the biggest benefit of the programme has been learning how to manage the workload as a professional opera singer.
‘Beyond the classes, the Programme teaches you how quickly you have to prepare roles,’ she explains. ‘Now, I’m aware of what might be expected of me when I show up to a production: you need to be on the ball from day one and arrive with a concept of the role already in your head.’