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Young Artist Profile: Dušica Bijelić

The Serbian soprano on using her imagination to round-off characters and moving into opera after presenting children's TV.

By Lottie Butler (Former Assistant Content Producer (News and Social Media))

6 May 2014 at 3.13pm | 1 Comment

Jette Parker Young Artist Dušica Bijelić has always been one for the limelight. She studied singing and piano from the age of eight, competed in poetry recitals and song competitions, and - at just 12 years old - hosted a children’s programme on national TV in her native Serbia.

‘It was a news channel specifically for kids, and I did it every weekend for about four years – it made me want to get into acting,’ she says. ‘But a teacher at school suggested I try opera and so I started having lessons. By the time I was 15, I was crazy about it and I knew it was what I wanted to do. Of course, my parents thought I was mad and that it was just a passing phase.’

However, despite her parent’s misgivings, Dušica studied singing at the University of Fine Arts in Belgrade with Ljudmila Gross-Popović, achieving a Masters degree with Honours. She then went on to study in Vienna, Rome and New York, and made her operatic debut in Rossini’s Il viaggio a Reims at Teatro Real in Madrid. She was recently selected by The Independent as one of the top eight Bright Young things in the arts in 2014 (alongside The Royal Ballet's Francesca Hayward).

Dušica joined the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme in 2012, making her Covent Garden debut in Laurent Pelly's production of Meyerbeer’s Robert le diable.

‘I realized when I arrived how much I don’t know. To be able to deliver a role well you need to have technique, diction and style; you need to know the context of the piece and the background of your character; and to be able to act and move according to the period. To put all this together, requires a huge amount of work,’ she says. ‘However, we get help in every aspect of this in our classes – whatever we need, the Programme gives us! Perfection doesn’t exist, but I love trying to reach it and striving to be a better artist all-round.’

Watch Dušica working with Royal Opera language coach Alexandre Naoumenko on the nuances of performing Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin:

She has since performed on the main stage in Nabucco, Don Carlo, La rondine, Parsifal and Die Frau ohne Schatten.

‘It is fantastic to perform work that is so different, and Covent Garden brings the best of everything. In every production, there are a couple of artist whom you aspire to emulate. You are in a really rich environment and so you are learning all the time.’

Dušica is currently performing the role of Barbarina in David McVicar’s production of Le nozze di Figaro, which opened on 2 May.

‘Le nozze di Figaro is fantastic – a real masterpiece,’ she says. ‘My character Barbarina is often represented as a free spirit and easygoing, but in this production, she is just a simple girl who has fallen in love. She wants to marry Cherubino and experience the life of a woman, but is very young and innocent. As with all small roles, getting to know her character is hard. I use my imagination a lot, inventing a story about my character to fill in what is missing from the libretto.’

As well as performing small roles on the main stage, the Young Artists perform in recitals and cover larger roles, studying them with the Programme coaches. At the moment, Dušica is covering the role of Blanche in Dialogues des Carmélites.

‘I had never heard Dialogues des Carmélites before; it’s an unusual and tricky piece, but Poulenc’s music is so exciting. I’ve been completely blown away by it,’ she says.

‘When I was younger, I always dreamed of performing Violetta in La traviata. Now, I’m not so sure. Because the repertory is so wide, I’ve realised you can go in so many different directions. I have no idea where the road will take me!’

Dušica is currently performing in Le nozze di Figaro. She will then perform in the JPYA Summer Performance on 20 July. The Jette Parker Young Artists Programme is supported by Oak Foundation. Find out more about the Programme

This article has 1 comment

  1. Tony Boyd-Williams responded on 7 May 2014 at 4:57pm Reply

    Many thanks for this .Most enjoyable to read. ROH audiences are so very fortunate to be able to see and hear the talents of those who participate in the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme.
    My wife and I admired Dusica's performance in Nabucco, and look forward to seeing her as Barbarina this coming Saturday afternoon.

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