Nicola Said: ‘Only follow this career if you can’t imagine doing anything else in your life’

Maltese Soprano Nicola Said tells all in our Q&A

Nicola Said (James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Nicola Said (James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

Maltese Soprano Nicola Said has performed in Cadogan Hall, St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Barbican Hall, and at the Royal Opera House as Echo in Laurence Osborne’s opera Narkissus and the Reflektions. Nicola has recorded and premiered Paul Carroll’s works at Abbey Road Studios with the Commonwealth Orchestra and has given recitals for HRH The Earl of Wessex in a Duke of Edinburgh event and at St. James’s Palace. Said recently made her French Debut singing the title role in Lucia di Lammermoor for the Festival Lyrique-en-Mer in BelleÎle, and covered the role of Nannetta in Falstaff with The Grange Festival.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? The first thing I do in the morning is check my emails and social media to make sure I haven’t missed anything needing urgent attention.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received? My old teacher Alice Horne, with who I am still in contact today and have great respect for, once told me: only follow this career if you can’t imagine doing anything else in your life. Only that will get you through. She was right.

What do you never leave the house without? My mobile phone.

Pick three words that describe yourself. Creative, honest, and ambitious.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement? I honestly don’t feel like I have achieved that much, there really is still so much left I have to do. However, I think being the Malta Airport Foundation Ambassador is one of the things I am proudest of – I get to be an Ambassador of something wonderful, something good that contributes so much to our beautiful country. It is my greatest honour. I have also been accepted to study for a PhD, which I suppose is an achievement – more so once I actually get it done!

What is your guiltiest pleasure? Period Dramas!!

What is the most important lesson life has taught you? Life has taught me that it doesn’t always work out the way we plan it to – in fact often times it just doesn’t. We human beings are ever-changing, and what we wanted yesterday we may not want today. Therefore, we need to go with the flow, keep our minds and our hearts always open (even though sometimes we may struggle to do so), and constantly strive to forge new paths along the way.

Property and cars aside what’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought? Probably my iPad.

What is one thing you wish you knew when you were younger? Not to hold myself back because I thought I wasn’t good enough or ready. I realised that in my eyes, I would never be good enough, and it took me a long time to realise that perfection can only be strived for, rarely achieved – and that in itself is good enough. Oh and to not trust others so easily...but that’s my nature, very hard to change.

Who’s your inspiration? I know so many people who have inspired me and continue to inspire me! My mother, for her selfless and unconditional love in whatever she does for her family and her friends, my father for working hard to achieve his dreams. My main singing teachers have been huge inspirations – successful singers in their own right, they have always encouraged me to do better – Yvonne Kenny, Shigemi Matsumoto, Juliette Bisazza and Alice Horne.

What has been your biggest challenge? Learning to love and be kind to myself, and turning what I see as failures, into successes.

If you weren’t a singer what would you be doing? I really can’t imagine myself doing anything else...maybe a therapist? When I was 18, I got accepted to study psychology in Uni of Malta, but then I got the Ian Tomlin Napier/ Malta Scholarship so I left Malta to study music. Now music is my life, whatever I would do would involve music/opera/singing.

Do you believe in God? Controversial question... I believe there is some form of a God, yes.

If you could have dinner with any person, dead or alive, who would it be? My cousin, she passed away some years ago at a young age, and we all miss her terribly.

What’s your worst habit? Sometimes when I get excited, I interrupt others before they’ve finished what they have to say (not maliciously, only to express my agreement or my own experience). When I realise that I am doing it, I always apologise.

What are you like when you’re drunk? I barely get drunk but when I do, I am apparently either a “funny drunk”, or I start falling asleep...

Who would you have play you in a film? Someone who can sing...

What is the trait you most deplore in others? Lying and manipulation. Even white lies bother me, but big lies are the worst, especially ones used for the purpose of manipulation.

What music would you have played at your funeral? Maria Callas singing ‘Un bel dì, Vedremo’ by Puccini from Madama Butterfly. Bliss.

What is your most treasured material possession? My car which belonged to my late cousin. I carry a piece of her with me everywhere I go – or rather, she carries me!

What is your earliest memory? My nannu taking my brother and I to San Anton Gardens.

When did you last cry, and why? I love a good cry, probably in some romantic drama.

Who would you most like to meet? Opera singer Renata Scotto.

What’s your favourite food? Savoury food = pizza, sweet food = chocolate (too difficult to choose between those!)

Who’s your favourite person on social media right now? Maybe not one person, but I am enjoying following the performances being streamed online by our national entities Teatru Manoel and Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, they are really boosting their social media presence and it’s great.

If you could travel in time, where would you go? I would go to one of Renata Scotto, Mirella Freni or Maria Callas’s performances to hear what they sounded like live.

What book are you reading right now? Singing and Teaching Singing by Janice Chapman.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be? To fly!

What’s one thing you want to do before you die? Get married and have kids?

What music are you listening to at the moment? Well I am about to go and watch a concert at the Teatru Manoel, so it’ll be some tenor and baritone arias and duets!

In the shower or when you’re working out, what do you sing/ listen to? In the shower... sometimes my own voice, and at the gym... whatever is being played!