What do mindfulness and opera have in common? More than you might think! In the latest In The Moment podcast, we speak to the Queen’s favourite opera singer Laura Wright to find out how she uses music to stay calm under pressure.
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Soprano Laura often performs at major sporting events including the Rugby World Cup and the Grand National, but she’s also performed at the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations in 2016.
With such a busy career, it can be difficult to stay calm, but Laura says that she suffered more from stress when she was younger.
“When you’re younger, you’ve got so much energy and you’re running around. I was running from concerts to the hockey pitch and back to concerts, then listening to my lessons on a tape recorder, then trying to finish my coursework in the middle of the night,” Laura says.
“It just wasn’t something that I could do at 100% all of the time. Because of that, I then suffered with alopecia. So some of my hair – quite a lot of my hair – fell out when I was about 16. That was a huge warning sign to me that I just couldn’t continue in that way.”
Laura began to be more aware of her limits after that, helped by sport, yoga and mindfulness. One of her most important lessons was learning to say no: “I’m not the best at finding that balance – I’m still learning … and that’s where mindfulness comes in.
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“It’s free to practise and you can do it anywhere, anytime. I quite often use apps on my phone before I’m going on stage – just to take a moment and get some headspace. I find it so helpful.”
Sometimes she’s still affected by stage fright, even now. “One of the things I learnt a few years ago from a teacher at the Royal College of Music was how to create this bubble around you – sort of like a protection bubble – so when you go out and perform you feel like you’re in your own space. And people can’t come into that space,” she says.
Before she goes on stage, Laura likes to prepare by learning as much as she can, taking a moment and running through the performance in her mind. “If you’re nervous, there’s probably a reason,” she laughs.
Laura says that this approach could apply to lots of different situations (not just singing!): “If you were giving a talk, or going out to play rugby or cricket or whatever it is – look at the Winter Olympics and how well we did and I’m sure they all have their ways of preparing before something – but it’s the same emotion we all go through. It’s the adrenaline.”
You tend to play out scenarios in your mind that are negative, but Laura recommends pushing these aside in order to stay focused. “It’s a lot easier said than done sometimes,” she adds.