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My Life in Culture: Olivier-nominated soprano Sinéad Campbell-Wallace

My Life in Culture: Olivier-nominated soprano Sinéad Campbell-Wallace


by Sarah Finnan
08th Feb 2024

A graduate of the DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama, the National Opera Studio and the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme, Sinéad Campbell-Wallace is one of Ireland’s most exciting sopranos. Nominated for an Olivier for her performance in Tosca, her next role will see her take to the stage as the titular character in Richard Strauss’ Salome - making her the first Irish soprano to sing the hugely demanding role.

Last thing I saw and loved… The Palais des Arts in Valencia. It’s the most spectacular piece of architecture I’ve ever seen, and was designed by Calatrava – the same guy who designed the Joyce and Beckett bridges in Dublin.

The book I keep coming back to… The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch. I read this in my early twenties and many times since then. It’s about a man and woman reuniting unexpectedly after many decades. It’s an incredible book.

I find inspiration in… women; on the stage, in the public eye and the incredibly strong women I am surrounded by in my life. I am very lucky.

My favourite film is… my school friend Jill and I were obsessed with the movie Beaches with Bette Midler when we were younger. I still love it and recently watched it with my two children and my nieces – there wasn’t a dry eye!

My career highlight is… when I started singing there were three superstar sopranos I admired hugely; Nina Stemme, Christine Goerke and Karita Mattila. I will have sung opposite all three of these incredible artists on stage by this summer. It’s more than I could ever have imagined.

The song I listen to to get in the zone… I am obsessed with English rock band The Smile at the moment; they’re basically Radiohead in a different guise. I’ve been listening to their track “The Smoke” on a loop!

The last book I recommended is… Actress by Anne Enright. I absolutely love all of Anne’s books, but I downloaded this on Audible recently (it’s read by the author) and I think I’ve listened to it five or six times already!

I never leave the house without… Google Maps. I have absolutely no sense of direction and would be lost without this app. Literally.

The performance I still think about is… a performance of Testament, a play by Colm Tóibín that I saw at the Project Arts Centre some years ago. Marie Mullan was a tour de force in an epic one-woman show.

My dream role is… Salome – which I’m just about to sing in March! Daunting but hugely exciting.

The best advice I’ve ever gotten… very simply put from my daughter Alanna; be kind.

My favourite moment in Salome is… standing in the wings of the stage before my first entrance. It’s such a thrilling moment. I always whisper “It’s a pleasure, and a privilege” every night before I go on.

The most challenging thing about being on stage is… being away from my children Alanna (12) and Dylan (9). I have to travel a lot for this job and leaving them never gets any easier, it’s always heartbreaking.

After a show/performance, I… like to enjoy a glass of wine with friends and wait for the adrenaline to leave my system. Then I collapse into bed!

If I wasn’t a singer, I would be… a psychologist! I started a psychology degree in Trinity College before the singing took over. It’s still an area I feel I will go back to at some point in my life.

The magic of theatre to me is… theatre offers us the opportunity to connect with an audience member through art, and make them think or feel something new or different. We need it.

I love Salome because… it is wild! It’s about lust, power, greed and female sexuality. It should pin the audience to the back of their seats! It’s a rollercoaster from start to finish – I can’t wait.

The Irish National Opera presents Richard Strauss’ Salome which will play a limited run of three performances at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre this March. Tickets start from €16.50 and you can get yours here.  

Photography by Frances Marshall