Five minutes with... opera singer Julia Sitkovetsky

We quizzed opera singer Julia Sitkovetsky, currently playing the role of the Queen of the Night in Scottish Opera’s production of The Magic Flute, on everything from her backstage rituals to where she finds inspiration.

Julia Sitkovetsky (The Queen of the Night) and Gemma Summerfield (Pamina) in The Magic Flute. Scottish Opera 2019. Credit James Glossop.jpg

When did you first realise you could sing, and how did you turn this into a career?

I realised I could sing pretty much from birth! As a toddler, I was always running around the house singing. My mother was an opera singer and is now a voice teacher, and my dad is a violinist and conductor, so I grew up backstage and wanted to be onstage for as long as I can remember.

When I was 16 I got my first proper job understudying the role of Flora in the opera The Turn of the Screw at Glyndebourne, and it was then I realised I could actually do this professionally and maybe make a living too.

What’s your favourite thing about the role of the Queen of the Night, which you’re currently playing in The Magic Flute?

The Queen of the Night is one of the most powerful people in opera, and one of the most emotionally tormented. I liken her a lot to Cersei Lannister from Game of Thrones - fierce, terrifying, deeply passionate and determined. 

I get the biggest adrenaline rush when I go on stage to play her. It’s like doing a 100 metre sprint. Then doing it all over again in Act 2!

Julia Sitkovetsky (The Queen of the Night) in The Magic Flute. Scottish Opera 2019. Credit James Glossop.jpg

How do you prepare for a new role?

It depends on the role, the size of it, what kind of music it is (classical, bel canto, contemporary etc). Usually, about three to four months before rehearsals, I translate the entire opera, not just my role. I take it to my teachers and coaches, break it down into sections and very slowly work it into my voice. 

I also do research alongside it, for example what movement will my character have? What period are they from? Does my character have an illness? What is the subtext of the scene? 

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions people have about opera?

I think the biggest misconception about opera is that it is old fashioned. Opera is so raw and changes so much with the times around it, especially if you compare productions put on now to those 50 years ago. 

Opera is full of emotion and life, it can be communicated so easily with everyone, and it will always be relevant. 

Do you have any backstage rituals?

Normally, I warm up before I go into hair and makeup, about an hour or so before curtain. Then after I’m completely made up and in costume, I touch up on the warm up and go over any tricky bits of whatever I have coming up first in the opera.

I bring snacks like bananas to get through a longer opera and I may also watch a bit of RuPaul’s Drag Race when not on stage... but that’s a secret!

Catch Julia in Scottish Opera’s production of The Magic Flute, currently showing in Glasgow until May 18 before touring to Inverness, Aberdeen and Edinburgh -