Quite by chance, pop star Marcella Detroit was introduced to some sublime arias just a week before being invited to become a contestant on Popstar to Operastar. “A friend gave me some Maria Callas CDs, which were wonderful. I love her singing – I really respond to the emotions she brings to her arias. Then, just a week later I got the call from the producers of this show. How could I say no?”
American Marcella, who enjoyed many years of hits with the pop duo Shakespear’s Sister, could not resist the offer. “It’s so exciting,” enthuses the singer, who took lead vocals on the hit single, “Stay”, which remained at the top of the UK charts for eight weeks. The duo still hold the record for the longest running female group to have a number one single.
“It’s such a great opportunity to be trained by these fantastic vocal coaches. I’ve always loved opera – I’ve written some operatic pieces on my ‘Jewel’ album, and I have also written a song with the classical music singer Hayley Westenra.”
Marcella, 57, says she has already got so much out of the singing lessons. “As a pop singer, you slip into bad habits. You get into postures that don’t work so well for opera and place things differently in your throat.
“The physicality required to sing opera is very challenging,” continues Marcella, who has sung with such pop legends as Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder and Eric Clapton. “You learn that it’s all about support and singing from the diaphragm. It’s also about breathing correctly. I think these lessons are going to help my singing enormously. It’s invaluable.”
What has been the most demanding thing to master while preparing for Pop Star to Opera Star? “The hardest aspect is combining all the things you’ve learnt. I’ve found it very difficult to sing in a foreign language. To get rid of my American accent and speak with fluidity in Italian – wow, that’s tough!”
Marcella says that the prospect of the live shows fills her with dread. “We’re opening ourselves up to incredible criticism,” she trembles.
To make matters worse, Marcella admits that, “I worry way too much about everything. My mother is the mother of all worriers, so I had a great teacher! She’ll read this and laugh, ‘I am not!’”
The singer reckons that Popstar to Operastar will have many positive spin-offs. “This series should bring opera to a wider audience. Viewers will identify with the contestants, they’ll think – ‘that could be me up there. It could be Anyone UK’.
“People love to see the underdog do well, but at the same time they love to rip you down if they think you’re getting ideas above your station. So none of us on this series will be getting too cocky! If I make it past the first round, everything after that will be a bonus!”