Studying at KHiO 2019: Academy of Opera

Name Henriette Stabell Johnson
Programme Master’s in opera, the Academy of Opera
Age 28

Tell us about your graduation project.

We performed Hansel and Gretel at the National Opera, with KORK [the Norwegian Radio Orchestra] and the whole works, and I played the role of the mother, Gertrud. It’s a large role that’s strenuous to sing, but I threw myself into it and gave it my all. It was a marvellous experience performing with a first-rate orchestra and in a modern version.

Why did you apply to the Academy?

I first took a four-year Bachelor’s degree at the Academy Barratt Due. It was an education in classical singing. We had some opera there, but I wanted to specialise in something. I knew many people who studied here – and I was also really keen on having Solveig Kringlebotn as my singing instructor. She’s fantastic.

What is the most important thing you’re taking with you?

Oh, that’s so hard to answer! There’s just so much – I have to think for a second … Of course, I’m taking with me a lot of know-how about the discipline of opera, but I think the most important thing I’ve learnt here is to keep an open mind. You meet so many different people –collaborators, directors, colleagues – and I’m glad I’ve had experience with working with so many different types, and also taught how to do so. I’ve become quite good at adapting, at being independent and at taking responsibility for my own development. Even though you’re a student at school here and you receive instruction and supervision, you have to realise that the only one who can do the job is you.

What have your fellow students meant for you?

They mean everything. We rely on one another and on being able to cooperate. I’ve studied with Tina [Tina Therese Tuven, also a final-year student] for seven years! We stick together through thick and thin. It’s a friendship I value greatly – we’ll be friends forever. There are many of us who love one another, but she has been especially important, in both ups and downs.

What happens now?

Yes, indeed – what now? I’m going to be an intern at the National Opera, and that will be a nice experience, but of course I have to earn some money as well. It’s a bit comical, because you study for so many years and work so hard, but as a performing artist you still don’t have any guarantees for life afterwards. But I’ve decided to have a go as a freelance opera singer, with a small, regular income on the side to begin with. I’ve thought a lot about the future over the past year, and I’ve been worried, but now I’ve calmed down and realise that I have so many opportunities. You have to be a realist, even as you have dreams. The way I live and work must suit me, but it also has to suit those around me – my partner, and perhaps, in the future, my children as well?