Kathryn Rudge, Liverpool Mezzo Soprano
PUBLISHED: 12:20 03 April 2014 | UPDATED: 12:20 03 April 2014
Opera critics have called this Hale mezzo-soprano's voice 'glorious' and 'beautiful'. She's tipped for the top but Katie Rudge still has her feet on the ground at home with mum, dad and her cat
Kathryn - Katie - Rudge is a down-to-earth local girl and proud of it... and a stunningly gifted mezzo-soprano.
She’s got a big career in opera already, but is also committed to her local area, busy helping set up a community choir, the Mersey Wave Choir, with which she’s singing on 4 April on home ground at St Mary’s Church, Hale village, near Halton.
Her first solo concert this year was at St Wilfrid’s Church, Grappenhall, near Warrington, in the ‘Live at St Wilfrid’s’ series, and recently she has been coaching singers at Birkenhead School for a production of Les Miserables, and appearing in recital there in the Two Rivers Festival series (March 21st) – after a previous recital in 2011 and a performance at the school’s 150th anniversary celebration concert with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Vassily Petrenko.
But music lovers who follow rising opera prospects at the Royal Northern College of Music, and those who heard her at the Chester Festival in 2011, will know there’s been a star in our midst for some time. I first spotted her as Olga in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin at the RNCM in 2007, and later that year she was an outstanding Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro. She shone, too, as Annio in La Clemenza di Tito (2010) and as Erika in the rare Samuel Barber opera, Vanessa (2011). She also won the Clonter Opera Prize, held at the Cheshire farm-based hothouse for opera singers, near Swettenham.
And the show which few will forget was her performance in the RNCM’s Carmen in 2010 – ‘a bit of Victoria Beckham and bit of Brigitte Bardot’ was the phrase that came to mind then: her Carmen was definitely a girl with attitude, and her gloriously mellow voice attracted high praise.
Since leaving the RNCM she’s sung Cherubino for English National Opera and Glyndebourne Touring Opera, and other major ‘trouser roles’ such as Sesto in Handel’s Giulio Cesare, as well as Annio, for Opera North. Her acting ability makes her ideal for these classical parts portraying men, but she’s also been praised as Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Opera North. She says she’s looking forward to putting a dress on again for her next big role, as Dorabella in Mozart’s Cosi fan Tutte for Dartington Opera!
But it’s the singing that really counts, and Kathryn has a beautiful and flexible voice. I found her ‘glorious’ in Giulio Cesare, when the audience gave her some of its biggest applause on opening night, and in La Clemenza di Tito it was her richness of tone, emotional expression and alertness in characterization that stood out.
But this is still the young woman who lives with her mum and dad and a cat called Jimmy in Hale village. Jimmy’s not her sole responsibility, though – because...’I love animals, but it’s hard to look after them when you’re away a lot.’ Her dad, George, was a lecturer at Liverpool Community College before retirement, and her mum, Sue, was in NHS hospital management.
Her major passion outside music is Liverpool FC. Look at her Twitter profile and you see: mezzo-soprano singer from Liverpool, LFC supporter, and the Reds’ exploits are the subject of her tweets as much as music is.
‘It was the school nativity, when I was seven, that got me started on singing. At secondary school the music teacher, Polly Beck, recognised that I’d got a bigger voice than perhaps I really knew, and she introduced me to the classical side of things. We had so much fun at school, but she was getting all the foundations down at the same time.
‘Then I saw Carmen at the Liverpool Empire when I was 16. I’d only seen operas on TV before, but seeing it live was fantastic – there’s nothing quite like it.’ Eight years later she sang the title role.
‘Then the RNCM gave me the chance to focus on music. It allowed me to just immerse myself in singing – and things move so fast once you’re there...it was an incredible journey.’
She still goes to her RNCM singing teacher, Susan Roper, for ‘check-ups’ every couple of months at least, and more often when working on concerts. ‘It’s lovely to have that relationship over a number of years,’ she says. ‘It’s such a help to go to someone who knows where you’ve come from and the work you’ve done already. We call these visits my vocal MOT!’