As a librettist, Marcia specialises in translation and text setting. Together with librettist Stephen Plaice she has recently produced English vocal scores for Rachmaninoff's The Bells (GSMD 2019) and Offenbach’s In The Market For Love (Glyndebourne 2020). Their version of The Merry Widow will premiere in the 2024 Glyndebourne Festival.
As an opera singer, Marcia has performed throughout the U.S.A., Canada, United Kingdom and Europe and has been hailed in the press as 'a natural storyteller in song, with the ability to capture attention from the first note.'
American-born, she moved from her native Pacific Northwest to join the ensemble of the Deutsche Oper Berlin. There, her roles included Hänsel Hänsel und Gretel, Wellgunde Rheingold and Götterdämmerung, Zweite Dame Zauberflöte, and Suzuki Butterfly. As a freelance artist she appeared with the Portland Symphony (El Sombrero de Tres Picos) Midwest Opera (Carmen, title role, tour), and Banff Music Theatre (Lillian Holiday Happy End, tour). At the Innsbrucker Landestheater she sang Dorabella Cosí fan Tutte, L'Enfant L'Enfant et les Sortilèges, and Iduna Feuerwerk.
In the UK, Marcia has created lead roles in many new operas, including The Wife in Andrew Toovey's The Juniper Tree for Broomhill, Cora in Orlando Gough's The Finnish Prisoner for the Paddock and Finnish National Opera, and the triple role of Shepherd/Controller/Courtesan for Jonathan Gill's chamber opera Moon On A Stick for OperaGenesis at ROH. Singing the role of Suzuki in the critically acclaimed Raymond Gubbay production of Madam Butterfly, she enjoys the distinction of being the only cast member to perform in all six of its legendary runs at the Royal Albert Hall and on tour. For Lewes Festival of Song she sang in a staging of Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen and as Zefka in Diary of One Who Disappeared.
Marcia was a featured soloist on Orland Gough's recorded score for the Shobana Jeyasingh dance theatre work, Staging Schiele, and sang the role of Cassie in the people's opera, Bloom Britannia for Barefoot Opera in 2021. In 2024 she will reprise the role of Harriet in the Southeast tour of the musical String!
|Carmen Minnesota Opera (English), Recording, Neuchatel (French)
|Cosi fan Tutte Tiroler Landestheater Innsbruck (Italian)
|Hänsel und Gretel Deutsche Oper Berlin (German)
|Madama Butterfly Deutsche Oper Berlin (Italian), Raymond Gubbay Productions, RAH (English)
|Lulu Oldenburgisches Staatstheater (German),Staatstheater Braunschweig (German)
|Faust Deutsche Oper Berlin (French)
|Les Contes d'Hoffmann Northwest Opera (English)
|Les Contes d'Hoffmann Tiroler Landestheater Innsbruck (French)
|L'Enfant et les Sortilèges Tiroler Landestheater Innsbruck (German)
|The Finnish Prisoner Co-production Finnish National Opera / The Paddock (English)
|Shepherd / Credit Controller
|Moon On A Stick ROH Linbury Studio Theatre (English)
|Arlecchino Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin (German)
|Blaubart Festival St. Pölten (German)
|Don Carlo Deutsche Oper Berlin (Italian)
|Die Zauberflöte Deutsche Oper Berlin (German)
|Die Walküre Deutsche Oper Berlin (German)
|Rheingold Deutsche Oper Berlin (German), Götterdämmerung Deutsche Oper Berlin (German)
|Feuerwerk Tiroler Landestheater Innsbruck (German)
|Il Trovatore Deutsche Oper Berlin (Italian)
|Elektra Opera Leipzig (German)
|Juniper Tree Broomhill Festival (English)
|L'Ormindo Banff Opera Theatre (Italian)
|Happy End Canadian Opera Theatre (English)
|Secretary / Artist
|Vincent Tiroler Landestheater Innsbruck (German)
|Aida Deutsche Oper Berlin (Italian)
|Diary of One Who Disappeared Lewes Festival of Song (English)
|The Rose of Persia BBC Music Magazine (English)
‘Marcia Bellamy is a striking woman at any range, up close she is unforgettable.' Brighton Fringe Review
’Top quality singers…highest standards of performance and musicality. If you miss it, you’ll be kicking yourself!’ The Latest, Brighton
'This is a poised and expressive singer with a lustrous voice ... Bellamy's lowest register is as rich and clear as her top notes ... There wasn't an unattractive tone from top to bottom of her vocal range ... Bellamy is a natural storyteller in song with the ability to capture attention from the first note. Every year out of hundreds of concerts only a few are completely satisfying. This was one of them.'
'She took on the earlier songs sensitively and with stylistic confidence but the highlight of her performance was a memorable French-Spanish Bolero, a piece of pure vocal bravura in which she did full justice with polished coloratura and rhythmic vibrancy.' (Meyerbeer Liederabend)
Carmen in Neuchatel, UK & US Tours
'Marcia Bellamy sets the most famous tunes alight with her fiery temperament'
La Chaux-de-Fonds, Neuchatel
'a singer who can effortlessly occupy the role of the femme fatale'
'the sexy and challenging Marcia Bellamy'
London On-line Review
'Bellamy's many arias, including the famous Habanera were performed with a wonderfully sinuous vocal quality.'
'Marcia Bellamy in the title role was a consummate performer, maintaining the attitude, gestures and facial expressions of her character superbly and without let-up'
'Marcia Bellamy is a tantalising, teasing, furious, passionate and driven Carmen. Bellamy's Carmen can flirt with her feet, beckon with a hip and spurn with an elbow'
Cosi Fan Tutte in Innsbruck
'Marcia Bellamy was the embodiment of overt sensuality as the seductive Dorabella.'
Tiroler Tageszeitung, Austria
'Marcia Bellamy was a feisty Dorabella and showed her true quality in the Eumeniden aria.'
Madam Butterfly at the Albert Hall London
'Marcia Bellamy gave a fine supporting performance as Suzuki, and her second act exchanges with Butterfly were notably elegant.'
'A moving and wise Suzuki'
'Apart from Marcia Bellamy's Suzuki, all the principals are the right race for their characters and Bellamy more than makes up for this with her gorgeous mezzo and her closely-studied Japanese gestures, which my pernickety friend can't fault.'
'There was a big hand for Marcia Bellamy, an impressively robust Suzuki.'
London Evening Standard
Deutsche Oper Berlin
'Marcia Bellamy sings Siebel's sweet melodies delightfully giving an affectionate portrait of selfless love.' (Gounod's Faust)
'Marcia Bellamy portrays Siebel entirely in Dew's concept : a passionate apprentice with a voice of honey.' (Gounod's Faust)
'The dark-haired Marcia Bellamy plays Paquette with comic, lascivious charm. (Bernstein's Candide)
Dancing Sunbeam in Rose of Persia
'Marcia Bellamy, as Dancing Sunbeam, has a flexible mezzo-soprano which she uses very well to convey the range of emotions. In ‘O golden key’ she sings with convincing pathos and one would believe her deprived, though knowing she is simply a social climber.'
'Marcia Bellamy, whose roundedly warm mezzo makes her rendering of ‘O Life’ (tr.1/4) and ‘I've always known’ (tr. 2/2) quite special.'
The Finnish Prisoner, Paddock Productions & Finnish National Opera
'Marcia Bellamy gave lithe voice and strong characterisation to Cora.'
LONDON — In a world full of opera houses with traditional proscenium arches and dusty velvet curtains, staging a production in the round can be both a blessing and a challenge.
This is the impetus behind several upcoming opera-in-the-round productions around Britain, from the vast Royal Albert Hall and the Roundhouse in the trendy London neighborhood of Camden to the candlelit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse and the Iford Arts Music Festival cloisters near the southwestern city of Bath.
Artists and designers alike note that playing to an audience seated on all sides is sometimes unsettling, but also energizing, especially if the material plays off the unusual setting.
For the mezzo soprano Marcia Bellamy, returning to the role of Suzuki in the revival of “Madama Butterfly” in the circuslike shape of the Royal Albert Hall is a chance to connect to opera and audience in a way not afforded singers on a traditional stage.
The production, being mounted from Feb. 26 to March 15 for the fifth time in the massive circular arena, which can seat up to 5,000 people, is a spectacle of floating villages over huge bodies of water, with a cast of dozens. The size and circular shape of the venue help, paradoxically, to create a more natural and dramatic environment, Ms. Bellamy said.
“One thing that became apparent immediately when we first staged ‘Butterfly’ was that because you have people observing you from all angles, you can’t play out to anybody in ways we’re taught to do in a proscenium house,” said Ms. Bellamy, who is the only cast member returning from all four previous stagings. “Even though it’s in the enormous Royal Albert Hall, we’ve found that tiny gestures read profoundly because you are looking directly at your fellow performers.”
The Royal Albert Hall’s circular stage will be transformed in Act 1 into a floating Japanese village, complete with tanks holding 50,000 gallons of water that are then drained for Act 2 as the opera turns tragic. The huge space requires the actors to have microphones, but the sound is amplified evenly throughout the house, rather than from a few speakers, Ms. Bellamy said, and helps add to the dramatic and natural effect.
“You move about very freely and more naturally in this kind of setting,” she said in a recent telephone interview. “It’s more like acting in a film than in opera.”
And given the proximity of the audience, and the fact that Ms. Bellamy’s character is onstage almost all of the time, the Royal Albert Hall becomes almost too intimate at some points.
“There’s a peripheral walkway directly next to the front row, and some quite key moments take place so near to audience members that you can smell what they’ve enjoyed during the interval,” Ms. Bellamy said with a laugh.
The American-born mezzo soprano Marcia Bellamy is Associate Lecturer in German Repertoire and Language and has been one of our voice tutors since 2013.
What is your favourite colour and why?
Very vivid green – a colour which makes me happy when I see it and which I was really obsessed with as a child. My whole room was done out in this colour and my parents simply gave in, they had no choice.
Do you have any animals?
We have a wonderful black cat, Lancelot, but he’s a bit of a destroyer and like everyone else in the family, very complicated and demanding.
Do you have a hobby?
You forfeit your hobby, and even sometimes being able to listen for enjoyment, when you become a musician – in another life I’d make things out of wood and also be a Flamenco dancer.
Tell us something interesting about yourself that no one knows.
Well if there are things that no-one knows there’s usually a good reason for that. There is, to be honest, a file of secret things – but I’m not going to reveal them.
What three things can you not live without?
My tuning fork (I have one with me now and I always keep one in the car), a scarf, and goodwill.
What three things would you change about yourself?
I would be more patient, I’d know more, and I’d have had a better education.
Which sign of the zodiac are you?
I’m a Pisces.
Where do you like to holiday?
Since I’ve had a family, someplace where we’ve already been – because you know how to pack for it. If it was just up to me, a city I’ve never been in before.
Dessert or cheese?
Cheese, although I don’t mind pudding. I’m quite competitive about pudding making, especially ancient puddings – Sussex Pond, for example.
Who would be your three favourite people to take to dinner?
I think Leonard Bernstein would have been rather good value and I would love to have met him. Hildegard von Bingen must have been an incredible person and I would like to have shared a pudding with her. And Kaspar Holten, until this year Director of the Royal Opera House, who I’ve heard lots about but haven’t met.
Are you a diva or laid back?
It depends on who you ask. I think I’m a laid back diva.
Why did you become a musician?
I’m delighted to be called a musician, as singers aren’t always – but it’s because music brings it all together, history, drama and dance, performance, alternative reality. There were no musicians in my family and at the age of 14 I sort of started sleepwalking down the path to being a singer, waiting for somebody to tell me to do something else, and nobody ever did.
Just how on Earth does someone go about becoming an opera singer? "My parents are still asking themselves that!" laughs Marcia Bellamy. "'Just how did this happen?'"
The Brighton-based mezzo-soprano couldn't be further removed from the glacial intensity of operatic stereotype; she's warm, clever and engaging as she talks about preparing for 18 nights at the Royal Albert Hall in a sumptuous English language version of Madam Butterfly.
"It's a huge production, and very beautiful. But it's a very intense experience, because we don't rehearse for very long, and my character Suzuki never really leaves the stage until the orchestra does at the end."
When you think that the show's running time is more than two hours, Bellamy will clock up in excess of 40 hours of stage-time throughout the run. Considering most of us are barely able to utter a croak after a tipsy turn on the karaoke, you'd think it would take an enormous amount of effort to keep the voice in check for more than a fortnight, yet Bellamy says it's relatively simple.
"I try to avoid too much coffee as we go into rehearsals, but it's really just about trying to rest," she explains. "With the commute on top of family life with three children, rest is a minor obsession of mine!"
Bellamy has performed at the Albert Hall some 30 times, yet its Italianate dome seemed rather a long way off when she was growing up in the picturesque, yet sparsely populated Palouse region in Washington, US. She got her first glimpse into the world of opera and musical theatre through public broadcast radio. "I grew up listening to this programme every afternoon called Fourth Row Centre — 'For people with a song in their hearts and music in their souls'. I'd never been in a theatre, so I had no idea what fourth row centre was : I thought it was an actual centre that people went to!"
The misunderstanding had been put firmly to rest by the time Bellamy completed her training in Seattle; her childhood piano teacher had spotted her talent and intelligence as a singer and fixed her up with a tutor who helped her to explore her potential. On graduating from an MA, she toured the Midwest and Canada in shows before securing a scholarship that would send her to work on the bottom rung at the prestigious Deutsche Oper Berlin (which, as you may well have guessed, is in Germany). "It was a very steep learning curve, but I was very lucky because I'd done a year's exchange in Germany at High School, so I had the language."
She honed her technique over eight years with the company, and was in Berlin when the wall — symbol of a Europe rent in two for close to three decades — came down. "We actually ended up watching it on telly with the rest of the world," she laughs. "But the great thing was the atmosphere the next morning. A good friend of mine owned a curiosity shop and had lost his father in the war, and when I went to see him, he was just sitting in his shop crying. He was so happy because he felt his city had been restored to him. There were so many moving scenes like that."
Bellamy has lived "in lots of wonderful places" before and since, but she's keen to point out the transient nature of being a performer isn't all about luxurious Continental travel." Anybody who goes into something like this must be prepared for that aspect of it," she says. "I've been lucky in having eight years of continuity in Berlin, but I've done a lot of moving back and forth."
It was with one foot in London and another in Innsbruck, Austria, that Bellamy met her husband, writer and playwright Stephen Plaice (whose Brighton connections run deep — he wrote the acclaimed play Trunks, based on the city's trunk murders). "He was at a workshop, teaching people who were writing librettos, and I was there to sing them as they were being composed."
Roll forward to today, and Bellamy considers herself fortunate to have a husband who understands an industry that demands unusual hours and long stints away from home. "It does make a difference. Strangely, when offers come up, it's more likely to be me who'll say: 'Oh gosh, it's going to be too complicated to organise the childcare and everything', but he'll always say I should go for it."
The couple share their home with three children, an upright piano, and a small selection of guitars. "To my great delight, they're all interested in music," she says of her children. "But we have no intention of encouraging them to be professional musicians — you have to let them do what they want to do. But the good thing about living in Brighton is that there are so many social opportunities to be had with music here."
Bellamy has been in Brighton for 12 years now, and loves being close to the capital "but still in a place that very much has its own character". When she's not on-stage, she teaches singing in every kind of musical discipline — something she's kept up for many years. "I've always loved doing it. I really do find myself learning all the time and it's just completely thrilling to share in somebody else's development — and hopefully saving them from making the mistakes I made the hard way."
The different strands of Bellamy's work converge in her role of conductor of the choir at The Church Of The Annunciation in Washington Street, Brighton. "It's actually the church where we were married," she says."They found themselves rather abruptly without a music director, and it's been a great opportunity for me because I've done some composing for them as well." As well as its regular Sunday singing masses, the choir has performed at Chichester Cathedral for evensong.
Between this, motherhood, her teaching and composing, it's remarkable that Bellamy is able to squeeze in 18 nights in South Kensington. "Suzuki is one of my favourite characters and this really is a show worth seeing," she says, allowing a brief giggle to escape. "And that's not something I've been able to say about every show I've been in!"