Tenor Pascal Herington is about to cut the ties that bind and make the inevitable journey from Australia to seek his fortune on the stages of Europe. It is a not unfamiliar step for the graduate of the Sydney Conservatorium. Talking to SoundsLikeSydney this week he describes his moment of epiphany when he took another big step away from his comfort zone when he left a promising career in corporate life. Sitting in his performance review as a rising young accountancy professional, he realised ” ‘It’s always going to be like this – a little bit more money, a bit more responsibility’ and I wondered if I was really cut out for this.” “Serendipitously,” he continues “I was on the internet and saw that ‘the Con’ had auditions the following week. I did those, was offered a scholarship and that was that. It was meant to be.”
Now he has decided to venture further afield despite having enjoyed a healthy smorgasbord of performance opportunities even whilst he completed his Advanced Diploma of Opera. He has sung in every major concert venue in Sydney; taken a solo role in Pinchgut Opera’s 2012 production of Castor and Pollux, sung as tenor soloist with Christ Church St Laurence; with early music and chamber ensembles at the Sydney Conservatorium and as tenor soloist in many cantatas with the Sydneian Bach Choir.
Early this year he undertook a reconnaissance mission to Europe. The reception her received during the three months he spent in Venice and Berlin was encouraging, but he realised that in order to clinch any deals he needed to be based in Europe.
Come January, he will pack his scores and begin a round of auditions in Europe. Ironically, he returns to Sydney in February to take up an exceptional performance offer. “This only worked itself out last week. – I’m coming back to sing a small part in the Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s staged version of R Strauss’ Elektra. The plan was to just go and never look back – but as soon as that happens, I find myself coming back after a month or so! The cast of singers is so amazing I couldn’t pass it up. I have to make work for myself and coming back to do this was essential.” Pascal will be sharing the credits with sopranos Christine Goerke, Lisa Gasteen and Cheryl Barker and baritone Peter Coleman-Wright.
Listening to Pascal’s voice and knowing how he excels in Baroque and Classical repertoire, R Strauss may be seen as a surprising choice. Pascal is at once cautious but realistic. “If I’d turned down the SSO offer because I didn’t dare, that would have been a missed opportunity. Realistically, it’s a tiny little part for my voice and it’s actually quite perfect. You have to chance your arm. I never imagined myself auditioning for R Strauss, but here I am. I will always choose what is safe – safe in terms of not pushing too far too soon.”
“Whilst at the conservatorium I learnt to discern what my voice is built for and not to be afraid of doing that. If you voice is made to sing Mozart or Handel or Donizetti then go for it. If it’s made to be a big Puccini tenor than that’s what you should do and not be distracted by repertoire that’s not appropriate. I’ve been incredibly lucky that the opportunities I have had have not overextended my voice and have allowed me to build ancillary skills like musicianship and performance. It’s about matching repertoire and doing things that are right but by the same token taking risks.”
Pascal kicked off his life with music under the guidance of supportive parents who were not themselves musicians but who are music lovers. “I played violin at school I also sang quite a bit when I was young; I had quite a few roles with Opera Australia when I was little. From there, I went to a boys’ school which had a fantastic music programme where I could keep up my musky whist playing water polo and rugby. I gave it up when I took my gap year, but after my professional accounting qualification and started taking an afternoon off here and there to go for a singing lesson. I continued to work part time in my first year at the Con then gave it up to study, met the right people who gave me the right work and found myself singing constantly – little gigs here and there leading to bigger things.”
Does he have a role model? “Juan Diego Flores is someone I have listened to a lot. It’s a voice I resonate with because it is not dissimilar to mine. It would be wildly optimistic to compare me to him, but there is a technical mastery that is undeniable; there is also a physicality and an ease and mastery of the stage that anybody can learn from whether you like the voice and the style or not. His technique is beyond belief – one of the best ever, which can express the core emotions from heartbreak to joy that any singer has to be able to express, regardless of what they are singing.
For Pascal, the overarching plan The overarching plan is to find work at an opera house in Europe. He is grounded enough to appreciate that this will take time. Until then, he will start the hard slog in March, of auditioning for opera schools, houses and agents to find a starting point.
“Essentially” he says, “I just want to be performing. I have my favourites in the repertoire and if I could perform Mozart or Handel for the rest of my life, I’d be the happiest person on earth. It’s about enjoying what you do. Now I wake up every day and my work involves singing and I love it. It makes me feel good. There’s no money in it, but I would not have been happy doing anything else.”
You can hear Pascal Herington sing this weekend in Handel’s Messiah and in February 2014 with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in R Strauss’ Elektra.