'They had to separate us in rehearsal because we were flirting that much'
Singers Lynsey Curtin and David Lynn were brought together by their passion for opera.
If music truly is the food of love, then it's doubly so when it comes to opera. And it's no surprise that performing arias and verses about falling head- over-heels for someone special can have a knock-on effect for those singing the words, as rising young stars Lynsey Curtin (24), a soprano from Dublin, and tenor David Lynn (25), from Co Mayo, can testify.
Ahead of a province-wide touring production of The Magic Flute in August, the young Northern Ireland Opera regulars – who starred in the organisation's most recent production of Macbeth this year – will be spending the July 12 weekend at the Loughcrew Opera Feast in Meath's Boyne Valley, one of the leading dining and operatic events in Ireland.
As they limber up for a packed programme of events over the rest of this year, we ask the young couple about making time in their lives for finding a bit of harmony together.
I had no idea who David was when I agreed to sing with him in a duet competition. Our mutual singing teacher suggested it when I was a part-time student and David was a Masters student.
It wasn't until a few weeks later, when I was in the college library chatting to a friend, that I thought of asking her did she know who this 'David Lynn' was. Awkwardly, he was sitting right beside her and heard me ask!
We were finally introduced and we began working on the duet Fra Gli Ampless from Mozart's Cosi fan Tutte. From then on we met up regularly to work on the duet.
We also happened to both be members of Lyric Opera's chorus for Aida, so we began spending a lot of time with each other. There was definitely a spark between us but I was reluctant to let our relationship be any more than friendship at the beginning.
However, it wasn't long until the story of the duet (a man who very openly chases the girl until she gives in!) mimicked real-life and we became a couple.
In the early days, we tried to keep our relationship quiet while we got to know each other. As we were in the same college and knew many of the same people, this became virtually impossible and it wasn't long until everyone knew.
I'll never forget how mortified I was the day my teacher Steve asked me if there was a 'certain Mayo man' to thank for the smile on my face.
It was also pretty awkward singing together back in the early stages of our relationship – as a result, I tended to have fits of giggles while we rehearsed Fra Gli Amplessi, which often meant getting very little done.
Thankfully I managed to pull myself together for the competition and we were awarded second place.
It has become much easier to perform together now as we have worked together on various occasions and neither of us are fazed by it anymore.
We paired up for the big Veronica Dunne Cup competition again this year, singing the beautiful Parigi, O Cara from Verdi's La Traviata, one of my all-time favourite operas.
At the beginning of this year we were delighted to both be offered chorus roles for NI Opera's production of Verdi's Macbeth. This whole production, from start to finish, was an absolute pleasure to work on. I'm very excited to work with them again for their touring production of Mozart's the Magic Flute; I will be playing the role of Papagena as well as being a member of the ladies chorus.
David is also a member of the male chorus for this production which is great, as it isn't always possible for us to work together, so we appreciate the opportunities to do so when they come!
I think the thing I most admire about David is his business mind and work ethic. He is always planning his next move and nothing is out of bounds for him. He has taught me that you have to really put yourself out there in this business if you want to reap the benefits. I used to be more reluctant with this side of the career but David has taught me to have some get-up-and-go about myself and to not be so tentative.
As cliched as it sounds, there really is very little that annoys me about David. The only thing I can really come up with is his tendency to mock all the characters in my favourite soaps – while I am watching them. He (tries to) put on their accents and mimic their line, or slags the storylines, so I try to watch them while he's out.
When we have some rare free time we like to go to the cinema, go for drinks with our friends, or go out for a walk. It's also nice to travel to Mayo to visit David's parents and have a little break there.
If I was allowed a free pass to date someone famous I think I would have to pick the 500 Days Of Summer actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Not only is he really good-looking, he also comes across as great fun and really charming.
David and I haven't really discussed marriage; I think we're both too young and focused on our careers at the minute but I would like to think it is on the cards for the future.
As for children, I know we both see ourselves having children at some time, but not in the near future. We both have ambitions to work towards, so that wouldn't cater for having children just yet – not to mention we certainly couldn't afford them. We have just recently moved in together, though, so I think we are on the right path."
It was through our mutual music degree teacher that Lynsey and I were first introduced.
He asked me if I was interested in doing a duet with a girl called Lynsey Curtin for a festival, and I agreed.
A few weeks later, I was talking to someone else in a library when Lynsey joined the conversation, and we were introduced fleetingly.
We then happened to be doing Lyric Opera's Aida as chorus the following week, and it's fair to say we hit it off. In fact, the director had to separate us during rehearsals for flirting with each other.
Our early days of dating consisted of both rehearsing together for the duet, which was Fra Gli Amplessi from Cosi fan Tutti, and dates when we talked about the duet. It was quite an apt duet to sing, as the male character is very forward, and the female character is reluctant to start a relationship, which mirrored real life, as I did much of the chasing.
We came second in that duet competition, and we went back again this year, and sang one of the greatest love duets of all time, Parigi o Cara from La Traviata.
We love to sing those duets together, the big romantic ones, I suppose because it's easier for us.
Our relationship became easily the worst kept secret in opera and it did become slightly awkward as we rehearsed singing together, and also when the group we were doing a charity concert tour with would put us together for Time to Say Goodbye, and coo at us.
We are now much more comfortable together, and have worked on several productions together now, including NI Opera's Macbeth – although I can't say I was extremely attracted to Lynsey's witch costume, which left her bald, and with a hump back.
We will be back again in August to do the Magic Flute, touring all over the north. We both have a great affinity with NI Opera, and they have such great people to work with, like Oli Mears and Nic Chalmers.
Lynsey's great to work with too. I really admire her ambition, work ethic and willingness to give everything a go; she sees the opportunity in everything, and that's something I have learned from. We recently moved in together, and while there isn't much that annoys me about her, her almost OCD about cleanliness in the house is making me nervous, probably because I'm not the tidiest person around, and I'm constantly reminded of that.
If I had a free pass from Lynsey to date someone famous, it would probably be Carey Mulligan, I really admire her as an actor, and I love the projects she takes on.
Marriage is something we haven't discussed yet really; we are still very young, still very ambitious, and still in the early stages of a career which doesn't really cater for a young family, be it time-wise or income-wise. But who needs money when you're happier than you've ever been?
We are really looking forward to working together for this opera dinner event in Loughrew House.
It's great to work with your other half – in fact this job rarely feels like work, especially when you're collaborating with someone as beautiful, talented, and determined as Lynsey."
A night at the opera
Set amid spooky neolithic burial mounds older than the Pyramids – and near the Battle of the Boyne heritage centre – Loughcrew House is popular with Northern Ireland classical music buffs missing the old Castle Ward opera festival. Over the Twelfth weekend, Lynsey and David will be joined by former Celtic Tenor Niall Morris, whose dad hails from Omagh, performing some of the best loved arias and duets from the likes of Carmen, La Traviata, Pearl Fishers, Turandot and La Boheme. The couple are also part of the popular Opera Waiters troupe run by Niall, which won the Irish Entertainment Award of the Year 2012.
The Saturday, July 12, Loughcrew Opera Feast is sold out but three-course dinner-and-wine-plus-performance tickets are available at €60 online from www.loughcrew.com or tel: 00353 49 8541356.
Great company ... all round
- Although there are relatively few opportunities for young opera singers here, David and Lynsey have starred in three outstanding productions with Northern Ireland Opera – the Flying Dutchman, Elixir of Love, and Macbeth.
"I have seen them grow as a company and they are phenomenal," says David. "The director Oliver Mears has instilled a real team ethos within the company and any new members have always been welcomed with open arms. The company provides young singers with great opportunities and a great education for singers as undergraduates at the start of their training."
- NI Opera even has a Young Artists Programme specifically to provide opportunities for young singers on the cusp of a professional career. Lynsey will play Papagena in Magic Flute this coming September after impressing in her most recent work in Macbeth, while David will also be playing the role of Third Jew in their production of Salome in early 2015.
"Northern Ireland Opera are so professional and friendly and they make the working experience incredibly enjoyable, not to mention a great learning experience for our careers," says Lynsey. "I am very excited to work with them again for the Magic Flute. David is also a member of the male chorus for this production which is great, as it isn't always possible for us to work together so we appreciate the opportunities to do so when they come."
- David says: "They trust singers who do well in their choruses too. Their work is crucial to bringing opera to a wider audience in NI Opera and beyond. The Elixir of Love production toured across Northern Ireland – it was a fantastic production conducted by David Brophy and directed superbly by Oli.
"The feedback we got after shows was fantastic, and we were told that they would definitely be back for other productions. Their big production, which usually takes place in the Grand Opera House in February of every year, is also a brilliant occasion. I am just so happy to have a small affiliation to this fantastic organisation, which is something which Northern Ireland should be immensely proud of."