Profile: Milly Forrest, soprano, and the Petersfield Musical Festival

Milly will be singing soprano in “A Century of English Music” at 7.30pm on Saturday 23 March at Petersfield Festival Hall.

What are you looking most forward to when performing at the Petersfield Musical Festival this year?

Hierusalem by Dyson is new to me. It is a prayer sung by someone longing to be in Jerusalem; safe within the comforting embrace of God. The poetry is beautiful and very evocative with some spectacular imagery. I can’t wait to work on it with the choir and orchestra. The Rutter Magnificat is an all-time favourite of mine and it’ll be a real treat to sing it again. 

Who and/or what have been the most important influences on your musical career or interest in music?

Ooo that’s a tough one. I’ve had some incredible mentors along my journey thus far. Jonathan Willcocks (Petersfield Musical Festival president) was the first musical genius that I came across and he has a real gift when it comes to inspiring young musicians. He is still a great friend of mine and lives not too far from my home. My favourite singers are Renee Fleming, Lisette Oropesa and Anne Sofie von Otter.

What have been the greatest challenges of your musical career so far?

Sadly, Covid-19 almost completely wiped out our entire business and it is still recovering. But since then I have been blessed with two wonderful boys Reggie (2) and Stanley (10 months). Juggling a career as a soloist and being the best mother I can be has its challenges. However, they make all my hard work worthwhile by how much they inspire me. 

What for you are the particular pleasures and challenges of collaborating with other musicians?

Teamwork makes the dream work! Being a soloist can be lonely at times! Creating music with other musicians brings me so much joy – it’s what it’s all about really. 

Are there any composers for whom you feel a particular affinity? 

In terms of operatic repertoire, I would say Mozart is where I feel most at home! In the song genre it would be a toss-up between Richard Strauss and Dvorak. 

Which works do you think you perform best?

I am my worst critic and so this question is tricky for me to answer. Whenever I sing the role of Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro, I feel like I am simply playing myself. She fits me like a glove and one day I would love to sing this in a major house somewhere!

I also can’t resist some wild, contemporary music! It’s just so freeing and fun – the more bizarre, the better if I’m honest! I also love the mental work out – I love repeating the notes over and over again and playing around with the patterns and shapes in the vocal lines. It’s sort of meditative. 

What are your most memorable concert experiences, either as a performer, composer or listener?

Singing with the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra this summer with the amazing Peter Harrison was pretty magical. I also understudied at the ROH twice last year. Walking into the orchestra pit for the rehearsals was probably the highlight of my career thus far. 

What advice would you give to those who are considering a career in music?

Always perform with joy, honesty and love. If you are thorough in your preparation and generous in your actions, good things will come your way!

How would you define success as a musician?

Whoah! That’s a tough one. Our career is all about the journey and not the destination – it’s a slow burner and success tends to show itself in so many different ways for each musician. If I manage to make my bed in the morning, I would say that’s a success! I think a musician is successful if they lead a contented, meaningful life. 

What would you like to be doing in 5 years’ time?

In five years’ time I would like to be singing a role at one of the major opera houses in Europe, I would like to have won a major international competition and I would love to look out into the audience and see my two boys smiling back at me. 

About Milly

Milly Forrest is a British classical soprano based in Hertfordshire.

Milly is very appreciative of some fantastic experiences over the past six months. She recently made her solo debut with the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra with conductor Pete Harrison and recorded Jonathan Sheffer’s fabulous four short operas with the RSNO in September.

In October 2022 Milly made her TV debut in the lead role of The Gods of the Game – a football opera on Sky Arts in association with Grange Park Opera. She has also worked as a guest with the Royal Opera House’s Jette Parker Young Artist scheme on a number of occasions and has also understudied with the Royal Ballet on two of their productions involving vocalists in the past year.

Milly has recently worked as a guest with the Royal Opera House’s Jette Parker Young Artist scheme on a number of occasions and in February 2022 she took part in a new music project called Lost and found with them, celebrating international women’s day at St Pancras Station in London. She has also understudied with the Royal Ballet on two of their productions involving vocalists in the past year.

Other engagements have involved contemporary music, working with Brett Dean at the Royal Festival Hall and the London Philharmonic Orchestra in The Face of Nature by Elliott Gyger and she premiered Ian Venables’ work Hermes Trismegistus for viola, piano and soprano. She has also covered the title role in Dahlia by Roxanne Panufnik at Garsington Opera.

Visit her website.

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