Kimberley Raw plays her dream role as the Witch in Hansel and Gretel

Soprano Kimberley Raw has been part of the RNCM family for seven years. The 26-year-old completed her undergraduate studies in 2015 and is due to graduate with a Postgraduate Diploma later this year. Here, she shares her thoughts on playing her dream role in Hansel and Gretel, and what she’s enjoyed most about her time with us.

Kim will also be taking over the RNCM Instagram channel today (Weds 14 March), so be sure to check @RNCMlive for some Witchy goings-on #WithTheWitch behind the scenes!

You’ve played the role of the witch before. Can you tell us about the character and what she’s like to perform?

The last time I performed this role it was for a concert performance, sang in German, for the Covent Garden Chamber Orchestra. It was a fantastic opportunity for me to get to know the story, the music, the characters, and to sing the role in its original language. After that performance I instantly fell in love with the opera, as well as the role of the witch.

The witch is very complex and, like the flick of a switch, can change immediately. She’s unpredictable but always in control (other than being shoved into an oven, that is!), and is such an interesting character to play as you can explore her different emotions, which for a performer is a dream! I loved getting into the psychology of the witch and really trying to understand her psyche. Overall it’s been a dream role, and I’ve had so much fun developing the character alongside Iain [Henderson] and Stephen [Medcalf].

Have you changed the character in any way for our production?

I wouldn’t say I’ve changed the role, but my understanding and development of her has completely changed since the initial rehearsals. I understand her complexities far greater now. The witch is a very dark and manipulative character. She’s very clever in the beginning, luring Hansel and Gretel into a false sense of security by seeming to be a charming and harmless old lady who just wants to help them, but we all know her end goal. She enjoys being in control and taunting the siblings – this is hilarious to her and we really wanted to bring out her comedic side. Despite the underlying themes, it’s not all doom and gloom and we’ve worked hard to try and make her seem like a Royal Variety act – someone who’s constantly entertaining. I can be very busy on stage at some points and it’s important to get all the choreography right while still remaining in character. Our aim was to take the audience on an emotional journey, showing the witch’s charming and false side one minute and her evil and creepy side the next. Hopefully the audience enjoys what we’ve done…and has a few laughs along the way!

Iain Henderson is playing the same role in our other cast – have you worked together on developing the role?

Iain has been great to work with. We’ve talked at length with Stephen [Medcalf] about who the witch is and what we hope to achieve through our performances. It’s been so useful to be able to talk to someone who understands the role and is going through the same process as me. We both have our own individual take on the character – it’s good for us to put our own twists and interpretations into it – but we have a constant open dialogue that has been great and, as ever, I’m still on hand to offer Iain advice on how to walk in heels…but I must say, he’s a natural.

You’ve played several roles in RNCM Operas since you joined the College, do you have a particular favourite?

By far, this is my favourite to date. I’ve always wanted to play the witch – she’s been on my bucket list for years. I just find her so feisty and fun, and I can’t wait to get on stage. It really is a role where you can let loose and just go for it! I suppose I love the freedom you get with a character like this.

You’re due to graduate later this year. How have you enjoyed your time with us and what future plans do you have?

I have loved my time at the RNCM. I’ve had some fantastic opportunities throughout my studies which have all been invaluable. I’ve had the chance to work on my stagecraft, develop my skill sets as both performer and singer, and have been given the time and the right environment to flourish and grow. I feel confident and ready enough to go out into the industry and present myself as a diverse singer.

After I graduate I plan to pursue as many opportunities I can. My long term goals would be to go to Europe and audition for as many opera houses as I can. I’d also like to audition for the Jette Parker Young Artist Programme at the Royal Opera House one day too. I’m really excited for the future and ready for the next challenge that comes my way.

Kimberley is the Lady Maria Fisher Opera Scholar at the RNCM, and is supported by a bursary from the Sophie’s Silver Lining Fund.


14 March 2018