The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Jessie Mellor Headshot

Wannabe to Warbler in an Hour

Posted: Updated:

Yvie Burnett is standing resplendent, a vision in pink, next to the vast stage at the Palladium Theatre in London... and luckily for me she's smiling.

To see her sporting such an amiable demeanour goes some way in calming my jittery nerves because I've not come here today to hear the renowned opera singer and vocal coach perform. On this sunny March morning, I'm the one who's going to be flexing my vocal chords and it's to celebrate the release of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Love Never Dies stage production on DVD.

Love Never Dies is the sequel to the hugely popular musical Phantom of the Opera and carries on the story of the Phantom, who, 10 years after his disappearance from the Paris Opera House, is living in Coney Island New York amongst the joy rides and freak-shows.

His music is a success but the Phantom still pines for his one true love Christine Daaé, and so surreptitiously invites the world's finest soprano to perform at a famous opera house on the Island, hoping he can win back her heart.

And so to 2012 and my date with Yvie. Aside from singing in my car and the odd karaoke session, I'm not known across east London for my vocal dexterity, so hence my trepidation. But if anyone can turn me in to a swan, it's Yvie, who has performed with the Welsh National Opera and worked on the X Factor, Eurovision and Britain's Got Talent.

Yvie begins by asking me to sing a few notes to check I'm not tone deaf, "because that might be the only problem!"

She breathes a sigh of relief when nothing made of glass in the vicinity shatters and then we move on to scales. I manage a few and even reach a couple of high notes but Yvie has spotted my stiff demeanour and tries to get me to relax.

"Half the thing with you is the hurdle of getting over the initial nerves and the feeling that 'I'm not actually a singer'. But there's a voice in there - we just have to find it!"

She asks what I'm confident at and I admit to feeling free when I (attempt to) dance. So she suggests I move when I sing, which I try but I still feel ridiculously self-conscious.

Yvie goes on to explain that the warble opera singers have comes from adding a fake 'cry' when you sing a line, which comes easy to me because I am so terrified of making a complete fool of myself I'm surprised I haven't burst in to tears already.

I then have to project my voice as if I'm singing to someone in one of the royal boxes, which helps to give the illusion that I have the confidence of an opera singer, even if I don't sing like one.

Other techniques Yvie teaches include opening up the back of your throat by replicating the start of a yawn, or imaging you have a hot potato in your mouth. She then talks about making your diaphragm open up by pushing your stomach in and out.

But even after only an hour, I feel so inspired by Yvie that I believe that if I had a technique, it would have improved.

Yvie says the best singers are those that stand out. "I love it when you have a voice that you can recognise and you know it's not just a run-of-the-mill voice.

"I work with a lot of singers that are technically brilliant but you can't really differentiate which one they are because they're all as good as each other. It's when you get that one-off sound - I love that."

After working with Andrew Lloyd Webber on Love Never Dies, Yvie counts him as a close friend but says it's still surreal to have collaborated with him.

"I grew up with this legend that was Andrew Lloyd Webber, knowing of him and his work," Yvie says.

"And now I know Andrew really well I can't quite put two and two together and think that I'm really friendly with is that man, because he's so normal and down-to-earth and approachable. And when you work with him, you really work with him."

Throughout our time together, Yvie is a picture of poise and serenity but she goes on to explain that she became a wreck when she first heard some of the score to the tragic love story.

"I love the duet, when after 10 years of being apart, the Phantom comes in to the room and Christine and he see each other and there's that wow moment.

"However many times you hear it, that moment just gets to me and when Andrew first played me this music I was in his house. And I cried. I didn't just have a tear down my face, I actually had snot coming out of my nose. It was totally embarrassing!

"I just couldn't help it," she laughs. "It's such a passionate piece of music. And everything he put in to it, I just got it."

At the end of my lesson I manage to belt out a few bars of Love Never Dies just about in tune before my voice finally turns in to a pathetic, strangled whisper. And while the ever- encouraging Yvie is full of smiles and praise, I don't think Anna O'Byrne, who plays Christine Daaé, has anything to worry about just yet.

Although Yvie does urge me to keep practicing and suggests we go out for a "glass of wine and a karaoke" to get me to relax. Yvie - I might just take you up on that!

Love Never Dies is released on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Download on 12 March from Universal Pictures UK

Around the Web

Yvie Burnett - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Yvie Burnett (@yvieburnett) on Twitter

Yvie Burnett | Facebook

How To Sing with X Factor's Yvie Burnett - YouTube

Yvie Burnett - Vivienne Clore | Artist Management