08 December 2015
Lawrence Olsworth-Peter, opera singer
Lawrence Olsworth-Peter is an opera singer, who travels the world performing. Here, he tells us how he became a singer, how his faith influences his work and how the Church should do more to engage with the arts.
How did you come to be an opera singer?
I actually wanted to be an architect when I was young, but then did a degree in theology and worked in hospital operating theatres before some friends encouraged me to audition for music college. In 2008 I was accepted to do an MA in singing at the Royal Academy of Music and have been freelancing as an opera singer since then.
What does a typical week look like for you?
It's always completely different, but that's why I love it. Most weeks I'll have some rehearsals, performances and travel, plus a surprisingly big pile of admin! At the moment I'm in a stage production of Handel's Messiah, directed by John Ramster, which has been touring the UK over the last four years. It's just 12 opera singers performing the whole piece in different ways as characters. I also run my own opera company called the International Rameau Ensemble, which promotes 18th Century French Baroque research and performance in the UK, so that keeps me busy when I'm not performing.
What would be your dream opera or piece to perform?
I travel quite a lot across the UK and Europe and have enjoyed going to some beautiful places, but I would love to perform at La Scala in Milan. It's so nice to sing in Italy with Italians because opera is in their blood.
How do you experience God in your job?
God has called us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, so I see my work just as much as worship as everything else in my life. It's great when I have a gig where I get to sing the words of the gospel, such as this Handel's Messiah production, as that's a real privilege.
Does being a Christian make you stand out from your colleagues?
Being a Christian should make us stand out if we are living for Christ all the time, but of course I'm tempted to trust in the things that the world worships, too. Having said that, lots of characteristics that the Bible commends such as loyalty, purity and sacrifice can be a great way to witness to God and open up conversations about Him. Quite often I get repeat bookings for companies because they know I always try to be reliable and won't drop out because of a better offer - even if that means I have to turn down a more lucrative job as a result.
What challenges do you face?
My industry is a difficult place to be a Christian, as singers and actors are trained to put themselves at the centre of their universe. So there is a constant internal battle against living for myself versus living God's way. There is also a lot of uncertainty for those of us who freelance, but that had actually forced me to trust in God's provision.
Does the Church do enough to engage with the creative arts?
If you look at the history of evangelicalism there has always been a suspicion of the arts in general and an unspoken assumption that Christians in the arts may have compromised in their faith.
Thankfully, I think that these attitudes are now changing and with the increasing acceptance of emotional connection in worship and visual learning in the UK churches are starting to realise that those with various artistic gifts can even use these to help non-believers connect with the message of the gospel.