FOR one of the world’s most in-demand opera stars, the image conjured up for me was, well, less than glamorous.

The truth is, admitted Winchester’s Claire Rutter, I really enjoy finding the time to do the ironing while listening to country rock music.

I pointed out this was hardly the diva-ish image fans might expect of the star who is currently wowing audiences as Violetta in La Traviata being staged at Hampshire’s Park Grange Opera.

“Having children certainly helps to keep you grounded. If we start singing around the house they tell us to shut up quite quickly,” confessed Claire, as we spoke prior to her appearance in a special concert this weekend to help raise funds for St John the Baptist Church in Alresford.

Singing with her will be husband and fellow opera star Stephen Gadd who is also starring in this year’s Grange Park season as Yeletsky in Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades.

Set in 1950s Hollywood , Grange Park’s La Traviata sees Claire working again with director Lindsay Posner.

“I really like singing Violetta in part because it is a wonderful, entertaining , dramatic piece and I do love the acting as well as the singing. In fact I originally wanted to act and it was only because one of the leads went down with the flu when I was appearing in pantomime at Copythorne Parish Hall and they asked me to sing a song that I ever found out I could sing.”

That role in Ali Baba and the Four Tea Thieves also revealed to a young Claire that she could overcome her shyness by taking to the stage. It was something nurtured by teachers at her school, Hounsdown in the New Forest.

“It was a wonderful school for music and lots of talent came from there. My old music teacher, who has now retired from the school of course, is now teaching my own children how to play the paino.”

A spell with Southampton Operatic Society, who she still has close links to, led to Claire studying at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and at the National Opera Studio.

For three years she was company principal with Scottish Opera, followed by work with the Chelsea Opera Group, Welsh National Opera and making her American debut as Fiordiligi in Cosi fan tutte for the Dallas Opera.

Since then Claire has travelled the world carrying out the “mortgage work” as she describes her singing. Her success she says has been the ability to stay focussed, and a little luck.

“When I was starting out I was understudy four times and for three of those I went on. Those are important breaks and when I talk to young singers I say to them to always be prepared to go on.

You never know when the break will come.”

Claire has already starred in Helsinki this year, as well as appearing in Basel and Turnadot for Scottish Opera.

She returns to the United States later this year to appear as Minnie in La Fanciulla del West for Minnesota Opera.

But wasn’t there the littlest chance for her to act the diva?

Claire admitted a few in her line of work can still pull that off, but mostly opera singers were straight forward folk – mostly.

And how does she relax when not doing the ironing?

What music does an international opera star listen to when off duty?

“Certainly not opera. It’s like any job really. When you sing opera all the time it’s the last thing you want to listen to. In fact, the only time I will listen to opera is when I’m learning a piece or someone has sent me something for an opinion. Otherwise I enjoy country rock and jazz.”

At that our telephone interview came to an end. The builders had arrived and a delivery of gravel was threatening to block the family’s drive. A diva’s life indeed.

  • Claire Rutter appears in La Traviata at Grange Park Opera until July 5. A few tickets may still be available at
  • Raise the Roof concert in aid of St John the Baptist Church in Alresford takes place this Sunday, June 22, at 7.30pm. The blend of songs from light opera, West End shows and Hollywood will also include world-renowned harpist Claire Jones who was the official harpist to Prince Charles and played at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Tickets include a glass of wine or soft drink and are available online at or by calling 023 8071 1818.