Pop-opera stars IDA on their musical inspiration

There’s a scene from the Colin Firth coming-of-age classic, What A Girl Wants, that proves a perfect metaphor for pop-opera.

Amanda Bynes, who plays the long-lost love child to a charming aristocrat-cum-politician Firth, attempts to liven up a dry socialites’ event by nagging the band into playing James Brown’s Get Up Off A That Thing.

By the end of the first bar, stiff women with miniscule and royal-looking dogs are grooving to the beat ceaselessly.

Ida, the four-woman pop-opera girl group, is at the forefront of a similar kind of musical experiment.

The quartet will be performing at The Other Palace on Wednesday July 11 in the Studio as part of The Big Smoke Festival – the venue’s week-long music, cabaret and variety festival.

Wendy, Laura, Georgi, and Sarah, are all classically-trained opera singers who met on the West-End production of Princess Ida – hence the name.

They’ve been singing together since 2016, and describe their origin story like a musical in and of itself.

Four women from all over the world who weren’t supposed to meet, sang together in between rehearsals for the joy of it, and are now performing mash-ups of Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli to crowds of thousands.

Vocalist Georgi Mottram, a 28-year old Jersey-born soprano, said the group had chemistry from the get-go.

She said: “We just hit it off. Laura, the redhead of the group – the Australian, rang us up and said I would really like to keep in touch as friends so let’s give ourselves an excuse and sing together.

“We write all the arrangements ourselves, compose our own music, write and perform our own mash-ups. We just made our own genre because we couldn’t quite fit anywhere else.”

Georgi said the group started off doing the cruise ship singing circuit. But for Wendy Carr, the resident Scotswoman of the group who studied at Leeds College of Music, things kicked off after IDA performed on the BBC’s Andrew Neil Christmas Special.

“Doors opened, we went through them, and that was it.

“For me personally, doing the show and meeting the girls has changed my life. I learned a lot about myself. The first time I really sort of felt accepted. I found some really strong friends and hadn’t really had that previously.”

Sarah Vaughan, the 31-year-old Dubliner of the group who grew up singing only Christina Aguilera, said it’s hard pleasing both camps of the pop and opera worlds.

“Opera-purists really dislike crossover, because they don’t see it as proper classical singing.

“But I think it’s definitely making opera more accessible and bringing it to a younger crowd who might not choose necessarily to listen to anything classical.

“The fact that we’re doing mash-ups like Let It Go, and Never Enough, a total fusion of the style, it’s a way of drawing them in without giving them Wagner.”

Pop opera then seems to be an exercise of moving from controlled, delicate, and beautiful sounds to the more brazen, feel-good, pop end of the spectrum.

IDA don’t seem to compromise, musically – they can have their cake and eat it too.

But doing so isn’t easy – the girls admit lots of hard graft goes on behind the scenes.

Brisbane-born redhead Laura Coutts grew up going to church every Sunday, and tagged along for choir rehearsals. Today she’s realistic about the challenges of singing opera for a living.

“It can be quite hard especially if you’re not feeling particularly happy emotionally – it comes out in the voice. You can definitely hear it when you’re tired, stressed or upset.

“If you’re physically tired as well, and doing long-haul flights or not having enough sleep, it definitely does put a toll on the voice for sure. But you just have to get on with it, the show must go on.”

And by all means it will – on July 11, IDA will play at The Other Palace and serenade crowd-goers with original pop operettas.

“Many people in the past have compared us to the female version of Il Divo,” Wendy said, describing their sound.

Musing on just how far the group has come, she said: “One of our first mash-ups was operetta O Mio Babbino Caro with Wiz Khalifa’s See You Again – there’s a line in it that goes ‘We’ve come a long way from where we’ve began’ and we always look at each other overwhelmed with feeling on stage’.”

Whether its on-stage chemistry or behind the scenes musical blood sweat and tears, it’s clear that IDA is letting opera’s hair down – and that can only be a good thing.

What: IDA at The Other Palace for The Big Smoke Festival
Where: 12 Palace Street,SW1E 5JA
When: Wednesday, July 11
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