Those of us who had seen her on stage were in no way surprised that Eri Nakamura should make it to the finals of last year's Cardiff Singer of the World. For this petite and lustrous soprano, born in a remote Japanese village, has an unforgettable presence. After doing extraordinary things in Covent Garden's Hansel und Gretel and Dido and Aeneas, she's now a house favourite in soubrette roles, most recently as Musetta in La Bohème , for which she gives generous credit to the lapdog with whom she co-starred. "He was more used to his role than I was," she explains. "He was a proper professional, showing me how I should do things. He took away all my nervousness."
Not that nerves are an issue. You sense a steely determination as she recounts the story of her first 31 years. Her ambition was to teach the trombone, but the shock of being in the middle of the Kobe earthquake unlocked something in her: "Suddenly I began to sing, and I found I could do the high notes in 'Queen of the Night' more easily than other people. And once I'd started singing, I couldn't stop. I now just follow my luck, and try to deserve it."
On 31 May she will sing Susanna in David McVicar's production of Le nozze di Figaro at the Royal Opera House. Catch her before she takes up residence at the Bayerische Staatsoper.