Sandrine Piau

  • From strings to vocal cords


1975: I start training with the Radio France children’s choir
1985: CNSM in Paris
1994: Martin, my husband

«I was born into a music-loving family in 1965. My father took me to see The Aristocats and I dreamed of playing the harp like Duchess. Joining the Maîtrise de Radio France children’s choir at age 10 was a turning point I’ll never forget: I became independent, taking the metro by myself. I met my best friend Marianne, went to see La Bohème and a host of other shows and imagined myself under the spotlights. I loved the backstage smells at the Opéra Garnier as much as the music.


Second turning point
Starting at the Conservatoire, with the harp as my instrument, was a second decisive turning point. After two years of harp, in 1988 I met William Christie, who decided to make a singer of me and took me into his early music class the following year. So I switched from my 47 harp strings to two vocal cords! William Christie gave me roles in his productions at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence: Purcell’s Fairy Queen (1989), Rameau’s Les Indes galantes (1990) and Castor et Pollux (1991). Other encounters followed. I met Christophe Rousset (Handel, in 2004). That opened the way for me to classical music (Mozart) and Romanticism. It’s encounters I remember rather than awards. But I had a dream I thought was impossible because of the demands of my work: a dream of having children and a woman’s life. My husband Martin gave me that possibility when he suggested I stop work and look after our children, Léa (born in 1999) and Fabio (2001). We’ve chosen to live near the sea, in Marseille, where I spend most of the year. This year, with Robert Carsen at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence I sang Titania the fairy in Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream (with blue hair). Am I a «desperate heroine»? I’m quite a cheerful person though I do sometimes see the dark side. I love emotional music like these delicately despairing arias of Mozart’s».

*Desperate heroines, Sandrine Piau sings Mozart.


By Claude Ponsolle