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The prom queen's return; From singing Vespas to buying Pampers, soprano Elin Manahan Thomas' journey into motherhood has been an eventful one. She tells Nathan Bevan about juggling parenting with the demands of a classical career and returning to the Welsh Proms.

I'M ringing Swansea soprano Elin Manahan Thomas to ask how's she coping with her return to performing after having her first child.

But before I can even get my question out her 11-month-old son Joseph wailing into the receiver at the other end tells me all I need to know.

"Sorry," says Elin with a slightly flustered laugh.

"He's got the makings of a good tenor though hasn't he?" The classical star from Gorseinon is at home for a rare lightning visit in between returning from her, opera singer husband Robert Davies and the little one's first family holiday together - "Butlins in Bognor, well glam" - and leaving again to cruise down the Seine in Paris performing the baroque repertoire with which she originally made her name.

Pages 2 & 3 And next weekend she'll be back on stage to bring this year's Welsh Proms in Cardiff to a rousing conclusion with an evening of great orchestral showpieces, all-time favourites and classic melodies. How on earth does she find the time to juggle all that with motherhood though? "I'm quite lucky in that me and Rob can both pretty much choose the days we work, so we share Joseph between us but always try to book our holidays so we're both off at the same time," she says.

In the meantime, young Joseph will continue to enjoy the sort of lifestyle that should one day see him win the award for Most Cultured Infant in the UK "Yes, he's comes with me to most of my concerts and has probably been fed and nappy changed in nearly every church and cathedral in the land by now," laughs Elin.

"No doubt he's going to grow up thinking all normal families go about singing Rigoletto around the house.

"Having said that, he's likely going to end up going the other way completely and becoming a proper punk rocker.

"Actually, it might be a good thing to put him off classical music early because we'd ideally both like him to get a proper job with some security to it," jokes the 33-year-old.

So was it scary getting back on stage again after more than a year away? "Actually, I was still singing live up until three weeks before Joseph was born and was back on stage three months after I'd had him, so it was nothing like that long.

"The last show I did before giving birth was at Tewkesbury Abbey performing Monteverdi's Vespas with a fellow soprano friend of mine who was also heavily pregnant "We must have looked like Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee up there - hilarious."

I hope St John Ambulance were on stand-by that night.

"They were!" she laughs.

"But the only time they were needed was when some poor elderly chap in the audience fainted from the heat, so I was quite proud to have got through it all in one piece."

The early stages were far worse, she explains.

"I got sick a lot and I'll never forget being up there - all Puccini and puffy dresses - with the Royal Philharmonic conducted by the lovely Carl Davis and having to rush off into the wings between numbers to throw up.

"Carl, bless him, didn't realise what was going on at the time and when he asked if I'd like to join them afterwards for a drink I just hissed, 'No, I just want my bed'.

"He must have thought I was a right diva!" Was she ever worried that having a baby might irrevocably affect her voice? "It's quite common for that to happen, so the thought was always at the back of my mind," she explains.

"Your body finds more muscle support when you're pregnant, which tends to make the voice sound deeper and richer. So it was scary, but also quite exciting.

"I remembered my old singing teacher telling me as teenager: 'You'll never be able to sing until you've had a baby', so it's great to know that now I finally can. Then again, I'm not too sure where 5am starts figure in the equation in terms of helping anyone discover themselves!" But she's looking forward to putting her instrument through its paces in front of a home Proms crowd very soon.

"I can't wait - I sang at the Welsh proms a few years back and it's a lovely event," says Elin.

"It's just a great party atmosphere and everyone who turns up is really open to having a good time. I know I'll be, because being a new first-time mum standing up there to sing is more or less the only time off I get," she adds. ? Elin Manahan Thomas will be appearing at The Vinci Last Night of the Welsh Proms, St David's Hall, Cardiff, on Saturday, July 16. The box office number is 029 2087 8444. See www.stdavidshallcardiff.co.uk for more details.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 8, 2011
Words:810
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