■ The classical singer, 40, on her new album, acting with Johnny Depp and why she took lessons in how to sing badly
Why have you chosen film tunes for your latest album, Cinema Paradiso?
I’ve always had a passion for film music — and in my house there’s an influence of film as my husband is a director. It was a natural album to make because of my love of the music and the influences at home. I made the album in December, before the lockdown. It’s music from films we’ve been watching and feel nostalgic about.
You cover the theme from Schindler’s List — but there aren’t any lyrics…
No, it’s written for violin so there’s no song. I sing the melody. It was hard – the violin has a massive range but Schindler’s List is such an iconic piece of music I wanted to include it in the best way I could. I’ve done it before with the theme to Saving Private Ryan.
What’s your favourite film?
It’s between Amadeus and Forrest Gump. The music throughout in Amadeus is amazing, it won so many Academy Awards for its music, costumes and performances, and Forrest Gump is the ultimate feel-good film. I love having a little cry through it.
What are you watching at the moment with your four-year-old?
A lot of movies. We watched Splash recently as she’s into mermaids. She’s really into the Disney films — she loves Moana and Frozen and all the older ones but I try to keep watching films as an event rather than having them on all the time.
You made your acting debut in your director husband Andrew Levitas’s film Minamata — what does your character do?
I play Millie, who is a senior journalist at Life magazine. Johnny Depp plays the photographer Eugene Smith, who breaks the story of how a corporation is polluting the water of a fishing village with mercury, which is causing all kinds of birth defects and brain damage. It went on for decades.
What was making your acting debut with Johnny Depp like? Was he quite intense?
No, he was lovely. It was daunting because I was working with Johnny and Bill Nighy who are legends and I don’t have a huge amount of acting experience so I was thrown in at the deep end. They were both so gracious and encouraging. I’d met them before as my husband’s been working with them for a long time so that helped. I really enjoyed the experience but maybe that’s because I was working with my husband — but I did warn him that this would be the only time in his life when he gets to boss me around.
You’ve been live streaming gigs through lockdown – have you been missing performing to live audiences?
Yes, I’ve really missed it and my orchestra and conductor too. The most important thing is that audiences come back when they feel comfortable and safe. I can’t wait to get back out in front of a live audience. I’ve got a tour booked for January which I really hope happens. Live streaming at home prepared me for some of the bigger things I did during lockdown such as performing at an empty Albert Hall or at Buckingham Palace for VE Day.
Will lockdown change society at all or will we forget it all as soon as possible?
I think it’s changed and I hope it changes in some respects. It’s been good to get clarity on what’s important in my life, how I want to live my life, what my values are — we’ve seen the best and worst in people. We’ve seen people who have looked after their neighbours and I hope we keep that sense of community.
When you did the Masked Singer, did you really take lessons in how to sing worse?
I worked hard on disguising my voice. The producers said my voice was so distinctive because of how it had been trained so I had to work hard to strip out all the things I’d been trained to do. I listened to the radio a lot and at how pop singers sing and took the vibrato out of my voice. It was really interesting to look at how I sing technically.
Did you get very competitive and want to win?
I didn’t see it as a competition, I saw it as a bit of fun. It wasn’t really a singing competition — people voted on the characters. It was just fun to be part of.
What’s the best thing about being Welsh?
Everything. It’s as Brian Harris says in his poem In Passing, ‘To be born Welsh, not with a silver spoon in your mouth but with music in your blood and poetry in your soul is a privilege indeed.’
What’s been your biggest career regret?
In 14 albums and 17 years of performing you’ve got to have gone on a journey. It’s all been part of that journey and I wouldn’t change anything.
■ New album Cinema Paradiso is out now