A young performer from Leeds has been helping to set the stage alight at one of the city’s grandest venues, as her debut performance in an internationally renowned opera took place last week.
Ten-year-old Persia Shafi-Cliffe, from West Park, has been ‘mesmerised’ by the opera from the first time she saw it and says she has never contemplated doing anything else in her life.
The little soprano singer has been performing as part of Opera North’s cast in La Bohème at the Leeds Grand Theatre in front of more than a thousand spectators every night.
As part of the prestigious Children’s Chorus, Persia performs a number of songs with her cast members in the production, which will run in the city until later this month.
Speaking about her role and love of opera, she explained how she got into performing at such a young age.
“I love everything about it,” she said. “I really like how it combines acting and singing together and have been mesmerised by it since my mum first took me to see my first show when I was seven-years-old.
“We actually went to see La Bohème here in Leeds. I loved it so much my mum took me to London to see it again and I told her that is what I wanted to do.”
She added: “I feel really proud of myself to now be performing on the main stage. I am really happy and proud of my mum as well because she was the one who helped me get here.”
Persia’s mum, Sarah Shafi, first realised her daughter had a ‘gift’ when the child would sing to herself at home after they went to see La Bohème for the first time.
From that moment, Sarah says she knew this was what her little girl was supposed to do with her natural talent.
“This voice just came out of nowhere after we had been to see the opera,” she explained. “Persia started putting music on at home and then the next thing this amazing voice came out and I just thought it was incredible.
“She told me she just wants to sing opera so I thought I’ll call Opera North. They said bring her down and after auditioning her, said they were starting up a Children’s Chorus, and she got a place in that.”
As part of the Children’s Chorus, Persia has already performed at the Royal Albert Hall and sung for the Dalai Lama when he visited Leeds, yet it is the La Bohème opening night performance which Sarah says will be the most memorable for the family.
“It was just an incredible feeling to see her performing on stage in front of so many people,” she said.
“To see her living out her dream was such a special feeling and I will never forget it and I’m sure she won’t either.”
La Bohème’s final show in Leeds will take place on Saturday 10th May before the production moves on to The Lowry in Manchester, until Saturday 17th May.