Meet the Sinfonia – Principal Viola

Carmen Flores is the Principal Viola player with the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, the orchestra of Birmingham Royal Ballet. Audiences have most recently been enjoying her performance in the current season of Coppélia, which features a beautiful Viola solo in Act III.

Carmen kindly took time out from a busy rehearsal and performance schedule to discuss her life as a musician.


How old were you when you first started playing?

I was 6 years old when I first started taking violin lessons using the Suzuki Method. In typical fashion for most viola players, at both my school orchestra and youth orchestra, the San Diego Youth Symphony, they needed violas, so I volunteered to play at age 12. I haven’t looked back since!

What did you want to be when you were a child, or did you always want to be a musician?
When I was a child, I knew I wanted to travel and see the world, and experience new cultures. At first I thought I would be diplomat or ambassador, but fortunately my career in music has fulfilled that curiosity by taking me all over the world.

How long have you been in the Royal Ballet Sinfonia?
I joined the Royal Ballet Sinfonia in 2007. It’s been amazing to see the Birmingham Royal Ballet company grow and change since then.

What’s your favourite ballet music?
I will always remember the first two ballets that I played with the RBS when joining – Ravel’s sensuous Daphnis and Chloë, and Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. Those two scores always elicit a strong emotional response from the orchestra, probably because of all the drama in the music. My favourite ballet ever is Nutcracker – this is Tchiakovsky’s most memorable music. And of course, I can’t forget the viola solos in Coppélia and Giselle; I love playing them!

Favourite pop song?
I’ll have to admit that my 3-year-old daughter’s influence on me is quite powerful; “Let It Go” from the movie Frozen is constantly on in the house…it’s also my shower song!

What instrument would you choose other than your own?
Aside from viola, I always loved singing, so I would choose to sing aside from playing.

Favourite pit, and favourite concert hall?
I love the Wales Millenium Centre in Cardiff. It’s one of the most beautiful modern concert halls in the UK, with the design using natural materials of slate, metal, wood and glass. The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden also has a special vibe to it – all of that history.

What’s your favourite touring meal?
I’ll go for the local specialties of wherever I’m on tour – I love hunting around and exploring the area. For a constant, I’ll treat myself to a calming cream tea and scones.

How do you relax away from music?
I love cooking, and that helps me relax. I haven’t always been a big cook, but ever since we’ve moved house and have a bigger kitchen, I’ve been experimenting a lot!