HAVING six brothers has helped Jessica Costelloe get to where she is today. The mezzo-soprano is enjoying her second season at Garsington Opera and she talked to Freetime about where it all began.

Jessica's first season was at Garsington last year, when she was in the chorus of Rossini's Maometto Secondo.

This year she is back again in the chorus of Jacques Offenbach's Vert-Vert, but she is also the understudy to Yvonne Howard, who plays Mademoiselle Paturelle.

Jessica, 27, said: "She has got pretty big shoes to fill. It would be quite a job to cover her if I did have to go on.

"With the more experienced singers you can see how they work on the stage.

"I learn so much by observing them and stalking them for eight weeks.

"You see little things they do, which makes them so brilliant and powerful on stage."

Jessica is 6ft1ins with flame red hair and as well as singing opera, she occasionally models for her father, designer Paul Costelloe.

She said casting director for Garsington, Sarah Playfair, encouraged Jessica to audition for the opera company, which encourages and promotes young artists.

Jessica said: "She saw this potential and ever since it has been a beautiful relationship."

Garsington Opera has been at the Wormsley Estate, near Stokenchurch, since 2011 and is currently half way through this year's season.

Asked what it was like performing for this prestigious opera for the first time last year, she said: "It was very nerve racking but wonderful because everybody in the chorus- you are all in the same boat- just graduated form college and some are still in college.

"It is nice to get to know singers in the UK opera scene.

"I knew nobody. I came back from New York and had no support system whatsoever."

Jessica grew up in Ireland and moved to London with her family in 1999.

She went to the Junior Royal Academy of Music after school and was then awarded a place at the prestigious Juilliard School of Music in New York, where she began her vocal studies under the tutelage of Marlena Malas.

Jessica said: "It was an amazing education. It gave me all the tools to survive the world when I came to London."

She first fell in love with opera when she saw a production of The Magic Flute.

She said: "I realised I could put all these art forms together, acting, singing, costumes. It was very exciting to me and so appealing and a natural progression into it.

"I went to the junior academy here in London and started there when I was at high school and it just took off."

Garsington was her first professional début but since then she has performed in Steve Tiller's Finding Butterfly in Japan.

She said: "It was pretty life changing. We were in Tottori. It was on a farm. If you had to have a shower you had to shower outside with the rest of the women in the hotel.

"I am 6ft1ins with red hair and you can imagine what it was like- I was fully nude. There was a whole lot of little ladies and their children who were completely shocked- 'What is this thing?'"

Jessica is based in London now and is making her name in the opera world. So what gave her the drive to get into opera?

She said: "I am one of seven children. I have six brothers. I think being the only girl in a very big family I had to find my way very early on. I was quite precocious and loud

"My mother put into a lot of acting classes and ballets to use that energy in a more positive way."

Go to www.garsingtonopera.org for tickets.