Thursday, July 28, 2011

Get to know Katharine Goeldner, playing her debut role of Orfeo in April's "Orfeo ed Euridice"

First of all, let me say how very much I am looking forward to finally having the chance to perform with Arizona Opera! I have wanted to perform with your company for years, and am delighted that it is finally going to happen - and I have the extra luck of making my debut in such a wonderful role as Gluck's "Orpheo."

This is a role debut for me, and one that's been on my list Bucket List of Roles. I'm following in the footsteps of some legendary singers with it - Janet Baker, Kathleen Ferrier, Marilyn Horne...and I've been studying their interpretations. When approaching a new role, I like to start as early as possible and do as much research as possible, gleaning what I can from great interpreters of past years, the nuances, how they color a certain phrase or how they approach a technically demanding line. It's hard to pick a favorite interpreter of this role, but at the moment, I'd have to say Janet Baker's simplicity and sincerity move me tremendously. Her "Che faro senza Euridice" is sublime. And I would like to add that I am particularly thrilled that Christine Brandes will be my Euridice. We've worked together at New York City Opera and I am a huge fan of hers!

I'm also looking forward to being in Arizona for personal reasons. My first voice teacher, Jocelyn Reiter, taught at the University of Arizona after she left the University of Iowa, where I studied with her. I've always wanted to sing there, for her. She's the reason I became a singer at all, and I owe her so much. Because of her encouragement, I moved to Salzburg, Austria to do graduate work, started singing in the theaters here, met my husband...and wound up staying here in this beautiful city of Mozart. My husband, Eddie Bartlett, also an American, is a bassoonist in the Mozarteum Orchestra of Salzburg, so this has remained our home base. I've been one of the lucky few singers who have been able to maintain a career on both sides of the "pond" - I spend about half the season in the US (this year it's AZ and the Met) and half in Europe (Covent Garden, Amsterdam, Vienna). Apparently, all my opera travels over the years have given our daughter, Anna, the travel bug, as well; a High School Junior, she'll be spending this coming fall semester as an exchange student in Malaga, Spain. She's grown up bilingual (English/German) and, in addition to Spanish, is learning Latin, French and - get this -Ancient Greek! Yep, that's all in the Austrian public schools. 

Orpheo is a difficult role and I expect rehearsals to be intense, but I do hope I get some free time to play - Any suggestions as to the "must-sees"?? Two of my husband's siblings live in Santa Fe/Taos, so I'm sure I'll have a bunch of family & friends coming over to see the shows. That may not seem close to you folks in Tucson & Phoenix, but compared to being in Salzburg, it's practically around the corner!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Lynn Rancourt, Winner of the 2011-12 Season Ticket Renewal Contest, Reporting for Duty!

I’m the winner of the “renew your season tickets early contest” for the 2011-2012 Arizona Opera Season.  I won a trip to Seattle, Washington to see Mozart’s “Magic Flute” or “Die Zauberflote,”  including two plane tickets, two nights at a hotel and two “VIP” opera tickets.

Let me back up.  Because I’d read several mysteries where some rich person stages an opera in their spacious country home and during the opera someone is actually killed, I decided to attend “The Mikado” at the Mesa Arts Center.  I realize some do not consider that opera, but let’s not quibble. I loved it.  As fate would have it, the next week I received an Arizona Opera’s coming season brochure and one of their selections was “The Mikado” so I signed up for season tickets and it’s been a love-fest ever since.

Anyway, back to my Seattle trip.  My friend Elba consented to accompany me even though she’d never seen an opera.  We decided to extend our trip to Seattle by 3 days and do some sightseeing.
I had never seen “The Magic Flute” and each synopsis I read made the plot seem ever more absurd but I’ve found it always seems logical when you see it.  Now that I think about it, the Ring does not fit into the “plot is self-explanatory when enjoying the opera” statement.

Also, on-line I saw Seattle also has a “pre-opera” talk at 6:00 PM for a 7:30 opera start.  I always attend those in Phoenix and thought it would be helpful for Elba to ease her into her first opera.  

The Marion McCaw Opera building is located at the Seattle Center and there is a Food Court there but there are 4 dining options at the opera building itself:  a snack bar similar to the dessert stall at Phoenix with an emphasis on sandwiches rather than dessert.  Wine is available.  There is a full restaurant where one could eat at anytime.  Some had reservations but they seemed to be able to accommodate walk-ins as well.  There is the “after the pre-talk” meal and then the “intermission” meal that is served in the actual restaurant. 
As we followed the usher to our seats, we realized that we had darn good “VIP” seats.  We were 8 rows back of the stage just left of center.  Excellent seats! 

Lynn enjoying the Pacific Northwestern Rainforest.
“Die Zauberflote” is hands-down the silliest opera I’ve ever seen and the excellent staging just heightened that sense of absurd magic.  When Tamino, the hero,  played his magic flute, out burst, among other creatures, a dragon, a rhinocerous with glitter, a pink ostrich,  tumbling monkeys, and an alligator adding a lot of color and laughter to entertain us.  Later when Papageno, the bird catcher, marries Papagena (a hag turned into a beautiful girl oddly resembling her new husband) 5 or 6 tiny tots in bright green wigs and feathers popped up giggling and waving and generally being cute as a bug’s ear.  Elba loved her first opera.

 At intermission, Elba and I sprinted to the restaurant worried about time but our pre-ordered food arrived as soon as we sat down – it was delicious and attractive:  a butter lettuce salad with Cara Cara navel oranges, avocado and Dungeness crab with green goddess dressing.  We even had time for a dessert of bread pudding with crème Anglais.  Yummy.

I’m looking forward to the next Arizona Opera season and to my trip to Italy to for operas in Venice, Parma, Florence and Milan. Ciao!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Getting to Know Mary Elizabeth Williams

Hello from sunnier-than-usual Seattle!  I'm here this summer singing the role of Serena in Porgy and Bess and am very much enjoying my time here.  I was very happy to hear from Arizona Opera a couple of weeks ago, asking me to write a little something in preparation for my arrival next season in Tucson and Phoenix for Aida.  I'm very much looking forward to coming back to Arizona; I sang my debut with the company with the title role in Tosca during the '09-'10 season. 

I am anticipating that this visit for Aida will be even more fun, because it's always more fun the second time around!  Now, I'll know my way around the city a little better, and I will already feel at home with the wonderful musical and administrative staff at Arizona Opera.  In addition, the cast is full of good friends like my fellow Aida, Lisa Daltirus, Kevin Short (playing the King) and Arnold Rawls, who is singing Radames.  We are already planning what to do together with our days off!  I'd personally like to get out away from the city--I remember the haunting beauty of the terrain, and it'd be wonderful to spend a day (or two, if I can) out enjoying the desert landscape.  I also plan to do my fair share of shopping!  Arizona is home to so many wonderful artists; although I managed to bring home quite a bit of southwestern jewelry and artwork last year, I'm always interested in adding to my collection...

Aida, as one might imagine, is quite a challenging sing!  Although I want to see more of Arizona this time, I need to be careful not to overschedule myself.  This will be my fourth production of Aida since I made my role debut at Atlanta Opera in 2010, and every time I discover new things--both in the character of Aida herself, and the technical requirements the role demands of me as a singer.  It's easy to distill Aida down to a love triangle during a time of war--that is, in essence, the story line.  For me, however, the fun comes in finding moments to add layers of interaction between characters and shades of emotion to make "Aida" as real a human being as possible.

It's going to be a great time in Arizona, and I'm really looking forward to it!  Until then, all the best for a wonderful start to the opera season!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Arizona Opera Announces Purchase of New Home

Arizona Opera and the city of Phoenix announced today the purchase of a new home for the Opera Company, at 1636 N. Central Ave.  The 16,800 square-foot-building, formerly the corporate offices and showroom of Walsh Brothers Furniture, was purchased by the City with funds from 2006 voter-approved Bonds. Located in the heart of the city’s cultural district, the facility is directly across Central Avenue from the Phoenix Art Museum and Phoenix Theater, and down the block from the Heard Museum.  The building will house educational and meeting facilities, rehearsal space for the Company’s five-opera season, administrative offices, costume, wig and make-up shop and performance venues for smaller opera and theater works.
Arizona Opera’s production headquarters had been located in Tucson since the Company’s founding in 1971, with operations split between Tucson and Phoenix.  Since July 2010, consolidation of the Company occurred with the administrative office in Phoenix and rehearsal space in nearby Mesa.  With the new opera center, the Company will fully consolidate all operations not only in one city, but in one building as well.  Performances of the Company’s full season will continue to be at Symphony Hall in downtown Phoenix, and the Tucson Music Hall.
“We are thrilled to have found such a perfect location for our new home, near to our sister arts organizations and directly on the light rail route.  From watching singers rehearse their roles, to public tours, education programs for youth and adults, performances and events, the community will have unprecedented, behind-the-scenes access to the creative process in action. Now, because of landmark support from Phoenix residents, people of all ages and backgrounds will be able to learn first-hand about this all-encompassing art form,” stated General Director Scott Altman. Altman also noted the continuing support of Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and the City Council, as well as city staff, and the commitment of the Arizona Opera’s Board of Trustees. 
The Opera's new location will complement and enhance the city's other nearby cultural amenities on Central Avenue: the Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix Theatre and Heard Museum," said Jane Morris, city of Phoenix executive assistant to the city manager.  "It's easily accessible by Metro light rail and has a centralized location to increase access to the opera's programs.”
The renovations are expected to be complete and Arizona Opera to be fully operational in the Central Avenue building by summer of 2012.