Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mezzo-soprano Katharine Goeldner, the Orfeo in April's production of "Orfeo ed Euridice," describes her recent experience in the Metropolitan Opera spotlight

There's never a dull moment at the Metropolitan Opera.  I've sung many roles there: the School Boy in "Lulu" (my debut), Prince Orlofsky, Cherubino, Nicklausse. And I've covered a couple of things, but I have never actually gone on stage as a cover at that house. On October 18th, all that changed.

At this point, I should explain a bit what a "cover" is. A "cover" is sort of an unofficial second cast. As a cover, you may not necessarily have scheduled performances, but you are "on call" for every one and must either be in the building or within a 20-minute cab ride of the Met, accessible by cell phone. You are responsible for learning the entire role and being present at every rehearsal, where you watch and carefully write down all of the stage directions. You also rehearse with the other covers and have a complete run-through before the day of the premiere, just in case something should happen to one of the first cast singers. I have to point out, though, that the covers have no stage or orchestra time.  And although you have your own set of costumes, made just for you, you don't actually get a chance to rehearse in them.  Bear this in mind as you read...

So, I've been here at the Met these past two months, covering the role of Giovanna (Jane) Seymour in the new production of "Anna Bolena," which stars Anna Netrebko in the title role.  I had been put on "official warning" for the three previous shows.  The woman I was covering, Ekaterina Gubanova, had a sore throat and thought she was going to have to cancel, so I needed to be ready just in case. They had me in a dressing room with my costumes at the ready, but each time she wound up singing the entire performance.

On October 18th, I didn't get that "official warning," so I was covering from my cell phone and having dinner with a friend. Halfway through the show, I get The Call. After singing Act 1, my "coveree" felt she was losing her voice, had cancelled the rest of the show and I needed to get down there pronto. So I hopped into a cab, told the driver to step on it and arrived at the Met as fast as I could. They held the curtain for about 15 minutes while I was rushed into makeup and my costume (warming up while they're dressing me!). I was quickly swept into the 15th century and out onto the stage of the Met to sing the big Act 2 duet with Anna Netrebko. Keep in mind, I had never been on the set and had never sung this role with an orchestra. Oh, and this was a role debut for me as well. Anna was a wonderful colleague, energy was high and we had FUN out there. And then back I went into the dressing room to be rushed into the next costume--that beautiful reproduction of the red dress in the famous Holbein portrait of Jane Seymour--and onto the stage for my last big scene with Henry VIII and my aria.

I have to tell you that every single mezzo I've talked to who has sung this role has the same opinion of it: it's HARD. The role really lies in soprano territory and it's very difficult to maintain the tessitura and then end the aria on a high B. It is definitely the most technically-challenging role I have ever sung.

So there I am, on the stage of the Met, singing the most difficult aria I have ever sung, never having sung the aria in public before. Was I nervous? A bit but not as much as I had expected. There just wasn't time to be nervous! In the end, it all went very, very well, and I was pleased to have pulled it off.
And then... three days later, my "coveree" cancels again, but this time I had two hours' notice and sang the entire show. This also happened to be a live Sirius radio broadcast with a new soprano in the title role, Angela Meade. And again, the performance went very, very well.

So it turned out to be a very lucky week for me. This is why I always pick up lucky pennies. From never expecting I would actually perform this role, I wound up singing two performances, got a review (always good for the website), a radio broadcast AND there happened to be a house photographer there.

I should have bought a lottery ticket. But maybe that would've been pushing my luck just a little too far.

Monday, October 24, 2011

As Arizona Opera prepares its world premiere performances of Gounod’s "Faust," stage director Bernard Uzan explains why this centuries-old tale of a man selling his soul is fitting for 2011 audiences.

When we reach a certain age, would or will we sell our soul to the devil for youth? Do we think about the last 35 years of our life and what we will do differently? Do we have regrets? Do we have remorse? Do we enjoy the memory of some of our successes? Do we hope to enjoy more future success?

The legend of "Faust" is one of the most valued and essential myths of society in the western world. It is timeless; it concerns the basic preoccupations of humanity—morality, love and passion. Since the beginning of time and even 200 years from now, humanity will deal with mortality and old age, and will consequently always try to find ways to escape the final chapter.
 
That is the basic reason why I decided to update this opera.
 
When Gounod wrote "Faust," only the first part of Goethe’s dramatic poem of the same name had been translated in France. This is why the opera concludes after Marguerite’s chapter, but nevertheless, it deals with the main desires of Faust, to once again find youth, love and life’s pleasures.
 
In this production, we are maintaining the basic settings of the opera, but they are transposed to today’s sensitivities. The village fair becomes a bar/nightclub, Marguerite’s garden a flower shop and the prison a mental institution.  All of this is under the power of Mefisto, who will appear as a bartender, a delivery man and a doctor. He even materializes as a priest in the church scene, which turns out not to be a real church, but instead a trap set by Mefisto to torment Marguerite.
 
Of course, the costumes will support a modern approach with some obvious imitation and parodies of today’s fashion. I am also utilizing projections in order to support, comment or illustrate some ideas and thoughts of the characters throughout. But they are never used to replace the words or the music itself. While we have transposed the settings, the production stays faithful to the spirit of the opera and, most importantly, to the music and the meaning of the text.


Friday, October 7, 2011

Top 10 Reasons to See AZ Opera’s “Cav/Pag” this weekend

10. For first-time opera goers, this double bill flies by like a Jerry Bruckheimer action flick. Italian opera doesn’t get much sexier or more blood-and-guts.

9. Speaking of Hollywood, you can relive some of your favorite movie moments . Are you a fan of “Raging Bull,” “The Godfather Part III” or “The Untouchables”? Some of the music for these films come from “Cav/Pag,” including “Cavalleria”’s gorgeous Intermezzo.

8. How often do you see a vintage 1918 Harley on the opera stage?

7. Catch a glimpse of opera’s newest “love couple”: soprano Kelly Kaduce and baritone Lee Gregory. (Gheorghiu and Alagna are so 2000.)

6. During intermission, enter an opera trivia contest to win great prizes, including free gourmet meals before future performances.

5. You may know every note of “Pagliacci”’s “Vesti la giubba.” But have you heard it more elegantly sung than by tenor Allan Glassman?

4. Arizona Opera is debuting sparkling sets which have never before been seen on stage. You’ll be convinced that you’re in rural Italy.

3. One of the greatest, most spine-tingling choral numbers of all time is in “Cavalleria Rusticana” – the Easter Hymn or "Inneggiamo.” And the Arizona Opera Chorus sings it sublimely with soprano Lori Phillips.

2. Enjoy the company of fellow opera lovers at Symphony Hall. And starting this season you can actually bring drinks to your seats; enjoy some Italian opera with a glass of red wine!

1. Experience all the passion and sensory delight that opera has to offer with a cast of singers that are among the best in the world.

Still not convinced? Catch this preview video which includes the perspectives of tenors Allan Glassman and Joseph Wolverton, director Kay Walker Castaldo and soprano Lori Phillips.


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