Watch the video below!
Hey everyone, here we are at the final chapter of our Q&A series! Thanks so much for submitting your questions. I was really surprised at how many personal questions I got, and I’ll do my best to answer them in this video.
The only thing I can’t say much about is my specific calendar over the coming years; I just tried to say which roles I’ll still be singing for a while yet. But there are many new ones on the horizon! Stay tuned. You guys know this opera world is quite a roller coaster and things can change on a dime. In this video, I discuss how I got started, my personal approach to certain roles, how I deal with the emotional ups and downs, my inspirations, interests, style, and some other topics, including sexism and the MeToo movement.
MY JOURNEY: 1:28
Here I discuss my earliest career steps, starting from my college years to the Met’s young artist program. I started quite young, so it’s been a long road already!
ROLE PREPARATION: 3:47
From the time I get an offer (and there are some I have had to turn down!) to when the actual rehearsals begin, I break down how I go about getting a role ready. I take a close look at the score to determine if it’s right for me, I do intensive text and book work, I work on the tough parts first, I work back to front, write down text, and listen to recordings sparingly. Every role has different challenges so I always tackle the trickiest parts first. I isolate the sections that seem to be the most challenging, and the very last thing I do is go to a coach to sing through the role.
EMOTIONS AND NERVES: 8:07
There is no denying I’m a highly emotional and receptive person! Though cheerful and happy is my “default” setting, there are times when things can affect me deeply and negatively affect my performance onstage. We are all human and this is a part of our world that we must navigate. I use breathing exercises, running, and positive thinking to try and pull myself through a tough spot. Nerves are always there, and I don’t try to battle them; I know they mean I care and it’s not easy to do what we do, so we don’t just breeze through it.
ME TOO: 12:41
I consider myself lucky that I have never had a traumatizing experience of violation or even harassment. Sure, I’ve been hit on, and people make bad jokes sometimes, but I have never been put in a situation where I was a victim to anything more. What I definitely have experienced is a sexist worldview that affects every aspect of the workplace. Women who have a point of view, or are opinionated even, are treated differently and unfairly viewed as “difficult,” or a “diva.” Ironically, the “diva” is one of the greatest operatic archetypes and to be a larger than life performer, you will often be a larger than life personality. Even though strong women tend to intimidate people, don’t be a wallflower. Stop apologizing. Stand up for yourself.
LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR: 16:24
Speaking of larger than life, here’s a role that encompasses it all: Incredibly difficult music, this diva is a role about a woman who is done apologizing, who has something to say, who makes a choice, and stands up for herself by going against all conventions. There is no secret to this role…I just started studying it early on and lived with it for many years before I sang it in a major theatre. It’s a very challenging role and it takes time to mature and get into the voice. For years I worked on just the mad scene, then added the first aria, and more scenes one by one. I coached the role intensely with Renata Scotto. One of my greatest mentors, she really gave me a lot of schooling in the bel canto method and how to approach roles like this one. A few tips: Find the reason for all the coloratura, every trill, every rest, etc. What is your character doing in this moment and why does she suddenly start going off into some string of notes? What does the text say and how does it connect to the character’s intentions? Lucia is technically very challenging and I’m still working on getting it free enough in my voice to really go all the way with it dramatically. I’ll be there someday, I hope!
I take lots of inspiration from singers of the past and present. Though I don’t have particular favorites except really, Callas, I learn something from almost everyone I listen to. I don’t seek to imitate anyone or recreate exactly what they have already done. Out of respect, I try to bring what I learn from each artist into my own practice, but with my own voice color and approach. What is appropriate for them might not work for me, so there is no sense in trying to replicate it. For this reason, I love to listen to other singers!
OTHER INTERESTS AND MY STYLE: 22:40
I love to run of course, and cooking is a special hobby of mine. I love horror films and books. I enjoy listening to other types of music and my favorite artists are Tori Amos, Bjørk, and Tool. Lots of you asked about my personal style and I’m very flattered. I try to be practical and pack accordingly…if I’m going to be walking a lot I bring sensible shoes. I match the wardrobe to the season and necessity. In general, I stick to basic neutrals: Black, white, gray, brown, navy. I commit to a particular base color each season too (this season is navy, for example) and then, maybe add a pop of color. In order to get variety, I pack things that mix and match, and pair well with my chosen base. I don’t like to wear loud patterns or colors so I keep those to a minimum. I try to wear what flatters me and would call my style rather classic.
I can’t say too specifically where or when I’ll be performing certain roles, but I can say I’m really excited for the Met’s season announcement today. 🙂 In the future, I have more Traviatas, Lucias, Konstanzes, more bel canto coming up, as well as more French roles and Handel as well. There is a lot of new stuff on the horizon, house debuts, and just more exciting projects than I can even dream up! I’m really living my best life and am truly grateful for every opportunity that comes my way!