What made you want to be a part of this project?
I came to this project by a combination of happy coincidence and what a dear friend once named "a personal culture of 'yes'". More specifically, I ran into /Fair Looks and True Obedience/ librettist Jennifer Coates at an Artist Inc event years after we had subbed in a church choir together. A few weeks later, her project needed a singer and I made myself available. Those people who say that half of life is showing up are on to something.
What are some of your favorite operas and roles?
Oh geeze, this is so dependent on my mood. I really love Handel. His music sparkles, his characters take on as much depth as you're willing to give them, and the music is just so fun to sing. I think the same can actually be said of Richard Strauss and of the John Adams/Peter Sellars collaborations. Perhaps it's the grand scope of those operas, the virtuousity required of the musicians, and the intimate portrayals of people who seem (and maybe are) larger than life. Some other shows that are likely to be heard coming from my stereo at home while I cook or stretch or tidy up: Ravel's /L'enfant et les sortilèges/, Bernstein's /Candide/, and a lot of Sondheim, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and Gilbert and Sullivan.
I personally enjoy singing pants roles (that's when a woman, typically a lighter lyric mezzo, plays male characters, typically young noblemen) because it's such a mental and physical challenge and because the gender play is an open secret that supports a certain suspension of disbelief that is especially delightful and necessary in opera. Though it's a role I'm unlikely to sing again, I had great fun in college playing Baba the Turk, a bearded lady of great fame, in /The Rake's Progress/. She's so egoistic and so fragile, and she gets to just wail from the top to the bottom of her voice--a fabulous drama queen if ever there was one.
Do you have experience singing new music?
Sure do, early and often. Primed by the experience of having workshopped and premiered a few plays as a teenager, encouraged by the wonderfully collaborative and supportive faculty at KU, and led by curiosity, I began singing new works as a sophomore and just had way too much fun. I got to premiere song cycles, create roles in chamber operas, collaborate with dancers and puppeteers--it was really hard work and really fun play at the same time, and it helped me bring deeper vulnerability and freshness to all my repertoire.
Last summer my enthusiasm for this kind of work led me to Italy and the Cortona Sessions for New Music, where I not only got to premiere and workshop new pieces, but also forged some seriously great friendships with composers and new music specialists from around the world (a few of whom live right here in Kansas City, imagine that).
What are you hoping to get out of this project?
More work like this! Or, you know, the honor of having helped to midwife new art into the world or something like that.
After you agreed to be a part of the project, you came to the most recent Black House workshop performance. What were your expectations going into this project after that?
I'd heard about the Collective from some of my jazz friends, but had never made it to a concert. The workshop I heard featured works inspired by art on display at the Nelson-Atkins, and I thought all the composers did wonderfully evoking the moods of different rooms there. The texture of the works were similar (everyone was writing for and playing in the same band) but there were very clear voices speaking. I got really excited about the prospect of working with so many distinctive styles, but still had no idea what to expect from the opera project. The three operas I wound up singing were all very, very different thematically and stylistically, and they each required different things within the creative process. It's been a great exercise in artistic flexibility, and great fun.
Heaps of fun. The singer is a strange animal, and opera is a total beast. I'm impressed by composers brave enough to undertake the Gesamtkunstwerk, and tickled to be included in any part of that process. My advice to other young composers who want to write operas: go to lots of operas, and befriend opera singers who like to talk about what we do and how we do it (that would be most of us).
How do you feel about playing Kim Kardashian?
I really didn't know what to expect with Kim. Before I got into that first rehearsal with you and Jennifer, before I sang her monologue, I was mostly curious what side of her we would see. It could have been a farce, it could have been a snarky social commentary, it could have been vapid or downright mean. Instead I was pleased to meet a woman who knows herself, who loves her family unconditionally, and who grapples with choices that were made for her. I guess I should probably watch the show at some point now.
What other projects doing you have going on?
Right now I'm developing a season of concerts with the newly formed Fabula Quartet. Our programs center around migration narratives, spanning continents and generations. It's an immense pleasure to work with smart, talented, and musically adventurous women, especially when they know how to brunch.
On the docket for this summer and fall: early music cantatas with a fellow tea enthusiast, a benefit concert series featuring song cycles by friends far and near, and perhaps a little pop-up Reich and Riley to keep things interesting. Oh, and would someone please talk me out of wanting to learn jazz standards?