• The Exclusive Opera Lively Interview with Layla Claire

    Our apologies for the delay in publishing this, but we are finally bringing to our readers a charming interview with soprano Layla Claire, who was a spectacular Anne Trulove in the Met's latest revival of their production of The Rake's Progress. The interview happened in person at the Met Press Lounge on May 6, 2015, and addressed not only this interesting role, but other aspects of the career of this gifted artist.

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    Photo Credit Kristin Hoebermann - fair promotional use

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    Singer - Layla Claire
    Fach - Lyric Soprano
    Born in - Penticton, British Columbia, Canada
    Web sites - http://laylaclaire.com, and also http://imgartists.com/artist/layla_claire
    Twitter - @laylaclairesop
    Recently in - A Midsummer Night's Dream, Helena, Festival d'Aix-en-Provence, France
    Next in - The Turn of the Screw, Gouvernante, Opernhaus Zürich, Switzerland - October 11, 14, 17, and 23, 2015 - Tickets [here]

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    Highlights of her Artistic Biography

    Education:

    Voice major at L'Université de Montréal - Master's in Music at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia - a 2012 graduate as a Young Artist at the Metropolitan Opera's Lindemann Program. She is also an alumna of Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute.

    Awards:

    In 2010 Layla Claire became the first recipient of The Hildegard Behrens Foundation Award. In 2008 she received the Mozart Prize at the Wilhelm Stenhammar International Music Competition and was a Queen Elisabeth Competition Laureate. She is also a CBC Radio-Canada Jeunes Artistes recital winner, a recipient of J. Desmarais Foundation Bursaries, and a recipient of a Canada Council Grant and the 2013 Virginia Parker Prize winner. She has taken prizes at the Palm Beach Opera Competition, The George London Foundation Competition, and the Marian Anderson Prize for Emerging Classical Artists competition. She was granted the Prix des amis d’Aix-en-Provence for best Mozart performance.

    Notable opera house and festival appearances:

    Debut: 2010, as Tebaldo in Don Carlos at the Metropolitan Opera, USA

    Helena (role creation), The Enchanted Island, The Metropolitan Opera, USA
    Gianetta, L'Elisir d'Amore, The Metropolitan Opera, USA
    Anne Trulove, The Rake's Progress, The Metropolitan Opera, USA
    Blanche de La Force, Dialogues des Carmélites, Washington National Opera, USA
    Donna Anna, Don Giovanni, Glyndebourne Festival, England
    Sandrina, La Finta Giardinera, Festival d'Aix-en-Provence, France
    Helena, The Turn of the Screw, Festival d'Aix-en-Provence, France
    Fiordiligi, Così fan Tutte, Canadian Opera Company, Toronto, Canada
    Gouvernante, The Turn of the Screw, Opernhaus Zürich, Switzerland (upcoming)
    Dona Elvira, Don Giovanni, Salzburg Festival, Austria (upcoming)
    Tusnelda, Arminio, Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe, Germany (upcoming)
    Tusnelda, Arminio, Opéra Royal de Versailles, France (upcoming)

    Notable concert and recital appearances:

    The Boston Symphony Orchestra
    The New York Philharmonic
    Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall
    Metropolitan Opera Summer Recital Series
    Roy Thompson Hall, Toronto
    Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center
    Orchestre Métropolitain, Montréal

    Discography:

    The Enchanted Island, DVD, Virgin Classics
    She is featured in the documentary "James Levine, America's Maestro"
    She is also featured in BBC's documentary "What makes a great soprano?"

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    Photo Credit Kristin Hoebermann - fair promotional use
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    The Exclusive Opera Lively Interview with Layla Claire

    Copyright Opera Lively, all rights reserved. Links to this interview and short excerpts are authorized as long as the source is quoted, but full reproduction without our permission (use the Contact Us form) is not.

    This is Opera Lively's interview #170 - by now we are at #180 but this one and five others got delayed for various reasons. The other five (#171 through #175) are coming to this area, while #176 through #180 have already been published in the Local area.



    Luiz Gazzola for Opera Lively - Let’s start by addressing Anne Trulove. You seem to be a great fit for her, thanks to the purity of your instrument and to having the physique du rôle. Is she a character that gets inside your head in a way that you really sort of become her?



    Photo Credit Lisa-Marie Mazzucco
    Layla Claire - Yes, absolutely. When I take on a new role I do try to find the bits of my own character that relate to the character that I am playing. I guess, if I were to really think about it technically, I’d sort of amplify those traits within me and try to find the character. It always comes from something within me. Does it make sense?

    OL – Yes. You do look like an Anne Trulove. That’s one of the reasons why I thought you were out of this world. In my review I gave you a score of A++. [Editor's note: see our review of the show by clicking (here)]

    LC – Oh, yay, thank you, thank you! Yes, it’s a dream role for me; absolutely. It’s a joy to sing. The pacing is great. I get to show a lot of different colors.


    Layla, Paul Appleby, and Gerald Finley in The Rake's Progress - photo credit Marty Sohl / Metropolitan Opera, used with authorization

    OL - Please tell us about the psychology of the character. She shows compassion and altruism. Tell us about her motivations. How do you relate to her, and how do you portray her?

    LC – First, I thought that Anne represents the opposite of Nick Shadow. They are polar opposites in the show. But then if I thought of it too black and white, the character of Anne would become one-dimensional. She wouldn’t be a real fleshed-out woman. I did start with the fact that she is Purity, but then I really tried to make her a real complex person. It is in the music, too. She has moments of doubt. Of course she believes fully in what she is doing, but she is human and she has moments of doubt.

    OL – Yes. I believe this masterpiece of an opera has a very sad ending. At the end, her decision to leave him behind is sort of stopping enabling him, and saying – “from this point on you are on your own, but I won’t forget you.” It is very poignant.

    LC – I know. It is such a hard moment for me to walk away from him! But like she says, there is nothing more that she can do, but she won’t ever forget him. I like to believe that Anne never really does recover, and she does keep her vow to him and she never really does remarry. In my mind it is very clear that she lives her life out as a single woman.

    OL – True. How does the end make you feel? Does it affect you a lot?

    LC – Of course. Paul [Appleby] and I are very good friends. It was wonderful to not have any sort of barrier of working with a new person, so from day one we were so open and free, and we felt like we could really explore the emotions of that scene in particular. We were absolutely in tears, most rehearsals, really sobbing on each other. [laughs] The music is so powerful, and of course what happens to these characters is so sad and so intense, that we really did have therapeutic sessions in each rehearsal, where we tried to get it, to a point where we could still portray that emotion without breaking, because of course you have to sing and you have to be on your breath, and you can’t be sobbing, really, so you have to push it to the very last moment before you can balance between the two: singing, and emoting the situation.

    OL – Yes, I interviewed him too, and he said he was choked up in that scene, as well. [Editor's note - read Paul Appleby's interview by clicking (here)]

    LC – Yes, he can cry when I’m singing and I can cry when he is singing, but we have got to pull it together when it is our turn to sing. [laughs]

    OL - Now, let’s talk about the music. Is Anne Trulove hard to sing? She seems to start already in full speed without much warming time.

    LC – Yes, it is true, but I have to say that the first opening scene is a wonderful warm-up. It’s a nice introduction of the characters to the audience. We get a chance to sing a little ensemble music, and I have a cute little duet with Tom, and it is also the only moment when Anne gets to be her joyful young self before things start to crumble for her. Then I get to go off and come back to sing my aria, and go off and come back to sing another aria, and actually the pacing is wonderful. I do get some nice breaks, so I can regroup.


    Layla and Paul Appleby in The Rake's Progress - photo credit Marty Sohl / Metropolitan Opera, used with authorization

    OL – In terms of vocal writing, are there moments that are really difficult?

    LC – I’m very fortunate. I couldn’t really plan it better, because my preparation up until this role was great. Last season I sang entirely Mozart, which of course puts me into the classical thing, and Stravinsky being neo-classical, it’s all pulled from that form of the aria and the recitatives; it’s really based upon Mozart. So, I had the structure in mind, and psychologically I got to do The Turn of the Screw earlier, which was such an intense character, and also the vocal writing has lots of leaps which are similar to the Stravinsky. That was very good preparation. Then I did the Dialogues of the Carmelites right before I came here, which is also a very rangy role. That really put me in a good place as far as tessitura. Then, coming to this, I felt like I couldn’t really have planned it any better. I came to this role really prepared, with everything that I have done for the last two seasons.

    OL – And it shows!

    LC – [laughs] Thank you!

    OL - Please address Stravinsky’s music for this opera, in terms of musical language. Do you believe it to be a true American opera, in this phase of his career when he was far from the Russian musical idiom and already naturalized American?

    LC – I’m Canadian, so I’m not really sure what an American opera means to Americans. For me, as a North American, we are a continent with people from all over the world, and it is such a rich place to be an artist, because we are pulling from so many different cultures and musical traditions! So, if that’s what an American opera is, then, absolutely, The Rake’s Progress is an American opera.

    OL - This is an interesting physical production. It seems like Jonathan Miller did a great job. Please tell our readers about the directorial concept and the strengths you see in this production.

    LC – I really liked this production. I thought that it was quirky enough to complement Stravinsky’s quirkiness, but it was also simple enough to let the music really speak. The set is very singer-friendly. It’s a wooden set. It helps the acoustics, especially in the giant Metropolitan Opera. It’s also built out over the orchestra so we get the advantage of coming right out into the audience and singing, so that was really great. I suppose, the only negative thing I have heard about it is that the changes of sets are a little long.

    OL – Yeah. I said that in my review too.

    LC – OK.

    OL – It kind of interrupts the flow.

    LC – Right. I think it’s the only flaw that I see. But I don’t think the audience really minds it. It gives them a moment to reflect on what they’ve seen and prepare for the next scene, but it would have been better if they were a little shorter.

    OL – Well, I guess, there is no other way to do it. The stagehands here probably have the best expertise in the world.

    LC – Yes, there are so many guys back there!

    OL – The sets are big and ambitious. At Glyndebourne they were cardboard cuts, very easy to switch around, but over here we got really huge sets.


    Set for a scene of The Rake's Progress - photo credit Marty Sohl / Metropolitan Opera, used with authorization

    LC – Yes, and they roll out but you have to clear one set before the other set can come in, and they were working really hard backstage, but it is just the nature of the design.

    OL - The cast for this show is phenomenal.

    LC – I agree!

    OL - In addition to you, we also get great artists like Paul Applebly (a delightful two-time Opera Lively interviewee), Stephanie Blythe, and Gerald Finley, not to forget Maestro Levine on the podium. It doesn’t get much better than that. Please tell us about the joys of interacting with such fabulous colleagues. Do you have any nice stories to share about the rehearsals and the camaraderie?

    LC – It’s been a complete joy to work with each and every one of them. Gerald Finley is someone I’ve admired for years. As a Canadian, of course I look up to him. He is such a terrific artist! I think his technique is impeccable. There is almost nobody who sings like him, today. It was really interesting to watch him develop his Nick Shadow, because he really went for a subtle, very creepy character. He just snuck up on us, and that was amazing to watch.

    Of course, Stephanie Blythe, oh my God! I had the privilege of singing with her before with the BSO. I mean, that instrument, is there anything like it in this world? My hair gets blown back when she is singing that duet in my face! [laughs] It’s such a wall of gorgeous, huge sound! She is such a comic; she has got such a good sense of humor! But she never made Baba goofy. She made her a real person. That was admirable, as well.


    Stephanie Blythe as Baba The Turk - Photo Credit Marty Sohl / Metropolitan Opera, used with authorization

    And then, of course, Paul is my sweet dear friend whom I love making music with. We approach music in the same way. We both come to it from the character and the emotion, first. We work so well together, and we get somewhere really quickly. It doesn’t take us very long to get to the core of what’s happening. Musically we’ve done a lot together and I think there is a reason why we are cast together. We have the same sensibility.

    OL – Yes, it’s a reunion with him since you’ve done The Bartered Bride with him at Juilliard, and Così fan Tutte at the Canadian Opera Company. And that one, I looked it up and read some reviews. I haven’t seen it myself, but it looked quite controversial. People went a bit crazy about the school concept. It’s the School for Lovers, with the butterflies. I like modern productions, but in this one the director made the girls be in on the coup: they knew about the test they were going through, from the beginning, and that does change the psychology of the whole thing. I’d like to see what you think of that.


    Atom Egoyan's Così fan tutte - photo credit Michael Cooper, fair promotional use

    LC – Right. Atom Egoyan is not the first director to use this concept but it was the first time that I did it like that. It was the School for Lovers and we were teenagers in high school. I think it worked, because you could believe that if the girls were in on the game, when you are young you can get caught up in things, even if you know that they are not real, because your emotions are so vivid! I remember being a teenager and getting really carried away with my emotions, so I feel like that’s what we tried to do. Fiordiligi and Dorabella just got swept away with it all, even if they knew rationally what was going on.

    OL – What do you, as a modern woman, think of it in terms of its allegedly misogynistic approach – which I actually don’t agree with, but some people say it.

    LC – I guess it’s the title that people find offensive, like they are all the same, women. But we can say the same about the men, too. No, I feel sorry for the boys in Così fan Tutte too, because they get heartbroken in the end, as well. It doesn’t end well for any of them.

    OL – Yes, and the end message is to say that we are all human and we all stray; we should just move on and forgive. If there were a continuation, all four of them would be in trouble.

    LC – Yes, absolutely, and that’s the wonderful thing about that piece, that it is unresolved and we can make up our own minds about whether these couples stay together or go their separate ways.

    OL - I like Dialogues des Carmélites a lot. Blanche is a very complex character. How do you describe her psychology?

    LC – I do too. It was such a crazy time in human history! Blanche was a very sensitive girl who came into the world in a very traumatic way – her mother died while giving birth because of a crowd crowding around her carriage. I do believe that when you are born, everything in your young life does affect you as you grow up. And so, she grew up with this sense of fear and paranoia. However it was completely reasonable at the time to be paranoid. Perhaps she was just more sensitive. Being fearful was looked down upon at the time; it was seen as a weakness, and so she tried very hard to cover it up, but you can only cover your true nature for so long.


    Layla as Blanche at Washington National Opera, credit unknown

    Some people say that she was a crazy character or a weak character but I never thought of her as such. She was a victim of the circumstances and perhaps she was more sensitive than others, but maybe she was also more intuitive. Maybe she was having premonitions; it’s all very possible. In the end, she was right. It doesn’t end well, does it? [laughs] She is justified in her fear in the end.

    OL – What do you make of her change of mind in leaping forward and sacrificing herself?

    LC – That’s a really good question. Why did she do it in the end? Did she do it because she gave up? Or did she do it because she really believed, finally, and she abandoned her fear? I don’t know. We really don’t know. I spent a lot of time with Carmelite nuns when we were researching for this and I spoke to two novice Carmelite nuns in Maryland, actually, and I told them about my character. I was with Ashley Emerson who sang Constance. We were talking to them, and they said Blanche wouldn’t have been admitted into the Carmelites because of her character flaws, her fear and her doubt. They would have weeded her out. But because of the time, they were trying to protect her. It’s in the book Song at the Scaffold that the opera is based on. They really admitted her because they were trying to protect her. Under normal circumstances a girl with that sort of doubt would never have been admitted as a Carmelite.


    Dialogue des Carmélites at Washington National Opera, credit unknown

    OL – I see. OK, we have covered this character and this opera; now let’s move on to other aspects. Maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the great soprano Barbara Hannigan are also former Opera Lively interviewees, and they are, like you, Canadian.

    LC – I love Barbara Hannigan!

    OL – Me too, oh my God!

    LC – She is in a golden moment right now. She is all over the place on social media, and I’ve seen some of her performances recently.

    OL – Have you seen Written on Skin?

    LC – I saw her in Aix-en-Provence doing Written on Skin for the first time and I was blown away. Of course, I had heard of her for years, as a Canadian, and I sung a lot of modern music when I was in college, but when I saw her singing, I could not believe that someone with that vocal technique could also be an incredible musician and so good on stage! It was beautiful!


    Barbara Hannigan and Bejun Mehta in Written on Skin at Aix, photo credit unknown

    OL – Yes, she plays the piano, she conducts, she dances, she has a vocal range that is unheard of, she is impressive!

    LC – She is a phenomenon! I admire her greatly.

    OL – I wrote a book about Written on Skin!


    Available [here] and on Amazon in paperback and kindle [here]

    LC – Oh, you did?

    OL – Yes.

    LC – Oh, I love that piece. Did you see it in Aix-en-Provence?

    OL - I saw the broadcast from Aix, then I saw it twice in person. It will be my third time when they come to Lincoln Center in August.

    LC – They did it in Tanglewood.

    OL – Yes, I was there, and I went to Toronto to see it in March, as well.

    LC – Oh, great! With Barbara!

    OL – Yes, with Barbara, and I met her in person. She is great.

    LC – She is amazing.

    OL - I’d be interested in learning a bit about the popularity of opera in Canada. Are there significant differences among Canada and the United States in terms of the status of opera in society, the working environment, or anything else?

    LC – Well, I don’t know if there is so much of a difference between Canada and America. Of course North America is hugely different from Europe. I started working in Europe these last few seasons and it is just way, way more part of everyday culture. People go to the opera; they just do it. Every little town has an opera house. We don’t have that over here, but we do have some terrific companies, and in Canada we are very fortunate to be subsidized by the government. Some smaller provinces that maybe couldn’t otherwise sustain themselves on their own are able to have opera companies.

    Music lessons are really a big thing in Canada. We all took piano lessons. All my friends took piano and we were all involved in local music festivals. Music in my school was big. We had music programs, choirs, jazz bands, and I was part of three different music classes in high school. I can’t speak for all of Canada but in my town anyway it was very normal to be in a show, either in school or a local festival.

    OL – I think we are losing this, here in America. Do you think it makes a difference in terms of popularity and renewal of the generations?

    LC – Totally.

    OL – Is opera more popular in Canada because of this?

    LC – I don’t know if opera is more popular in Canada. I don’t know the stats on that. Hm… Of course we need people to be educated in music to be able to appreciate it, so… If that goes, we lose the audience as well as the next generation of performers.

    OL - Talking about operatic environment in different countries, you’ve been a member of two extraordinary festival-centered companies in which great things have been produced: Glyndebourne, and Aix-en-Provence. Please tell us about what is special in these two places.

    LC – I’m about to leave for Aix-en-Provence after this. I’m so fortunate to get to go back! Aix-en-Provence is like a dream job: the most beautiful place I’ve ever worked in! It’s a strange place because it’s such a relaxed environment! The company is so great to work for! And yet, we produce great things. Because it’s such a beautiful and relaxed place, people feel very free and open, and the quality of the performances is always so high!


    A Midsummer Night's Dream, Aix-en-Provence, photo Patrick Berger / Artcom Art, fair promotional use

    We are doing Robert Carsen’s 25th anniversary of his production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Gerald Finley was the original Demetrius in that production. He was reminiscing about that production to me, and my boyfriend John Chest - he is a baritone - is singing that role, now. It’s sort of weird; we were having a funny chat about it. And it turns out that Brindley who plays my father in Rake’s Progress is playing Bottom this summer in Aix-en-Provence.

    OL – They do a month and a half of rehearsals and are very serious about all the details. Glyndebourne, pretty much as well, like a month of rehearsals, right?

    LC – Yes, you are there for three months, sometimes, if you take a contract. They are both beautiful places to be. Glyndebourne has been really good to me. When I was a young singer I did the tour, then I went back; they offered me lots of things and it is just a beautiful place to be. It’s totally different than the south of France but it is equally as charming, and they are also a wonderful company to work with.

    OL - You trained in North America, at l’Université de Montréal, then the Curtis Institute, then the Met’s Lindemann program. In this trip I’m also interviewing another great young singer, Heidi Stober, who adopted a different path – she went to Deutsche Oper Berlin, a repertory company, and did a long stint there with roles coming over and over in rapid succession. Obviously both you and she went on to very successful careers so your different paths worked out just fine. Everybody is different, but how would you compare these different paths, and what would you say to beginners trying to break into the business, as a matter of advice?

    LC – I did a Master’s of Opera degree at Curtis, after I studied in Montréal, and we did a lot of operas there. Their theory is that you learn by doing. We were very fortunate that we did several full productions per year, and I was there for three years, so I got a lot of repertoire under my belt and had a lot of time singing with the orchestra, which was just amazing.

    Then, when I came to the Met program, we were busy! They did this production of The Bartered Bride for us, which was amazing. I got to do a handful of small roles on stage which is the best way to get your feet wet at the Met and to be on stage getting to experience the hall and everything, and to feel the pressure of the huge hall. For me, it was the right way to go about it. When I finished the program I did go off to Europe and I did work in Canada, in Europe, and around the States. That was the right path for me.

    I know Heidi's singing well. She's a lovely singer. She is a colleague of my boyfriend John’s who is also at the Deutsche Oper where they did several shows together so I’ve seen her perform a lot.

    OL – So, you feel it’s different for everybody and there isn’t just one recipe for the young singers to follow, right? Someone told me that you must do the German houses to have an international career, but I don’t think there are “musts”, right?

    LC – No, and it depends on your voice type, too. Some voice types take longer; some need to get lots of roles under their belts. I don’t know; for me this was the right path; it worked for me, but maybe it would have worked if I had gone to Germany and done a contract; I’m not sure. I was very fortunate to have this opportunity to come here to the Met’s Lindemann Program, so I didn’t think twice.

    OL – It’s probably more nurturing here, than being thrown into a repertoire company.

    LC – Yeah, although sometimes the repertoire companies are kind of great and singers have nice relationships with coaches and they take them under their wing. It can be a sort of young artist experience.

    OL - Mozart has occupied a significant chunk of your artistic biography and seems well-suited to your beautiful voice. As you add more years to your singing career, your voice will naturally change. Where do you see it going? What are roles you believe you will be singing in the future?

    LC – You never know where your voice is going to go. Sometimes my voice surprises me. But now that I am in my early thirties, I definitely do feel like it is growing and changing and I can imagine that in my late thirties and early forties I will sing Strauss. That’s what I imagine now, although I can’t predict where my voice is going to go, but musically and instinctively I adore that, and I feel really, really good in that music. I hope that my voice is going to develop in that direction, and I think it will. If I were a betting woman I’d say that it’s where my voice is headed.

    [Editor's note - listen to Layla singing Strauss - don't fail to click on the clip because it is very beautiful!]



    OL – And he writes so well for the female voice, doesn’t he?

    LC – He does. It’s a dream. Just the bits that over the years I worked on, in little scenes, to get my feet wet in this repertoire… I’m excited about it.

    OL - Not only the voice changes, but the professional environment and the art form itself also do. How do you see the current and future status of opera? You might want to talk about differences overtime in rehearsal times, competition among singers, emphasis on looks and high-def broadcasts, hardships of surviving as an art form in a changing world with the new generations having lower attention span and being dispersed among a myriad of entertainment options and small screens, the more director-driven productions, etc. Please take your time on this one and address as many of these topics as you’d feel like (hopefully all of them…).

    LC – It is a long question. There is a lot in it. Let me take a good look at this. Which one should we start with? [laughs] Differences overtime in rehearsal times? You think we’re rehearsing less?

    OL – I think so.

    LC – Well, I think it depends on the company. Like we just said, in Glyndebourne and Aix.

    OL – But those are kind of the exceptions. Usually you get a short time and everything is rushed.

    LC – Right, but when it is a new production you often get a long time, but of course if you are doing a repertory piece for a company, yes, you often get thrown in there. I have been very fortunate. I don’t think I’ve ever done something when I haven’t had at least two weeks of rehearsal, and often a lot more; I think because I’ve done a lot of new productions. And even this Rake’s Progress, it is not a new production but we had a long time to prepare for this, too.

    Of course, I’ve seen my colleagues doing these productions in Germany where they are thrown in there with a one or two-days notice. Of course it’s nuts, but that’s the way they keep it rolling and keep a lot of variety.

    Competition among singers? I honestly have such amazing singer friends and we are so supportive of each other that I really don’t feel affected by competition. Of course we are aware of what our peers are doing but I always like to think that there is room for everybody.

    Emphasis on looks in high-def broadcasts, yeah. Everyone says that my generation is the first generation that is expected to act and to look good in a role, and I just don’t buy that, because I look back at beautiful Maria Callas acting her pants off in everything she did… There were great actors-singers way back in the day. If you look through old Opera News of one hundred years ago there are beautiful portraits of these beautiful women singing the lead heroines. They are beautiful. They are believable in their characters.

    I can’t really say that I feel that I am under more pressure to do anything that other opera singers haven’t done in the past. I know that’s a contrary opinion; the general consensus is that it is much different but also this is all I know. For me that’s what I’m expected to do. I’m expected to act and to look as much like the part that I’m playing as I can. That’s my answer for that one.

    Hardships of surviving as an art form with the new generations being dispersed among a myriad of options… on the other hand, technology is enabling us to do really interesting things, like these HD broadcasts. Subtitles or surtitles, that’s a new technology. I won’t say that the small screens and technology are ruining opera, because I think they are also adding a lot to it.

    Director-driven productions… Is that really that new? I guess so. We have to understand that in Europe opera is more common. Most people have seen The Marriage of Figaro a handful of times at least, or a dozen times by the time they are an adult, so they want something new. However, in North America – New York being an exception, perhaps – when I’m in Toronto and people are coming to see Così fan tutte, most people have not seen it before. Of course there are some opera aficionados who know it well, but most people, it’s the first time they are seeing it, so if we change the story so much that it’s then not the same story and they can’t really understand the plot points, and it is not fair to that audience. This is not a German audience. I think we need to be sensitive to who we are performing for, but that is not to say that we should dumb it down at all, either. We still need a really high level of artistic ambition and ideas, but we need to find a balance.

    OL - Great answers. How do you see your responsibilities as an artist and a member of the class of people who make this art form viable, in view of the challenges mentioned above?

    LC – My job is to just be as authentic and honest as a performer as I can be. That’s really all I’m trying to do. Everything else is out of my control. What I can do is give everything and believe fully in what the production is, which is not always obvious. Sometimes you have to say “OK, let’s go with it.” My job is to sell it, to make believe, be transported, and relate to this character that I’m doing. Everything else, that’s somebody else’s job. [laughs]

    OL - How do you cope personally and psychologically with the pressures of an international singing career?

    LC – Hm… Going back to technology for a second, my life is possible because of Skype and FaceTime and emails. I’m very close to my family. I have four brothers, two nephews, and a niece, and they are all very close to my heart. Of course I miss them terribly, but it makes my life bearable that I can Skype with them on Sundays and see my little nephews and play with them over the screen, and they know who Auntie Layla is, even when I’m not there.

    Having a relationship with my boyfriend who is also a singer, it would be virtually impossible. I know singers used to do that, but I just say, how? It would be heartbreaking to just be able to send letters, or the phone bills would be so expensive. These are free to us, this free technology, so that’s wonderful.

    OL – So you just don’t feel much pressure, and you feel it’s a fun ride and everything is great?

    LC – Well, no, of course there are challenges, being on the road. [laughs] My suitcases have just been missing for three weeks, and then they came back. Someone stole all my jewelry and shoes.

    OL – Oh my God!

    LC – That’s heartbreaking, of course, but you learn a lesson in detachment and in living minimally, in a way where you can’t be attached to things. The one thing I’d love to have is a garden. That’s hard for me. It’s a compromise. It is a sacrifice but what I get is so rich, and it is such a fulfilling life!

    For me, right now in my life, I’m willing to make the sacrifices. I won’t say that it will always be like this. I don’t have a family yet, and I’d like to have a family. When I do, how will that change, and how will that work? It’s hard to say.

    OL – An artist with kids was telling me that contrary to what people think, that it is so hard to be on the road and leave the kids behind, she was often able to bring her kids with her, and those kids had the world all open in front of them. Instead of being stuck in a small place or being at the same school, those kids were seeing new cultures and new languages.

    OL – Yes, if those kids are anything like me when I was a child. I wanted to travel so badly! I had this neighbor from Italy, this little girl I used to play with, and she spent summers in Italy, and I was just so fascinated with her getting to travel, and I wanted to go see what Italy was like. I asked for a suitcase for my birthday when I was ten.

    OL – [laughs]

    LC – And I got one! I had a beautiful childhood and I’m very thankful for it, but I definitely had the urge to see the world as a kid.

    OL - How are you as a person, in terms of take on life and personality?

    LC – I’m definitely a social person. I like to talk. I can’t talk as much as I’d like to because I have to rest my voice in days of shows. This job gave me the opportunity to spend a lot of time alone and I think that’s also really good for me. I have a lot of time to think. My life as a singer is a lot calmer because I have to save my energy. I have to eat right, sleep right, rest my voice, exercise, and keep my instrument in tune, so it’s an all-day, everyday kind of job. It’s not something I can leave at the office and go have a life. It is my life. My instrument is my body so I’m constantly aware of my surrounding climate (temperature, humidity, etc.).

    OL – Is it limiting, or like you said, you feel serene with all this time for yourself?

    LC – It is definitely limiting, and it is sometimes frustrating when you want to be a social person. It can be very frustrating when I’m invited to go somewhere and be with my friends but I know that I have to limit my talking.

    OL - What are some of your hobbies and extra-operatic interests?

    LC – I have always been sort of an athlete and it is definitely important for me to burn off some steam. When I can, I run, if it’s not cold outside and I feel it won’t hurt my voice, or if the allergies are not really bad, like right now. I’m not running this week because I have to sing, but I do like to run.

    I do a lot of yoga. I go almost every day to yoga, and I find that it is a beautiful complement to singing, because it is all about breathing and keeping your body strong but flexible which is what you need to do as a singer, and it is also a nice way to clear my mind after a long day with many notes coming from a lot of people and a lot of information coming in.

    OL – You seem very calm.

    LC – Oh, thank you.

    OL – Are you?

    LC – [laughs] Yeah. I am. I’m also very happy. It’s such a tremendous honor to be doing what I’m doing now, and it is sort of beyond my wildest dreams at this point, so I’m really just trying to enjoy every experience. I really try to enjoy the moment when I’m on stage. I’m very happy. [laughs]

    OL – Yes, some of the singers I’ve interviewed seemed a lot more stressed out.

    LC – I used to be more stressed out, but I realized that I’m a much better performer when I’m relaxed.

    OL - Is there anything else you’d love to add for the benefit of our readers, and we failed to ask?

    LC – I think we really covered a lot. I can’t think of anything else. Can you?

    OL – No, I think the interview was great.

    LC – Perfect! It was my pleasure!

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    Detail of a photo by Sian Richards - fair promotional use

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    Let's listen to the singer. Here is her Gemme la tortorella, in Aix-en-Provence, Sandrina's aria in Mozart's La Finta Giardiniera - this remarkable performance was broadcast to all of Europe by Mezzo:



    And here, singing Dolce Riposo, Helena's aria for the Met's The Enchanted Island, alongside Joyce DiDonato, available on Virgin Classics DVD:



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