• Interviews with Cecelia Hall and Tyler Nelson - Dorabella and Ferrando at NC Opera

    These two short interviews reproduced below are the continuation of our Così fan tutte series for North Carolina Opera [Opera Lively interview # 118 and 119]. The company will be presenting the fully staged opera in Raleigh, on Thursday October 3 and Saturday October 5 at 8 PM, and Sunday October 6 at 3 PM, at the Fletcher Opera Theater, Duke Energy Center. Tickets can be found [here].

    Our previous coverage contained more details, which we won't be repeating here, but rather in the interest of time, we will provide a link to the first two articles where these details can be consulted. The first one contains an interview with Jake Gardner (Don Alfonso) [click (here) for it], and the other one incorporates the words of Elizabeth de Trejo (Firodiligi) [click (here) for ti].

    Two more cast members sent us answers to our questionnaire: mezzo-soprano Cecelia Hall in the role of Dorabella, and tenor Tyler Nelson (Ferrando).
    We sent to all members of the cast a cluster of the same questions, to get to read their particular takes on these topics, plus some specific questions to their roles and careers. We did send to the singers an approximate equal number of questions, but not all of them were returned with answers.

    The answers from two additional cast members are still pending; stay tuned to read these last two pieces once we receive them (Sidney Outlaw in the role of Guglielmo, and Hailey Clark in the role of Despina).

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    Cecelia Hall - Artistic Biography


    Photo Pat Arnow

    Ms. Hall, a current member of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program and recent alumna of the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Ryan Opera Center, appeared at the Lyric Opera as Third Maid in Elektra, Alisa in Lucia di Lammermoor, and Second Lady in Die Zauberflöte, among other roles. She recently made debuts with the Seattle Opera as Wellgunde and Rossweisse in their 2013 Der Ring des Nibelungen and with the Fort Worth Opera as the Composer in Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos (a role she previously sang with the Palau de les Arts in Valencia, Spain, and at the Tanglewood Music Festival).

    Ms. Hall received much critical acclaim for her performance in the title-role of Handel’s Teseo at Chicago Opera Theater, and she has also debuted at the Metropolitan Opera as the Second Priestess in Iphigénie en Tauride. At the Castleton Festival, she has appeared as Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia and L’Enfant in Ravel’s L’Enfant et les Sortilèges. At Juilliard Opera she was featured as Concepción in L'Heure Espagnole, Nerone in L'Incoronazione di Poppea, Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro, and in the title role of Ariodante.

    A noted recitalist, Cecelia Hall has appeared several times with Carnegie Hall’s Ensemble ACJW and taken part in a Samling Showcase recital at Wigmore Hall with Sir Thomas Allen and Malcolm Martineau.

    An alumna of The Juilliard School and DePaul University, Ms. Hall is a recipient of a 2011 Sara Tucker Study Grant, a 2012 Brian Dickie Outstanding Young Singer Award, the 2013 Lynne Harvey Foundation Scholarship from the Musician’s Club of Women, and Third Prize from the 2013 Gerda Lissner Foundation.

    More details on her career can be found on this website: [click here]

    Tyler Nelson - Artistic Biography


    Photo credit unknown, fair promotional use

    Mr. Nelson is a promising young tenor whose recent engagments have included Carmina Burana with Utah Valley University, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the Saginaw Bay Symphony, Mozart's Requiem with Utah Chamber Artists, and operatic debuts with Chicago Opera Theater in the role of Delfa for their production of Giasone, and with the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing, China, in the role of Count Almaviva in Il Barbiere di Siviglia. Mr. Nelson currently serves as the director of Vocal Studies at Utah Valley University.

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    © Opera Lively - Disclaimer: these exclusive interviews are copyrighted to Opera Lively with all rights reserved, and are not to be reproduced without express authorization. Brief excerpts can be used after consultation (use the Contact Us form) as long as proper credit and a link to the full interview on Opera Lively are provided. Links to the interview can be posted without authorization.

    Credits - Questions by Luiz Gazzola.


    Photos of the singers are recovered from her website in the case of Ms. Hall, and from the NC Opera site (no photograph credit was shown therefore we don't know who to credit it to but will be happy to add the credit once known; in the meantime, this is fair promotional use).

    The Opera Lively brief Interview with Cecelia Hall (Dorabella)

    Luiz Gazzola for Opera Lively - What are your expectations for this NC Opera production of Così fan tutte? What makes it unique?

    Cecelia Hall - This will be my first Dorabella, and I'm so excited to be performing it here in my home state. NC Opera has assembled a really great group for this show - there's a lot of young, exciting talent on both sides of the stage, and I think the end result will be just as rewarding as the process is turning out to be.

    OL - Mozart’s music in this piece has a sensual beauty. He also does ensembles in this opera at his best – this is the quintessential ensemble piece. “Soave sia il vento” is arguably one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever composed. Please comment on the music of Così fan tutte.

    CH - I love singing Mozart’s music. It is so good to and for the voice, not to mention the mind, body, and soul! This piece, in addition to having incredible ensembles, has some of the best recitatives Mozart ever wrote. He and Da Ponte, the librettist, were both playful and deeply insightful in the way they brought these characters to life - it makes my job as a performer a lot easier!

    OL - What is the key to singing and acting a good Dorabella?

    CH - Dorabella sometimes comes across as shallow or ditsy, and I really don’t see her that way. She’s vivacious and spontaneous and unguarded, and she’s also young and inexperienced. I think a lot of people have been in her shoes, in one way or another. The more I can find common ground with her, the more believable she'll be.

    OL - After all that they go through, people are not necessarily put together again at the end. How do you interpret the end of Così fan tutte? What do you think would happen next to these characters, if the opera continued in real life?

    CH - I think all four of the lovers are hurt by what happens to them during the course of the show. While they may try to fit back into the old molds of their lives, the experiences they’ve gone through have changed them. Whether or not they end up together, I think they all have a lot of healing and forgiving to do.

    OL - You sang the role of The Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos, in the beautiful Palau de les Arts in Valencia, Spain. Would you describe that experience?

    CH - I love playing the role of the Composer, and I’m lucky to have gotten to sing it several times now. Singing the role in Valencia with Sir Andrew Davis was such an exciting way to make my European debut. Despite major differences, the Composer and Dorabella have some things in common – both wear their hearts on their sleeves and live fully in every moment, even if that means jumping between radically different emotions in the blink of an eye!

    OL - You have finished your apprenticeship at the Ryan Center in Chicago last season, right? What has been happening now, in your career?

    CH - I am now in the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program at the Metropolitan Opera. Later this season, I’m singing a spotlight recital at Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall, as part of Marilyn Horne’s 'The Song Continues', then I return to Lyric Opera of Chicago to sing Annio in La Clemenza di Tito, and I finish the season singing Zerlina in Don Giovanni at Opera Philadelphia. Lots of Mozart, which makes me very happy!

    The Opera Lively brief Interview with Tyler Nelson (Ferrando)

    Luiz Gazzola for Opera Lively - What are your expectations for this NC Opera production of Così fan tutte? What makes it unique?

    Tyler Nelson - I’m really looking forward to this production. This will be the first time I’ve performed the role, but I’ve worked with Maestro Meyers before and have really enjoyed collaborating with him. I’m really looking forward to discovering more about these characters, and simply enjoying the chance to sing this exquisite music.

    OL - Mozart’s music in this piece has a sensual beauty. He also does ensembles in this opera at his best – this is the quintessential ensemble piece. “Soave sia il vento” is arguably one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever composed. Please comment on the music of Così fan tutte.

    TN - Well, I’m a great admirer of Mozart’s work in general, and this opera is no exception. I love the precision and elegance of his writing. He seems to evoke such strong emotions with a seemingly light and uncluttered musical texture, though I think most people would agree, there is nothing easy about singing or playing Mozart well. I am particularly fond of the way he sculpts his melodies and the way in which he uses the instrumentation to bring out every subtlety of that melody. It’s just good writing, in my humble and ignorant opinion!

    OL - I have the impression that the boy’s roles are vocally less challenging, than, say, that of Fiordiligi, with her high-low leaps in "Come Scoglio." Do you agree? Is this a relatively easy sing, or are there vocal challenges? Ferrando’s “Un’aura amorosa” is very beautiful and with some tricky parts, I guess. Also, there is a lot of volume in the Act I finale, more than what we usually see in Mozart – the sextet and the orchestra get to be deafening and singers need to sing above it all.

    TN - I don’t know that I could agree with that! Not to diminish the difficulty of the female roles in any way, but I personally find this role challenging in many ways. Perhaps that can be attributed to my own vocal shortcomings, but I find it difficult nonetheless! For one, the men are always signing! They start the show, and they only occasionally leave during the course of the story! Fiordiligi is of course, “a beast of a sing”, but then again, most of Mozart soprano roles are in that category, Queen of the Night, Donna Anna, Constanze, etc., so that’s no surprise. I think the writing in the Men’s parts is very different but in many ways just as difficult, though that may not be as easy to hear at first look or listen. You have to have good vocal dexterity and agility, the ability to sing a long legato line (sometimes without much chance to breathe), and incredible control and precision. I think that’s one of the things, in general that’s hard about singing Mozart. It’s the great equalizer
    for singers, there’s nowhere to hide vocally in that musical texture!

    Some of the difficulty in Ferrando’s music manifests itself in the stamina required, the place in which the writing sits in terms of the vocal range, and the versatility required by Ferrando in disguise and Ferrando as himself. The success of those vocal ensembles you mentioned, depends in part, on knowing when what you are singing is the “solo” and when you need to drop back and blend into the texture but maintain a presence.

    OL - Of your predecessors singing your role in this piece, which one would you find outstanding and a source of inspiration (assuming that in your preparation you are in the habit of listening to predecessors, which some singers like to do, others do not).

    TN - Yeah, I like to listen to other signers once I’ve learned the role. I try to avoid giving myself a chance to learn an exact copy of they way they sang it by doing an exact imitation of what’s on the recording. I think there is much to be gained from listening to other interpretations. Sometimes it does sort of make you want to close the score and go home though, when someone’s performance is particularly humbling!

    I enjoy listening to Stanford Olsen, Francisco Araiza, and Friz Wunderlich in this role, but there are some beautiful performances out there.

    OL - What is the key to singing and acting a good Ferrando?


    TN - Good Question! I don’t really know how to answer that yet, but I’m hoping to by the end of the staging process! I’ve become very aware, however, that this role is particularly tricky in that you have to be funny, and have some good singing chops as well. You can’t pick one or the other! I’m looking forward to finding the right physicality and vocal color that will allow Ferrando to be sincere, and occasionally, completely ridiculous when necessary.

    OL - After all that happens to them and they get quite dismantled, people are not necessarily put together again at the end. How do you interpret the end of Così fan tutte? What do you think would happen next to these characters, if the opera continued in real life?

    TN - Perhaps it’s the idea of not hoping to marry the one you love, but loving the one you marry? Another good question! I haven’t completely decided how to make sense of that at this point. I’m looking forward to hearing Michael Shell’s ideas for the end of the show.

    If the opera continued on in real life, I can’t imagine that it would be very easy for the women to just forget about the whole thing and go on with life as they know it. There would definitely be some degree of “weirdness” between the 4 of them for a while.

    OL - The issue of misogyny of course comes back every time we talk about Così fan tutte. However I don’t really agree that this opera is misogynistic. What Alfonso demonstrates is that if we apply to people different standards than the ones we apply to ourselves, we run into trouble. He says “everyone accuses women, but I excuse them even if they have a thousand changes of affection in a day. Some might call it a vice, others a habit, but to me it seems a necessity of the heart.” Alfonso’s message in my opinion is that we are all human. I think it’s rather an avant-garde view, for Lorenzo da Ponte’s time. What is your take on this?

    TN - I think that perhaps it's more about being human than misogynist... In some ways it's just a really fascinating social behavior experiment.

    OL - Conductor Iván Fischer, talking about Così fan tutte, says “everybody is seducible, all of us, regardless of what we think about our own morals.” What would you say to this?

    TN - Well, I'd say that it's true that everyone has weaknesses and vices. I don't know that everyone is “seducible” but there are certainly things that are more difficult for people to resist.

    OL - How was the experience of singing Count Almaviva in Beijing?

    TN - It was incredible. I'd never been to China before, the National Center for the Performing Arts is a gorgeous house. The chinese cast of singers was also amazingly talented. The experience as a whole was very eye-opening. It's always interesting to see how the arts organizations function in other countries.

    OL - You are in the vocal faculty at Utah Valley University. Is teaching one of your passions?

    TN - Yes. I'm a performer first, but I do love teaching. I find it very challenging and that it teaches me a great deal about my own instrument and my own performing when I have to try and articulate what needs to be done with my students. I enjoy offering some small measure of help to the up and coming generation of singers and it is truly exciting and inspiring to see some of this young talent at such a young age, begin to grow and develop.

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