• Exclusive Opera Lively Short Interviews With The Cast of The Magic Flute at Piedmont Opera

    One of our favorite regional companies, Piedmont Opera of Winston-Salem, NC, USA, is presenting in two weeks starting on March 13, 2015, the beloved The Magic Flute by Mozart. For our coverage, Opera Lively will attend the event as usual, post a review, and will interview members of the cast. Below, please find the first of these mini-interviews, and stay tuned to this space for others.

    Dates, Times, and Tickets

    The opera will be given three times, on March 13 at 8 PM, March 15th at 2 PM, and March 17 at 7:30 PM, at the Stevens Center in downtown Winston Salem. For tickets for the shows and all the associated events below, visit www.piedmontopera.org/calendar/ - you will see the first few events, then click on the > arrow to the right of the words March 2015 and you will see the subsequent events. Click again to get as far as the March 17 show (it's not very intuitive, so follow these instructions to click on the different events for tickets, or else, call the company's Box Office at 336.725.7101 Monday – Friday 9am–5pm.

    Associated Events

    Several fun associated events for adults and for children are being sponsored by the opera company.

    Tomorrow March 3rd at noon La Lunch with Piedmont Opera will happen at The Piedmont Club, 200 West 2nd Street, 19th Floor, Winston-Salem, at a cost of $20 per person including tax and gratuity. RSVP to 336.724.7077. There are a few tickets left. These fun lunches count on the presence of Maestro James Allbritten and several principal cast members talking about the opera.

    The event repeats on March 4th at noon at GIA in Greensboro, 1941 New Garden Rd Suite 208, for the same cost. RSVP to 336.907.7536.

    On March 5th from 5 to 7 PM there is an art exhibit called What's Your Story? for kids at the Children's Museum of Winston Salem, with the presence of the artists, the staff, and members of the Executive Board of Piedmont Opera. Cake is available. This event is free.

    On March 8th at 5 PM, there is a grown-up event: the Meet the Cast party at The Reaves Center at Winston-Salem State University, 601 South Martin Luther King Junior Drive, Winston-Salem. Wine and appetizers are served, and there is a behind-the-scenes look at the production. Tickets are $35.

    On March 11th, Student Night At The Opera is the final dress rehearsal, with a full performance of the opera at the Stevens Center, at 7:30 PM. Tickets are $5 for Students and $15 for Adults; Crosby Scholar Students and students from the Enrichment Center get in for free.

    On March 13 there is the amazing Opening Night Dinner And Dessert - this is one of Opera Lively's favorite events of the season. It's an elegant buffet dinner with open bar featuring regional wines and beer, on the 10th floor of the Stevens Center at 6 PM, followed by the performance at 8 PM (tickets for the performance are separate), and then after the show patrons go back to the 10th floor for dessert and sparkling wine with the maestro and the full cast. Patrons can buy a ticket for the dinner only, for $50, or for dessert (several cakes and gourmet chocolate treats) and sparkling wine only, for $30, or a combo ticket for both gatherings, for $75. I couldn't recommend more this event, if you are interested in pleasant conversation with other patrons during dinner (the Piedmont Opera patrons are a bunch of knowledgeable and friendly folks), delicious food, and full access to all artists for more conversation during the dessert party. Act fast because this event is very popular and sells out every time. Call 336.725.7101 for reservations or get your ticket from the web site as instructed above.

    For the matinee performance on Sunday March 15, Camel City Promotions will provide free shuttle service with their new golf carts for the patrons. Park in the Cherry/Marshall Street parking lot and look for a golf cart. Service starts at 1 PM and return service goes until 5:30 PM.

    Greensboro patrons can get luxury coach transportation to the matinee in Winston-Salem for $15. It includes curbside service to and from the Stevens Center, on board pre-opera talk and an optional boxed lunch from Jeffrey Adams ($10). The Bus departs from Whole Foods at Friendly Center in Greensboro at 12:45 pm and departs Winston-Salem at approximately 5 pm.

    After the matinee, children have another event: the Dragon Slayer and Princess Children Party, from 5 to 6 PM on March 15th, featuring crafts, food, and a meet and greet with the artists. This event is free for ticket holders to the opera, and happens at the Stevens Center following the performance.

    Finally, the last show on Tuesday March 17th counts on the Tuesday Are Easy at Piedmont Opera discounts. The opera company offers free parking on the deck at Cherry-Marshall Street (402 N Cherry St., Winston-Salem, NC 27101) from 5:00 pm – 12:00 am. Just show your ticket! Also, arrive early and take advantage of discounts at local downtown restaurants. Jeffrey Adams on 4th, The Spring House and the Old Fourth Street Filling Station offer 10 percent off to opera patrons on that night (alcohol not included). Augustine’s Bistro offers $5 off your meal on March 13th and 17th.

    Regional opera companies, pay attention! This is how it's done! Piedmont Opera provides an extremely complete hospitality package for patrons attending the performances with all the above fun events and services.


    The Exclusive Opera Lively Mini-Interviews With The Artists

    Dominic Armstrong in the role of Tamino

    Tenor Dominic Armstrong is a winner of the 2013 George London Foundation Vocal Competition. Mr. Armstrong begins the 2014-2015 season debuting the roles of Haydn and the Bartender in the world premiere performances of The Classical Style at the Ojai Festival, Cal Performances, and Carnegie Hall, and debuts with both On Site Opera and The Phoenecia International Festival of the Voice in a co-production of Frédéric Chaslin’s new opera Clarimonde. He also makes his debut with Dayton Opera as Tamino in the The Magic Flute. On the concert stage, he appears with the Brooklyn Art Song Society in recital, and sings the Verdi Requiem with the Waterbury Symphony. Future appearances include Arthur Dimmesdale in the world premiere of The Scarlet Letter with Opera Colorado. This is Opera Lively interview # 164.

    Luiz Gazzola for Opera Lively - How difficult is it to sing Tamino? That first “portrait” aria is considered to be very hard because of the musical line that requires lots of breath control, and it also needs to convey a sense of beauty, and the singer is exposed since it comes so early. What are the vocal challenges of this role?

    Dominic Armstrong - Tamino can be quite a challenge to sing, as the opening is very exposed, and he doesn’t get much of a chance to leave stage. The entrance and aria are tricky, and normally you’ll see Tamino fall to the ground and get a nice long chance to ‘cool off’ in between. You also spend a lot of time singing about an inanimate object, so you have to find ways to motivate the story in your mind. When I used to work on "Dies Bildniss ist bezaubernd schön" as a younger singer, I would intimidate myself by listening to many different recordings. This can be tricky when you’re trying to capture the beauty of someone else’s interpretation. Once I let go of Wunderlich and let myself sing, it seemed to come a bit easier.

    OL - So, it’s sort of a relief when you get done with the “portrait” aria and you have an easier time until the end, right?

    DA - I would argue that after the initial aria, the true challenge of the role is the glorious accompanied recitative and second aria. To go from the highs and lows of the Speaker’s scene, Tamino is really being torn up at this point, to then singing the higher tessitura and equally exposed "Wie stark ist nicht dein Zauberton," is really the challenge of the role to me. After that, I relax a bit more…until the end! Which has some of the more challenging phrases to sing beautifully and balanced with the quartet.

    OL - And what about the psychology of Tamino? How do you portray him, and how do you see the nuances in his character?

    DA - Tamino is a stranger in a strange land. We never learn that much about him, except that he claims to be a prince, and he falls in love easily. As we have discussed in this production quite a bit, Tamino is a bit of a blank slate, and is all things to all people. So the psychology is tricky.

    We have to sense the love he holds for Pamina, the care he holds for Papageno, and the strength he has to stand up to not just Sarastro, but later the Queen through her minions. At the same time, we hope to give the audience a hero to hold on to, rather than just an empty vessel, which can sometimes be tricky when you’re given so little to work with. I suppose we could imagine it as a classic comedy team movie, Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, Martin and Lewis, and Tamino and Papageno. I’m the straight man with the romantic plot, and Papageno is the jokester who’s looking for the romance.

    OL - OK, we'll ask other questions about The Magic Flute to your colleagues, so let's leave this opera aside for now and move on to other aspects of your career. Opera Lively is very interested in Frédéric Chaslin’s new opera Clarimonde, given that not only our organization upholds contemporary opera as a major focus, but also maestro Chaslin is one of our former interviewees, as well as Alyson Cambridge. Please tell us about the opera and your experience being part of it.

    DA - Well, as seems to happen with me quite a bit so far in my career, someone dropped out and last minute they needed someone to jump in. I got the score for Clarimonde about 30 days before we started rehearsals, and I was surprised to find that my character sang about 75% of the piece! I think it’s a very interesting project. The role I played, Romualdo, has a lot of angst and his journey is tormented and tragic. I enjoyed singing the role and it suited me quite well.

    Chaslin’s score is sort of Britten meets Puccini meets Queen, and I don’t think he would be upset with that comparison. Fisher’s libretto also has some real depth and the story led me to many different parallels with present day. It was a pleasure to finally work with Ms. Cambridge. We have traveled some similar paths, and I of course knew her by reputation, so it was a pleasure to sing with her.

    OL - Following up on the same topic of contemporary opera, you have a new one coming up in a world premiere, Arthur Dimmesdale’s The Scarlet Letter with Opera Colorado. Please tell us about it.

    DA - I’m very excited to see it all come together. With everything else on my plate, I’m not sure what I can say about the piece thus far. From what I’ve heard from both Ms. Laitman and Beth Greenberg, the director, Dimmesdale is the real heart of the show from a dramatic sense. I really look forward to singing with Elizabeth Futral, and am excited to sing for Opera Colorado. The audition was one of the most crazy experiences of my life. I sang through my repertoire, and just as I was about to get on the subway, they called me back and asked me to do it all again!

    OL - You are becoming sort of a specialist in contemporary opera, with the two above and three more in your past performances. Contemporary opera has a hard time winning the public over. What would be your recipe to change this situation?

    DA - I have done and will do a lot of contemporary music. It seems to be a niche I have found success in, but I’ve always found it important. I’m not really interested in singing the 800th Bohème; it’s not that I don’t find the music beautiful, I just know that other people can do it better and with more passion than I have for it. At some point, all opera was contemporary. We are left with the wheat, and who knows what chaff we’ve never heard? It’s important that we not only sing Mozart, Puccini, Wagner, Donizetti, Rossini, but to find the new voices that have something to say for our time and the decades and centuries ahead.

    OL - Great answer; I couldn't agree more. On another topic, how did opera come into your life, growing up?

    DA - Growing up in a small college town, opera was not readily available. My Mother made an effort to take me and my siblings to different productions that came to the University where she taught, and I later attended. The first opera I saw was The Magic Flute, with my first voice teacher as Tamino! It took me some time to come to it, as I enjoyed being on stage, but was more interested in musical theatre. But as my voice grew and my talents seemed to point me in that direction, I really just let my voice do what it seemed to enjoy.

    OL - Nice, so the cycle gets complete now, with you singing Tamino! Please tell us about your personality, take on life, and extra-musical hobbies and interests.

    DA - I’m a guy with lots of interests, I keep up to date on news, and spend a lot of time reading, watching things, and listening to podcasts. I’m especially fond of comedy, and enjoy seeing comedians occasionally. I run quite a bit, like movies, spending time with my girlfriend and our dog. I love traveling and seeing new places, and experiencing different cities. It’s been nice to get to know North Carolina so much this year, as we were recently here while my girlfriend performed Daughter of the Regiment in Greensboro.

    OL - I saw that show and it was wonderful. Thank you.


    Annamarie Zmolek in the role of Pamina

    Colorado native Annamarie Zmolek is a young soprano on the rise. She recently sang on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera as a Semi-finalist in the National Council Auditions, having won first place in the Southwest region for 2012. One week prior to that competition, she was praised by the Colorado Springs Gazette for her “unforgettable portrayal of Violetta” in La Traviata with Opera Theatre of the Rockies. This spring has brought a return to Opera Theatre for Rosalinda in Die Fledermaus, as well as engagements to understudy Desdemona (Otello) and Countess (Le nozze di Figaro) with Wichita Grand Opera. Ms. Zmolek’s recent appearances include a gala concert in Miami with the Grammy Award nominated choral group Seraphic Fire, the soprano solo from the Brahms Requiem with the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, concert performances of Mimi in La Bohème with Green Mountain Opera Festival and Venus in Zachary Wadsworth’s chamber opera Venus and Adonis with Lone Star College. Her upcoming performances include Violetta in La Traviata with the University of Wyoming Symphony and a chamber music concert with the Colorado College Summer Music Festival. Her undergrad was at Eastman, and her Master's in Music at Rice. She was an apprentice with Central City Opera. This is Opera Lively's interview # 165.

    Luiz Gazzola for Opera Lively - Pamina can be a tricky character to play from the acting standpoint, lest it comes across as too naive and whiny. What is your recipe for a good Pamina?

    Annamarie Zmolek - This is my first Pamina, so I am working hard on making her well-rounded, real, and strong. Luckily our director and conductor want to make sure she doesn't get too whiny, so they always help me when I default to ingenue mode! She makes many strong choices throughout the opera, and has to show that she is worthy to be an initiate to the temple, not just a reward for Tamino. She is being tested the whole opera, and I think both the music and libretto underline the firmness of character Mozart wants her to have. It's all about bringing that out in the music, and making sure the way I carry myself reflects her emotions and innate dignity.

    OL - Are there any considerations to make about the music and possible vocal challenges for this character?

    AZ - Pamina's music is really beautiful, and not terribly difficult as written. It is the expression and nuance which make her music a challenge. It is easy to just sing nice lines and get stuck in pretty lyric art song mode. I am working on finding the proper dynamics, articulation, and nuance to make sure her motivations are clear. It is really a pleasure to bring her music to life!

    OL - Please tell us about collaborating with your colleagues for this production. What can the Piedmont Opera public expect from this ensemble of singers?

    AZ - We have a really wonderful cast! Everyone sounds wonderful and is well-suited to their characters. Many of them have sung their roles a lot, and everyone has been working well together. It is always fun to put together an ensemble opera like this one, and really work together to tell the story!

    OL - Good, I look forward to it. You’ve done contemporary opera, which is one of Opera Lively’s main interest. Please describe in a few words the contemporary chamber opera Venus and Adonis for which you created the role of Venus. Tell us about the composer Zachary Wadsworth’s music, please.

    OL - Zachary Wadsworth is a wonderful composer and friend of mine from my undergrad days at Eastman. I sang several of his song cycles back then, one of which premiered on my senior recital. He is a singer himself, and really understands the flow of language and the voice. He writes lovely, lyrical music, and his style blends modern harmonies and older styles, like baroque music and chant. Being able to work with him as he composed song cycles (and eventually the opera, Venus and Adonis) has been an absolute pleasure. He writes music that is comfortable and natural to sing, and fits the voice like a glove!

    Venus and Adonis is scored for a string quartet, piano, saxophone, 2 soloists, and a greek chorus quartet. The music for Venus is lush and sensual, and Adonis sings showy, youthful coloratura. The musical interludes are lovely, and reflect both old and new styles of music for this mythological story. The saxophone is my favorite part, a modern instrument evoking ancient brass with its mellow lines. It is been great to see his success, and keep performing his music. Venus and Adonis has now been staged several times (I sang the premier at Eastman and another performance a few years ago), and my favorite cycle of his, Pictures of the Floating World, is something I have included on several recitals in recent years. His website, www.zacharywadsworth.com has clips of most of his beautiful vocal music.

    OL - Sounds very interesting. You also sang the role of Mrs. Anderssen in A Little Night Music for Colorado’s Central City Opera, where your performance was praised by Opera News for “projecting the requisite sophistication (and tricky words).” Was it a very difficult role?

    AZ - I think the challenge for operatic singers doing Sondheim is to make sure the words come across clearly from a diction standpoint, but also emotionally. Sondheim is more concerned with acting and text than with singing a beautiful lyric line. Sometimes his music is so cleverly written and full of fast-paced jokes that it can be hard to highlight them all for the audience. I loved the role of Mrs. Anderssen, and it was at times difficult because it sits low in the voice. We were not miked, so we had to rely on diction and really speak clearly. As part of the Liebeslieder quintet, we watched the whole story and commented from the outside, but were not part of the action. It was a really fun role!

    OL - What are some of your career goals, going forward?

    AZ - My goals are to keep singing music I love and to enjoy doing so. I certainly have a list of roles I would love to do one day, and little by little I am chipping away at that list! Pamina has always been a role I wanted to sing, so that's one I can scratch off the list!

    OL - How did opera come into your life, growing up?

    AZ - My older sisters took voice lessons in high school to get into All-State Choir and such, so I started working with their teacher, Leigh Macclay, when I was 12. She did a great job of starting me off with broadway and jazz, then eventually introducing some art song and simple arias as the years went on. By the time I was in high school, I had fallen in love and there was no turning back! She even got me tickets to my first live opera, Ariadne auf Naxos with Opera Colorado. I am very grateful to her that she saw potential in me and got me hooked on the good stuff!

    OL - Please tell us about your personality, take on life, and extra-musical hobbies and interests.

    AZ - I am a shy person who has worked on not being so shy, so I can be quiet when I first meet people, but I love to laugh and enjoy my friends and loved ones. I work hard, and love to perform and teach music, but I also like seeing new places and having time off. One of the great things about this career is getting to spend time in different parts of the country (and world), so it's wonderful to experience different cities! I like hiking (particularly in the mountains, as I am a Colorado native), ice skating, reading, playing the piano (poorly), keeping up with pointless celebrity gossip, binge watching on Netflix, and eating interesting things.


    Ted Federle in the role of Papageno

    Photo by Bonnie and Jonathan Burton

    Described as dashingly handsome with a golden-tone and dreamy legato, lyric baritone Ted Federle is a dynamic artist who brings to life the drama of everything he sings. Mr. Federle recently made his debut with St. Petersburg Opera singing the role of Silvio in their production of I pagliacci. He also made his 2014 debuts with NC Opera with Opera in the Pines, and Pensacola Opera as Moralès and Dancaïro with a cover of Escamillo in their production of Carmen as well as Guglielmo in Così fan tutte. In 2013 Mr. Federle made his debuts with Mobile Opera in The Mikado, Chautauqua Opera in Peter Grimes and Nashville Opera in Die Zauberflöte. He was recently seen by North Carolina audiences in the NC Opera version of contemporary opera Approaching Ali. This is Opera Lively's interview #166.

    Luiz Gazzola for Opera Lively - Please tell us about the challenges in the role of Papageno. It’s often said to be an easy sing with no extremes in tessitura but it’s also a very physical role with a lot of movement on stage. Do you agree?

    Ted Federle - Absolutely, vocally Papageno is far from the most challenging role I’ve tackled. That being said he does bring about his own list of challenges, the first being just how wordy the role is. It is no great secret that Papageno is a chatterbox both in song and spoken word so the sheer amount of text throughout is the first challenge. Mozart also does his part to add to this challenge by structuring both of Papageno’s stand-alone arias in a strophic form. The reason this is difficult is because it makes it very easy to lose track of which verse you are on especially in the midst of everything else going on on stage, (props, movement, comical gags, and the playing of the Panpipes) if any of these go wrong it is very easy to simply loose your place in the text and you don’t have a definite change in the music to help you get back on track.

    Secondly is the physicality of the role. I have always been an energetic actor and have never shied away from adding physicality on stage; Papageno gives me more than ample opportunity to really delve into that aspect headfirst. Of course, the challenge with that comes in the form of not finding myself running out of breath while I’m jumping up and down or running across the stage to try and escape magical lightning. This is difficult enough on its own but is compounded when I have to sing directly afterwards or during the action.

    I also have to work on the way Papageno reacts to other people and situations since he does not behave like a typical human being. Very soon after we meet him in the Opera, Papageno states that he doesn’t know his parents or how he came into the world. To me he was a child born in the wild much like Tarzan of the Edgar Rice Burroughs book series. The real difference is that while a tribe of apes raised Tarzan, Papageno was raised by a flock of birds and since he continues to spend more time around these birds than people, he gets everything from his posture and movements to his temperament from them. I have been taking Ballet since late August in an attempt to get more coordinated and graceful. You will see my Papageno incorporates many of the things I’ve been learning into the physicality and mannerisms. (Look out for my Pas de chat and killer 4th position.)

    The third challenge of Papageno comes from his relationship with the audience. He is one of the few characters that not only breaks the 4th wall, but shatters it into a million pieces and has a personal relationship with the audience throughout the show. Papageno also has to be very relatable since he acts as an entry point for the audience into the mystical world of The Magic Flute. Aside from these duties he is also the much-needed comic relief and is responsible for keeping the action going through the second act. If Papageno isn’t funny and entertaining the audience is in for a very long evening.

    OL - You’ve done light roles such as in the operetta The Mikado as well as very heavy roles such as in Peter Grimes. From the acting standpoint, are you more comfortable with comedies or tragedies?

    TF - That is a very interesting question. It’s true, I have spent more time with comedic roles than dramatic ones, but from an acting standpoint I approach both types of roles in the same fashion. Whether you are a birdman or shady apothecary wooing a drug addicted widow you have to ground the character in truth and honesty. The honesty has to not only be the characters but also my own to make the performance true and believable.

    OL - How do you make your Papageno unique?

    TF - The first time I tackled Papageno I was a much younger performer and really played up his childlike qualities. As I’ve grown and matured my Papageno has as well. He is no longer a 5-year-old but now more grown up. Now don’t get me wrong, he is still a sacredly cat and a chatterbox motivated solely by his desire for food, wine, and a pretty little wife (in that order). But Papageno is also more conscious of the choices he is making and honest with himself as to why he is making them. There is no hidden motive or agenda and this is the reason he is so endearing. In many ways he is the most self-aware person on stage, he knows who he is and what he wants.

    OL - The Magic Flute is often done with striking visuals – it does seem to lend itself to imaginative staging. What can we expect from this Piedmont Opera show?

    TF - I am actually very familiar with this particular set because it is the same one we used in my last production of Magic Flute. The first thing people will notice is the awesome 9-foot tall dragon that makes its entrance at the beginning of the show.

    Production picture for this show; credit in the picture

    After that, the rest of the show is really a treat for the senses. The entrance of the Queen of the Night is another one of my favorites. I don’t want to give away too much, but I can’t wait until we get to see it with all the lighting. My all time favorite feature of this set is the one most commonly overlooked and that is the painted backdrops and pillars (particularly the ones in Sarastro’s Temple). The artist who painted them deserves extra praise especially when it comes to their 3D feel. Today while sitting in the house during our tech rehearsal after seeing them up close, I could swear that the hieroglyphs were actually carved into the background and not just painted on.

    OL - You were part of Nashville Opera’s Magic Flute. How do you compare that production with this one, in terms for example of directorial concept?

    TF - Nashville’s Magic Flute was a phenomenal production with an incredible cast and I learned so much from covering Levi Hernandez’s Papageno as well as interacting with the rest of the cast. As I mentioned in the previous question, Piedmont Opera’s production actually shares the same set as the Nashville production and has an equally talented cast. After that the similarities end, especially in the second act. Flute is notorious for having a long and clunky second act but Maestro Allbritten and our director Andrew Nienaber have done some rearranging of the musical numbers that really make the show flow better. I’ve always found the order especially in the second finale to be odd and it breaks up the flow of the show as well as makes the ending anticlimactic. I think a lot of that had to do with Schikaneder’s desire to have the last word and a final showstopper for himself. Either way I hope people will really like the rearrangement and it will catch on.

    OL - You recently had a very successful appearance in NC Opera’s production of contemporary opera Approaching Ali. Please tell us about the demanding emotional aspects of that role, and about the piece in general.

    TF - Absolutely, Approaching Ali was such a rewarding show to be a part of. This first thing I did to prepare for Davis Miller was to get his book and watch documentaries of Ali. As I watched Ali’s fights I studied how he fought (stance, footwork, punches). Davis grew up idolizing him and to play a fan you have to know what they are passionate about. It really was a joy. I knew of Ali but didn’t really know ABOUT him and the more I learned the more I respected him and became a fan myself.

    The other large topic handled is bullying as well as Davis’ personal and professional set backs before his fateful meeting in Louisville, KY. That part was easy for me because I had grown up under similar circumstances. Although I never lost my mother, I was bullied mercilessly in school and have had similar professional set backs very recently. I actually had the chance to talk with Davis about our shared experiences; it was so wonderful and gave me real insight into how I should go about telling his story. After the first performance Davis thanked me for telling his story in such a beautiful and dynamic way. It was the best review I could have received because when playing a living person you feel an extra obligation to that person to tell their story in the most honest way you can.

    OL - Great. I did watch that show and was impressed with its psychological depth, and you were very good. Now, how did opera come into your life, growing up?

    TF - I actually came to Opera in high school. Growing up I always sang in church and was a boy soprano, but during middle school I stopped singing and really got into theater. I always knew that I would be a performer or at least be in the creative arts, but could never decide on which genre. That changed after my freshman year in high school when I applied to be a supernumerary for Cincinnati Opera’s Summer Festival. I was by far the youngest one on stage but loved every minute of my big scene in party of Act 2 Scene 2 in Traviata. I took coats from chorus as they went into the party. I still remember the set from that production. There was a giant mirror (almost the size of the stage) hanging above at an angle so the audience could see everything from above. As the show progressed parts of the mirror would break away and become less vibrant. In my particular scene there was a massive staircase that came out the mirror and the guests would make their entrances through it (most notably Germont). I think it was the moment at the end when Alfredo threw his winnings at Violetta and his father makes his entrance to disinherit him that really made my 15-year-old brain say, “this is really awesome”.

    OL - Cool! That was a good start! Please tell us about your personality, take on life, and extra-musical hobbies and interests.

    TF - Wow where to start… To be completely honest my personality at times really mirrors Papageno’s. In fact my wife sometimes calls me Papageno at home. What I mean by that is, I’m really honest and open about who I am and also try to stay young at heart. As for my take on life that is always in flux as I think most people’s are. As I grow older and experience more of life my thoughts and feeling change on many things. I truly feel blessed to be doing what I do for a living and to have a very loving and supportive family and team behind me.

    Outside of music I really try to branch out in as many ways as possible. I do everything from rock-climbing and whitewater kayaking to taking beginners ballet classes and read comics. The reason I’m so eclectic in my interests and hobbies is because I have found that the more life experiences I acquire the more I have to put into my Art and cross-disciplinary training has been incredibly beneficial to me as an Opera singer. One of the more “out of the box” things I’ve done recently is work in car sales with Flow Volkswagen in Winston-Salem. I decided to go into sales in order to gain another skill and to get more comfortable around people so I can socialize better at fundraisers and other events.


    Brittany Robinson in the role of Queen of the Night

    Hailed by the South Florida Classical for her “luminous tones” and “lush voice,” soprano Brittany Robinson made her Florida Grand Opera main stage debut as Musetta in La Bohème in 2012, previously participating in the young artists program as Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Yvette in La Rondine, and the Page in Rigoletto. Last season she debuted the title role of Lakmé with Opera Theatre of the Rockies, and Tytania in Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream with Opera on the Avalon, where she will also premiered the newly commissioned opera to commemorate the anniversary of WW I, written by John Estacio and John Murrell. She will be featured as the Soprano Soloist in Haydn's Creation with the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra. Ms. Robinson received her Bachelor and Graduate degrees from The Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University and is currently residing in New York City. This is Opera Lively's interview number 167.

    Luiz Gazzola for Opera Lively - The Queen of the Night is not a very long role, but it has two arias that are wickedly.difficult. Please tell us about their challenges. Which one you find more difficult, the first or the second, and why?

    Brittany Robinson - The Queen of the Night is an exciting yet challenging role. First it is the only role that the composer has written out high Fs in the music. In other repertoire you have the option of including cadenzas in which you are able to improvise to the music and include as many high notes as you want. In this case Mozart decided to write his own dramatic coloratura which includes the high Fs. The challenge with this is the precision that is require, since everyone is expecting to hear the amazing coloratura because it is so rare, puts alot of pressure on the individual singer. But once you figure out how to sing it, it never leaves you! ; )

    Production picture for this show, credit in the picture

    The second challenge is portraying the manipulative evil Queen. It takes a lot of energy and focus to create and portray the rage that is required in the second aria. This is why I find the second aria to be a bit more challenging. There has to be a balance between the acting and singing. The goal is to create enough tension and drama to master the evil in your body, but not to have tension while you're singing. This takes alot of experimentation and testing your limits.

    OL - There is a lot of spoken dialogue that requires good acting and then right after that you need to jump into high coloratura. Any comments?

    I find my dialogue actually helps me build the energy and drive for the second aria. Since I have a long rest period in between both arias, having dialogue helps me to regain focus for what is to come.

    OL - It is interesting to notice that in most operas the sopranos are the good girls and the mezzos are the evil ones, while here it’s the opposite. Is it fun to portray the evil one for a change?

    BR - Absolutely!! My personality is very easy going and cheerful. The majority of the time I play the damsel in distress or the comedic characters. This role I am able to tap into something a bit more sinister and it has been alot of fun!!

    OL - Lakmé, a role you’ve done as well, also contains difficult coloratura. How do you
    compare this role to the Queen of the Night’s?

    BR - Lakmé and the Queen are both difficult in there own way. In both roles you have two signature arias Lakmé's Bell song and the Queen's Vengeance aria. Since these are so familiar to the audience it can add to the pressure. Also both roles require great stamina throughout the roles. Lakmé barely has any down time in the whole opera so pacing yourself is key. The music is very demanding in the Queen and it stretches my voice from the highest high to the lowest lows, along with portraying the character. I might have more breaks within the Magic Flute, but I still have to have enough stamina to get through both of the rigorous arias.

    OL - You did The Magic Flute with the legendary Samuel Ramey as Sarastro. Please tell us about this experience. What did you learn from this great singer?

    BR - I performed the Queen with the Sounds of South Dakota in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Before heading to South Dakota I had the pleasure of meeting Samuel Ramey a couple months before while I singing with the Crested Butte Music Festival in Colorado. Since meeting him I knew I was going to have a blast in SD! The stage presence and determination every time he walked on stage was unbelievable , and he always remained humble and had a caring and joyful attitude anywhere he went!

    OL - You’ve done a Gospel tour and had jazz appearances as well. What gives you more pleasure, singing other genres, opera, or both?

    BR - I find my joy in all types of music! Even though I am trained as a classical singer I find versatility in other genres which really helps my overall musicianship. While I was on tour with Wynston Marsalis I learned many new ideas and styles which in turn enhanced my voice and I am now able to incorporate different techniques in my singing.

    OL - Following up on this, how did opera come into your life, growing up?

    BR - I grew up in Minnesota so I started singing at a young age in church and of course around the house. The Midwest is known for the prestigious choirs, so when I was in middle school I was part of a select girl choir in the Twin Cities and that's how I became introduced to classical music. All through middle and high school, I did a lot of musical theater, art songs, and some early music. I didn't get introduced to opera until I went to college at The Peabody Institute at the Johns Hopkins University. While there my eyes were open to a whole new stagecraft and I fell in love!

    OL - Please tell us about your personality, take on life, and extra-musical hobbies and interests.

    BR - My take on life I find is very simple. My parents always told me to find the love and keep the faith. Whether I am putting my all into singing, dancing it out in my Samba or Zumba classes, or enjoying time with my friends, I always find joy and motivation in everything I do!


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    Another principal singer includes Ashraf Sewailam in the role of Sarastro.


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    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
      Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva) -
      We have added another interview to this article: Annamarie Zmolek in the role of Pamina.
    1. Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
      Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva) -
      We have added another interview to this article: Ted Federle in the role of Papageno.
    1. Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
      Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva) -
      We have added another interview to this article: Brittany Robinson in the role of Queen of the Night. We also added two production pictures.

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