• The Elixir of Love at Piedmont Opera - Interview with Jodi Burns (Adina)

    Dear readers, please see our interview with David Blalock [here], for Piedmont Opera's L'Elisir d'Amore. That interesting interview contains the announcement for the show and the link to tickets. It opens this Friday March 15, in Winston-Salem, NC.

    Today we are adding to that chat with David, another one with the female principal role, Adina, interpreted by the excellent Jodi Burns. Enjoy Jodi's very intelligent answers! Both these artists have added a lot to the understanding of this fabulous opera by Donizetti.

    Learn more about the soprano by exploring this page: [click here]

    Jodi Burns - Photo Credit Unknown - will be added on demand - fair promotional use


    The Exclusive Opera Lively Interview with soprano Jodi Burns

    Questions by Luiz Gazzola - Copyright Opera Lively - Reproduction authorized as long as the source is mentioned and a link to this article is provided.

    Luiz Gazzola for Opera Lively - We are happy to see you again on the stage of Piedmont Opera, given that your performances are always excellent (I still remember your great Micaëla in Carmen, and your fabulous Anna Sorensen in Silent Night, which I thought was the best one of the three I've seen live). You've done Adina with the Fletcher Institute before, as a student. Tell us about what is different this time around, as a professional, and what your expectations are for this show.

    Jodi Burns - Thank you for your kind words regarding past performances! We are so fortunate to have your voice and continued presence sharing in the love of this art form... I too am so excited to perform with Piedmont Opera again, a place where I feel so at home, but also always challenged to learn and grow... Silent Night was a very special production that it was my great honor to be a part of.

    On to Adina... It is quite fun to approach a role having done it before at UNCSA, while still in the stages of learning. While I have always felt an undeniable connection to music and singing, the role of Adina the first time around was a challenge for me because her personality and physicality are so different from my own. I certainly feel more of a visceral and empowered connection to the stage and movement now as a singer with many roles behind me. I think that having this chance to have a second look at Adina, at a different stage of life, offers me the opportunity to give her more breadth, more confidence and control in the beginning so that by the end when you see her be truly vulnerable, it is a noticeable and powerful shift.

    Singing it is fun! It's like traveling through the roads of a city you know well, but in a different kind of vehicle. Like, I had a smaller compact car before, and now have to figure out how to navigate with a larger instrument down the same pathways...

    OL - Please tell us about Adina's psychological arc. She is a rather interesting character, with her ambivalent feelings towards Nemorino. What is your take on acting this character?

    JB - Adina has been played as a very one-dimensional character many times over. She often comes off as coy and heartless, which makes her shift in the end toward Nemorino feel false, and just like a plot point rather than a story arc. In my mind, she is a young woman who was inherited land and a business from parents who are no longer with us. She is and has been responsible for the livelihood of herself and those that work the land. She thinks practically about life, and enjoys the world she lives in. She gets all she needs her sense of ownership over her own destiny, from her responsibilities, and from sharing in good times with the people in her community.

    Nemorino has been a dear friend since childhood. He is open-hearted and kind, fun-loving and makes Adina laugh, but she could never see herself with someone as doe-eyed and innocent as he. She prefers to stay in control of her life, and not let thoughts of love or romantic ideals wash over her.

    Belcore is the movie star personality around town, who every so often gives her the opportunity to flirt, display her feminine wiles for an hour or two, and then move on, back to life.

    When unbeknownst to Adina, Nemorino starts drinking the wine ("ELIXIR of LOVE") he has purchased from the traveling snake oil salesman, Dulcamara, she sees in a change in his energy, affectation, and is thrown off. She begins to feel stirrings of something she has not felt before when he sings the arresting aria, "Adina Credimi" in the Act I finale. You see her trying and failing again and again to regain control over the situation.

    She gradually starts believing in the notion that Nemorino has been espousing for so long, that to fully enjoy being alive means sharing in love and connection with someone, knowing also that he is not like other men she has known who would try to take power or control over her. We see her fall, as so many do, for the best friend who was always right there.

    OL - Donizetti is likely to be easy for you. Do you see any vocal challenges in singing the role of Adina?

    JB - Great question! Donizetti in many ways, (besides the frequent high notes!) can look easy on the page. But being at the height of style in the Bel Canto era, there is much to be read beyond just what you see. Bel Canto requires a strong interplay between orchestra and singer, one always spurring the other on.

    The greatest challenge in Bel Canto is to attempt to infuse often simple beautiful melodies with the real intention of the character in each moment. It is not good enough just to sing beautifully. Often we have to sing the same words over and over again, but infusing them each time with a different meaning. This means constantly working to interpret, and to change vibrato, color of tone, breath intensity, volume... A great deal of work is left up to each individual voice in this way.

    OL - You are the singer/songwriter in the band Judy Barnes, which performs throughout the state and has had feature spots at Hopscotch Music Festival and the Phuzz Phest. Please tell me more about this aspect of your career.

    JB - I have had the great honor of working with many brilliant musicians that live and work in Winston-Salem through this project. I began writing songs as a teenager, and have never stopped. I begin with simple melodies and chord structures which then fill out with harmonies and textures depending on who is playing in the band. As a young singer with a classical style voice, I often felt unrepresented in current popular music. With Judy Barnes, my partner Tim Nolan and I worked to maintain a sound that makes it so that I can sing with my true voice, using the techniques learned throughout my studies, but in a context which might reach out to a different audience.

    It is cinematic pop music, the music often starting soft and intimate and growing toward a catharsis of some kind. There is great power in the way that music can affect our state of mind in a moment, or over several hours. This draws me to opera as well as pop music, and Judy Barnes is a manifestation of this intention to connect, and allow people to feel strong emotion in a public setting.

    OL - Now you are a member of the voice faculty at the UNCSA. What are some of the pieces of advice you give to your young students?

    JB - I was able to teach for Dr. Marilyn Taylor in an adjunct capacity while she was off teaching at the Eastman School of Music, so I am not officially on the staff at UNCSA. But, I do teach in my private studio and at the UNCSA Community Music School, and love doing it.

    Advice for young students? Be malleable but be attentive to yourself and your identity. Listen and record everything your teachers tell you. They will give you so much and you can only take in so much of it at a time... When taking auditions, remember that the auditioners want you to be good; they don't enjoy watching someone struggle or worry. They are on your team! You will probably feel that you receive more criticism than applause from teachers, but there are usually 10 things you're doing very well, and the 2 things you're being asked to improve are the things that will take you to the next level. Be strong and keep working. And, it's OK to cry and have bad days. Your instrument lives inside your body and is temperamental just like you are.

    OL - Tell us about you as a person. What's your personality like? What do you like to do besides opera and classical music?

    JB - OK! Let's see... In general I am an introverted goofball. I love to crack my friends up, but also very much enjoy being quiet and home alone.. I enjoy being outside and listening to the world around me, the birds, the wind blowing through leaves and grass. I love to be near water, and drink in the sun (as much as is advisable for a redhead...). If I could live outside I would, but then I am also very sensitive to cold, so that could never happen.

    My partner Tim is a brilliant distiller and owns a craft cocktail bar, so I get to taste his delicious experiments and eat the incredible food he makes in our home almost every night.

    I listen to music constantly, a wide range of genres. I can't stop listening to Maria Callas, her expressivity melts me. Outside of opera, my favorites are '60s and 70's soul, rock and pop. Carole King, Queen, Dolly Parton, Emmy Lou Harris, The Byrds, The Kinks, The Zombies, Karen Dalton, Aretha Franklin, Roberta Flack, Dusty Springfield, The Beach Boys, Electric Light Orchestra. Newer stuff I like: Lauryn Hill, Kendrick Lamar, Aldous Harding, Tame Impala, The War on Drugs... Music has only to be sincere to gain my respect, regardless of genre. Oh and there's a young woman whose band is called Weyes Blood. I think she has an incredible pop sensibility and a heartrending sense of melody.

    Thank you for your insightful and thoughtful questions! I have had such a wonderful time answering them!

    OL - Thank you, Jodi. Always a pleasure!


    For a sample of the singer's voice, watch this videoclip:


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