• The Exclusive Opera Lively Interview with Jessica Pratt

    [Opera Lively interview # 100] Opera Lively has interviewed over Skype up-and-coming British born, Australian-raised, Italian-trained soprano Jessica Pratt, who had been spotted by some of our members as a high-quality young singer who is making a big name for herself in Europe, but is still poorly known in North America, where she has sung only once so far (at the Caramoor Festival in upstate New York). A bel canto specialist, Ms. Pratt has sung at La Scala, at Covent Garden, at La Fenice, at the Rossini Festival in Pesaro, and in numerous important regional houses in Italy, the country she now calls home, as well as elsewhere in Europe. Her discography is growing, and having seen some of her recorded work, we are impressed! For such a young singer, it boasts already nine items!

    Ms. Pratt is not only an extremely gifted singer, but also a very intelligent and articulate young woman. Her interview is courageous. She doesn't hesitate in speaking up about controversial issues such as how opera houses and big agencies sometimes don't have a singer's best interest at heart. She majored in Psychology to better understand her characters, and it shows - she has interesting insights to share about some of opera's most intriguing figures.

    Once more, our goal of alternating interviews with acclaimed luminaries - the established stars - and those with singers who are still working to break through the ranks, paid off. While talking to the famous international stars is fascinating, often the young singers are the ones who don't hesitate to say some deep truths - so, readers, don't dismiss these talks with the emerging artists: they are often among the most interesting of our interviews, and Ms. Pratt's is another example to confirm this rule - although in certain regards Ms. Pratt is beyond this classification already, since she's been singing with the most prestigious European houses and has a huge following in Italy where she is considered to be "the" new bel canto star.

    Singer - Jessica Pratt
    Fach - Light coloratura soprano
    Born in - Bristol, UK, on June 20, 1979
    Lives in - Como, Italy
    Recently in - Guillaume Tell, Ópera Perú, South America; I Capuletti e i Montecchi, Opéra de Reims, France
    Next in - Demetrio e Polibio - Teatro San Carlo, Naples [tickets (here)]; then Rigoletto in Seville, La Sonnambula in Bari, and L'Africaine at La Fenice in Venice.
    Singer's official website - www.jessicapratt.org

    Artistic Biography

    Hailed by the New York Times as a soprano of “...gleaming sound, free and easy high notes, agile coloratura runs and lyrical grace,” Jessica Pratt is quickly becoming one of today's foremost interpreters of some bel canto's most challenging repertoire.

    Ms. Pratt's 2012/13 season includes performances of Amina in La sonnambula at Gardini Naxos, Gilda in Rigoletto with Teatro Regio di Parma and Teatro de la Maestranza de Seville, Matilde in Guillaume Tell at Ópéra Perú, Lisinga in Demietrius e Polibio at Teatro San Carlo, Giulietta in I Capuleti e Montecchi with Opéra de Reims, and a New Year's Gala of belcanto with the Vlaamse Opera.

    In a busy 2011/12 season Ms. Pratt sang performances of Lucia di Lammermoor with Israeli Opera, and Teatro San Carlo Napoli, Amina in La sonnambula, as well as her solo vocal recital “la prima donna” at Teatro La Fenice, Cunegonde in Candide with Teatro dell'Opera di Roma, Elvira in I puritani with Teatros Cremona, Brescia, Pavia, and Como, as well as performances of Amira in the new Critical Edition of Ciro in Babalonia with the Caramoor Festival, New York and the Rossini Opera Festival, Pesaro.

    Candide in Rome, photo credit Corrado M. Falsini

    Since her European debut in 2007 in the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor, other highlights of Ms. Pratt's schedule have included performances at some of Europe's most important theaters and festivals: the Vienna States Opera, Teatro alla Scala Milan, Opernhaus Zürich, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Wildbad Rossini Festival, and the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, working with conductors such as: Daniel Oren, Ralf Weikart, Antonino Fogliani, Donato Renzetti, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Wayne Marshall, David Parry, Nello Santi, Kent Nagano, Sir Colin Davis and Christian Thielemann.

    Ms. Pratt is the winner of several prestigious international vocal competitions including the Australian Singing Competition, the Vienna State Opera Award, and the Rome Opera Award.

    On the 8th of May 2013 Jessica was awarded the International prize "La Siola d'Oro" Lina Pagliughi.

    Photo Credit Gigio Gatteo Mare

    Photo Credit Gigio Gatteo Mare


    On CD and DVD Ms. Pratt has recorded for the Unitel Classical, Arthaus Musik, Naxos, and Bel Air Classique labels in repertoire ranging from Rossini's Desdemona in Otello from the Wildbad Rossini Festival (CD), Amira in Ciro in Babilonia (DVD) and the title role of Adelaide di Borgogna with the Rossini Opera Festival (DVD, also on blu-ray disc), the New Year's Gala from Teatro La Fenice (DVD), Bellini's La Sonnambula from La Fenice (DVD), Donna Isabella in Vaccai's La sposa di Messina (CD), as well as Donizetti's Le convenienze ed inconvenienze teatrali (a.k.a. Viva la mamma) from Teatro alla Scala in Milan (DVD), and participations in two other CDs (Bel Canto Bully, and A Guided Tour of the Romantic Era, volume 3).


    The Exclusive Opera Lively Interview with Jessica Pratt

    © Opera Lively - Disclaimer: this exclusive interview is copyrighted by Opera Lively with all rights reserved, and is 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 Opera Lively journalists Mary Auer and Luiz Gazzola. Photo Credits - Luis Condrò unless othewise stated.


    OL – Thank you for doing this. I’ve just watched your Ciro in Babilonia, and oh my God, you are so good!

    JP – Thank you!

    OL – I watched your Adelaide di Borgogna Blu-Ray disc as well, and it’s wonderful.

    Congratulations. People here in the United States don’t know you as well as in Europe, and I hope this will change and your career will explode over here.

    JP – Well, I’ve only been working for five years now, so it’s not been very long that I’ve been performing. I had my debut in America last year.

    OL – Right. We’d like to begin by talking a little about your background. You were born in England and grew up in Australia. Can you tell us what role music played in your home when you were growing up? Your father Phillip Pratt was a tenor, was your mother also a musician?

    JP – My father was a tenor, and my mother is a visual artist. So we were exposed to both, visual arts and music, in every sense when we were children. My father would sing us opera arias when we went to sleep, and he would tell us the stories of the operas rather than regular fairy tales; and my mother would paint our bedrooms; she would paint all the walls with our favorite characters and whatever else we wanted. So I studied sculpture and enjoyed painting and at the same time I studied music. The thing was, when I went to university it was to do my art, but I had issues with selling my artwork. I didn’t want to sell it because it was mine, so you can’t have a career like that. [laughs] I continued to sing all the time, and I remember when I went to the interview at university I told them that I wanted to be both an artist and singer, and they said “you can’t do both, you have to decide” and I said, “oh no, it’s not like that, I’ll do the art in the day and I’ll sing at night.” As time went on I realized that you really can’t have that much time; you need to be one or the other if you want to do it well, so I chose singing.

    OL – How old were you, then?

    JP – When I started studying singing seriously, I was eighteen. I always wanted to be a singer because that’s what we did in my family, but my father refused to teach me until I was eighteen. He wanted my voice to develop naturally. He said I had to play a wind instrument for at least ten years first, so I chose the trumpet. I played in an orchestra and a jazz band as a teenager, then when I was old enough to start singing he said I could start, so I stopped the trumpet and started singing.

    OL - Before you went to Europe to study with Maestro Gelmetti and Renata Scotto, you began your voice studies in Australia for one year at the conservatory. What made you leave?

    JP – The conservatory can be good and it can be bad. They certainly have a very good system in Australia as opposed to what I have found in Italy, talking to my colleagues. In Australia for the Opera Course in addition to the vocal coaching and lessons we had classes in Yoga, Dancing and Movement, Alexander Technique, Spoken Language courses in Italian, French, and German and Singing Language courses for pronunciation separately. They were good courses. In my case, I went for about a year and then when the option to continue my studies privately in Italy came up I felt that would be an opportunity not to miss and I left the conservatory and chose to explore further studies in Europe.

    Before my studies in the conservatory I trained personally. I would get up at six in the morning and work as a secretary until one in the afternoon and all the money I earned I spent on private teachers. If I went to a concert and liked the concert I would find a way to contact the conductor and ask if I could study with him privately. I had lessons in dancing, conducting and stage directing. I also studied psychology and drama in an Arts degree with the Queensland University because I thought that would help me to understand the characters and so on. When I moved to Europe I continued this manner of study, I feel it is more time efficient having personal lessons with select people.

    OL – Oh wow, you studied Psychology. I’m a psychiatrist myself during the day, and in evenings and weekends I do opera journalism. It does help to understand the psychology of the characters, definitely. But back to your teachers; Madame Scotto was one of the great sopranos during the second half of the 20th century. What was she like as a teacher?

    JP – When I went to see Renata Scotto, she wanted to work mainly with the interpretation and the vocal line, that kind of thing. She didn’t want to work on technique, because she felt that by the time a singer was with her they had to already have the technique ready. She was a good interpretive teacher because she is a very intelligent person. She is very good at telling you exactly what she needs and what she wants, whereas I think a lot of famous singers perhaps don’t know exactly why they did what they did. Teaching and performing are two separate skills. She was actually very good at the teaching as well as at performing.

    OL – Nice. Have you stayed in contact with her since establishing your own international career? If so, do you ever ask her for advice?

    JP – Yes, every now and then.

    OL - And what about your studies with Maestro Gelmetti? What specifically did you work on with him?

    JP – Maestro Gelmetti heard me in a competition in Australia and invited me to come watch performances and rehearsals in Italy, so that’s what I did. I came to Italy and spent six months at the Rome Opera Theatre, where he was the musical director, watching performances and rehearsals. He wouldn’t let me take time off. I had to be at the theater before everybody else and leave the theater after everybody else, so it was quite intense. It was good. I remember one time when I asked him if I could go and study Italian and he said, “no, you have to learn it here at the theater.” When I went back to Australia I was speaking Romano, I was speaking with an accent. [laughs]

    OL – So, how old were you when you went to Rome?

    JP – It was nine years ago. I was twenty-four.

    OL – Was it difficult to leave Australia and go to Europe and be there by yourself?

    JP – I think singers are a bit of an odd group of people because we do things without thinking about it. We take big risks because we don’t see them as big risks. I remember doing an interview in Australia once when someone asked me how much money I spent on lessons and I had no idea, because I would spend my money until it was gone. There was no thought of “I’ll spend a thousand a week” or any sort of planning. For me it wasn’t spending money; it didn’t count. It was the same thing with coming to Europe. When I first came here it was because Gelmetti invited me. I won a competition as well so I could come over but the return plane ticket was for a set date so I could only go back to Australia after eight months. I cried the entire way on the plane because I was leaving my family, everybody and everything I knew and then I got used to it. The first couple of weeks I was sad when I was on my own, and then I was fine. That's what happens, humans are adaptable, with time one can get used to anything. Plus we are very fortunate now as singers as we cannot only speak to our families on the other side of the world, but we can see them too via video calls.

    OL - Likely your teacher Lella Cuberli who is a bel canto specialist is instrumental in your training. She is American. Tell me about her.

    JP – Lella is a very good technical teacher. She helps me a lot with my technique and of course we sing much of the same repertoire. She really helps me with understanding different belcanto techniques and she is brilliant in interpretation and fraseggio. Apart from that, she is a really, really lovely person. Her being American and having moved to Italy and worked a lot in Italy, she understands a lot of what I go through. Without her the last few years would have been a lot more difficult.

    OL - In a recent interview with the magazine “Opera Now,” Kiri Te Kanawa mentioned how much the role of the singer’s agent has changed since she began her career. She said that, at that time, agents really developed and nurtured a singer’s career. For example, she said her agent made sure that she auditioned with the right pieces at the right places that suited her as a performer. But now, she says, agents only take care of a singer’s bookings. What has been your experience in this regard?

    JP – Yes, I think what I see in general with the agencies is exactly what she says. It’s very much about booking; the secretarial work rather than actually creating and planning a career, there are so many young singers and they are so willing to do anything now… I remember in the beginning I would fight a lot with agencies, preferring to stay home for six months rather than accepting jobs that weren’t appropriate. Then hopefully you get to a point where you begin to have a decent career and you can find an agent who will start to take you a little more seriously.

    I think that singers tend to suffer a lot in the beginning – especially when they go into a big agency. Often the agency will just book whatever for that singer until they get to a point where they have some sort of name and then maybe the agency will be interested in creating something or sticking with it, unless you have a good agent, or you are lucky like I am now to have an agency that is actually interested in you as a singer and as an individual.

    Unfortunately in many cases it is simply a game of numbers, an agency can choose to take one singer who wants to preserve their voice and sing for forty years, keeping to a specific repertoire and choosing carefully their productions and with whom they work or an agent can take on a series of young singers who will sing anything under any conditions for five to ten years before they burn out. Taking an example of 20 years, a singer who wants to preserve their voice might choose to do only five or six productions a year, on the other hand an agency can choose to take on four young singers who are willing to do ten productions a year, but will more than likely throw them away after five years. They make more money with the four short careers, than with the one who will sing less frequently for twenty years.

    OL – That’s sad.

    JP – Yes.

    OL - Along a somewhat similar line, Wolfgang Sawallisch told an interviewer from the magazine “Opernwelt” that the cultivation of an opera house ensemble played a much more important role in postwar Europe than it does today. He mentioned that singers like Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau or Leonie Rysanek would have firm, long-term engagements as an ensemble member at a particular opera house, and that the Intendant or General Music Director would then work with these artists over time and assist them in the development of their careers. Today, things are very different.

    JP – Ah, this is a similar situation, having a permanent job in an opera house, now. What I’ve seen with my colleagues – I haven’t done it myself – is that very often the house does not care. They pay you every month and you have to sing whatever they say, and if that means ruining your voice, you ruin your voice. They just don’t care. There is no building up of singers or creating artists which takes time and energy and isn’t financially rewarding for a house or for an agency. So it’s really up to the singers to defend themselves and decide what they want.

    And it is not easy, because you have a house that will come to you, like with me, and they’ll say “we want to put on such and such for you, we know it is traditionally a role for a much more lyric voice but we are going to do a bel canto version, it’s going to be light, it’s going to be this and that,” and they offer you a lot of money, and you have to say “no” to them. And your agent says, “try it, it’s only one production and then we will put it away for five years,” but it is not, because as soon as you do that one production and it goes well enough other theaters will ask and before you know it the offers have changed and you may find yourself being offered only this repertoire which you would not have willingly chosen. I felt like it was me against the entire world in the beginning – against the theater,the conductor and the agent – they all said “well, it will be great, we will be very careful, and we’ll do this…”

    And it’s not the case at all, because I’ve seen it, I’ve seen other singers, especially in these productions that I’ve refused, and I’ve seen the productions, and they weren’t light productions. It’s been a normal production where the singer that is too light for the role just goes under. And of course, when they crash and burn, nobody is there saying “oh, sorry, we’ll do something else.” They just pick up the next one.

    OL – Oh wow! That is a pity. Now, about your own career; you’ve sung many bel canto roles. But at the end of last year, you sang Donna Anna in Don Giovanni. This is a role that is usually sung by a spinto soprano, by someone who also sings Strauss and Wagner. Are you interested in singing more Mozart roles, or do you think your voice now is developing in a way that will lead you to heavier roles?

    JP – I’ve very happy with the repertoire I’m singing. I felt very comfortable with Donna Anna, but I certainly didn’t sing it like a Wagnerian soprano; I sang it with my voice. I think it depends very much on the size of the theater that you sing in, the rest of the cast, their timbre and vocal weight and so on. No, it’s absolutely not an indication of a change in my career.

    OL - Of course, there was another great Australian soprano who specialized in bel canto roles, but also sang Donna Anna, and even Turandot: Dame Joan Sutherland. Do you see yourself following a career path similar to hers? Just listening to your great bel canto delivery in Adelaide di Borgogna, I wonder if people in Australia have already started referring to you as the new Sutherland, which of course might put unwelcome burden on a singer. Any comments?

    JP – Australia has produced many wonderful singers including great coloratura sopranos like Dame Joan Sutherland and Nellie Melba. Dame Joan Sutherland had a voice that was completely unique and extremely special, a voice like hers is born once every few hundred years! She’s a big inspiration, certainly not a burden. I think it’s normal; it’s human nature to box people into things. You know, when a dark haired Greek dramatic soprano comes on the scene I'm sure many people are hoping for the next Maria Callas; when you say you’re a tenor immediately people think Pavarotti, Domingo, that’s just the way it is.

    It’s typical for us human beings not to look at people as individuals. It’s what we do; we think “she was the last great soprano to sing this repertoire, is this the next so and so?” rather than saying “this person is a different individual with a different set of chords, training and life experience.” I listen to Dame Joan Sutherland most days; I find her incredibly inspirational, especially when she sings the mad scene for Ophelia in Hamlet; there isn’t anything more perfect than that; it’s exquisite.

    OL – Nice answer, I liked it. You are a light coloratura soprano, at this time, right?

    JP – Yes, exactly. I’m a coloratura soprano.

    OL – Which you do very well and I hope you preserve it, and don’t let those agents ruin it.

    JP – No, I’m lucky. My agent is good with me. They know my opinion and they are very careful with me as well; they are very supportive.

    OL - Dame Joan was also a great Baroque stylist. You’ve sang back in time as far as Mozart with your Queen of the Night in Covent Garden. Do you have any interest in exploring the truly Baroque repertoire, such as Handel?

    JP – I’d love to sing some Baroque, especially for example Cleopatra which would be really interesting. Most of my career has taken place here in Italy and they don’t put it on so much. Emotionally I really feel at home with Bellini; I love his legato and his language, his sense of emotion. I adore the music of Donizetti, Thomas, Halevy and Rossini. When I listen to opera I tend toward belcanto, I’m very fortunate as I am able to perform the music I adore listening to and so I’m happy with what I have. But absolutely, if I got offered something Baroque as long as it is appropriate for my voice, I would accept it.

    OL - You’re scheduled to sing Inéz in L'Africaine in November 2013 at La Fenice, and Meyerbeer's music does have Italianate influence especially in the vocal parts, given his time in Italy with Rossini. So, it doesn’t seem to be a very significant departure from bel canto, or is it? Can you tell us more about singing Meyerbeer versus singing bel canto?

    JP – I don’t know yet, I’ll have to tell you after I’ve sung it. [laughs] Because one can study an opera, but you never really know what it is like until you perform it.

    OL – Typically, you start studying a new role like L’Africaine, how many months in advance?

    JP – It depends on the situation, because for example when I debuted Romeo et Juliette I only had three weeks to learn it. I was asked to come and sing it as a favor, because there had been a cancellation. In a similar situation I had to debut Eudoxie in La Juive and so while I was rehearsing Lucia di Lammermoor all day in the evenings I was studying Eudoxie. I mean, I can learn an opera in two or three weeks, but it’s not ideal; you can’t do your best. I took a month off in March / April between Guillaume Tell in Lima and I Capuleti e i Montecchi in Reims to be at home because I had to study my next three operatic debuts before my next break in August. First I debuted in I Capuleti e i Montecchi in April, then Rossini's Demetrio e Polibio in Naples in May, followed by Rigoletto (an opera I have already performed) in Sevilla with Leo Nucci and I will have my debut as Giovanna d’Arco by Verdi at the Valle d'Itria Festival in Martina Franca in July. So I didn't take the month in March / April so much to study these roles, but to sing them with my teacher because otherwise when I’m always on the road I don’t get the chance to go and see her. This year because I’m debuting six operas, I have taken three months off, not continuously but three weeks here, four there. While I’m singing an opera I’m studying the next one so that when I get home I have it ready to go to lessons.

    OL – Do you go to the literary sources as well, when they’re available? Do you read the novels or plays?

    JP – Yes, of course! It’s often very different, for example in Sir Walter Scott's novel The Bride of Lammermoor, Lucia's brother is a little boy, it’s her mother who manipulates the situation, whereas in the opera by Donizetti the librettist Salvadore Cammarano portrays her mother as dead and her adult brother is the manipulator. It is very important to read as much as possible on the subject, not only the direct sources, but also other literature on the subject or of the time period or the emotional state. For example, for Lucia, Tess of the d’Ubervilles by Hardy creates fantastic imagery and more of a sense of the desperation of a woman who has been pushed to her extreme. Lucia is pushed to her extreme as well in Sir Walter Scott’s novel, but with Hardy’s novel, he really gets inside Tess and you feel for this woman who is completely sane but years of continued pressure and horrible injustices, societal constraints and circumstances finally push her over the edge and she commits murder and loses her mind.

    I think it’s important that we don’t only read the books that the opera is based on, but we also read other novels. They can be modern, they can be historical, but they give us an idea of that emotional state. It’s also important to simply read – for me anyway – period novels constantly, in order to keep a fresh idea of what it was like when people couldn't shower, they didn’t bath, women didn’t have the right to be in a room alone with another man. People would think a lot about what they wrote to one another in a letter, because it may be the only opportunity they had to communicate in that month. Today with all our ease of communication sometimes I feel that we do not give enough attention to the words we use we live in a throw away society where everything is easily replaceable, even relationships.

    Three hundred years ago people couldn't get on the internet and straight away have 20 options for a new partner, they had to work it out with who they had as the option to leave a marriage was not an easy one. For example, Dona Elvira in Don Giovanni, she doesn’t have a choice. He married her in front of the entire village. She was a rich woman and now she has to go to a convent. It’s so sad, I think she chases him and tries to get him back to being her husband so that she can simply continue to live her life as a married woman in her own home. I mean, we see her as some crazy lunatic, but she is not, she is reacting to the circumstances and trying to make the best of it.

    OL - Let’s talk some more about some of your major roles. Lucia di Lammermoor: Do you think she’s emotionally unstable from the start, or does her brother’s treatment of her – and maybe Edgardo’s treatment of her – push her over the edge mentally?

    JP – It think that Lucia is suggestible, in her opening aria she describes seeing a phantom in the fountain, she is definitely attracted to death and to negative things right from the beginning and demonstrates obsessive behaviour in regard to Edgardo. She has already been attacked by a wild boar but she goes out unprotected in the night anyway to meet Edgardo. She’s definitely in love with him, unhealthily in love with him. Also Edgardo throughout the entire opera is not necessarily a nice guy. Straight away, during the duet he flairs into anger at the slightest indication of rebuke and switches between being loving and being quite aggressive and attacking her and she thrives on that, perhaps because her brother is also like that with her as well in his duet.

    I think she is probably used to this type of relationship with a man. The men in her world are generally aggressive and closed and only occasionally open. She finds the same type of man in Edgardo as she has known in Enrico, in my opinion. When she is forced to marry somebody else, she resists until she believes that Edgardo does not want her and then in my opinion decides to sacrifice herself for the sake of her family, perhaps she thinks she can just die internally and go through with it, but when she sees Edgardo at the wedding it is too much for her. Everybody has to have their own idea; I have mine. I think she probably goes to the bed chamber with the intention of killing herself with the knife, and then when Arturo approaches her and tries to have his right she kills him in self defense and that sends her over the edge.

    Lucia in Naples - photo credit Luciano Romano

    OL - Then there is Elvira in I Puritani, who also goes mad – though, unlike poor Lucia, she eventually regains her senses and gets to marry the man she loves. Modern medicine might diagnose Elvira’s “madness” as severe depression rather than actual insanity. Would you agree with this?

    JP – Yes, I think Arturo ends up with a really fragile wife. I always imagine them in their middle age with her sipping Valium all day long. This is a girl who lives completely on her own with nobody her age around, no young people, few women in the castle, just one maid and her daydreaming of Arturo to keep her company. All in one day, she discovers she doesn't have to marry another man anymore and she will marry the man she loves, Arturo returns to the the castle bearing wedding gifts for her, then while putting on her wedding dress and preparing herself for the ceremony she comes out to see him running off with another woman in the wedding veil he presented her with hours before with no explanation. This would cause depression to most people I know! I don’t think she is crazy; like you said I think she is depressed and extremely confused. Even in the Mad Scene, she is not mad, she just sings “please come back, please come back.” She doesn’t recognize Riccardo when she sings “chi sei tu?” She is just gone into her little world, doesn’t really cope with what is going on around her.

    OL - Some of your heroines also find themselves in situations that modern audiences may find hard to understand. Gilda is one example; Amina is another. Social mores have changed so significantly in the past 50 years that many people seeing these operas for the first time may wonder what all the fuss is about. I suspect many women wish Amina would tell Elvino to get lost.

    JP – Yes, I think this is the problem with audiences today, they don’t have the understanding that the women in these situations didn’t have much choice; once they were found in a room with a man they had to marry that man or go to a convent or worse. It’s not a problem that has disappeared all together because there are still places where girls are forced to marry when they are still children, and there are still societies where girls are not allowed to be alone with men and have to be accompanied by male members of their families, so it’s certainly not something so far in the past that we couldn’t imagine it. It’s just not necessarily part of Western society, in America or England.

    OL - How do you create empathy for these characters and help modern audiences to understand them?

    JP – I love these characters. I’m a bit old-fashioned myself, so I totally identify with them. [laughs] I feel that another problem today is that we’re so distracted twenty-four hours a day; we have to respond to people immediately with the Internet, cell phones, Instant Messages and what not. We have free access to so much communication, and with all this easy and free communication it becomes worthless the real communication that we could have with each other, you know? Ten years ago when we were having a conversation with someone on the phone we would end by saying “good bye” and wouldn’t expect to talk to that person for at least a day. Now when I’m with my friends and the phone cuts off we just continue to do our things and it’s not an issue because we can then text to each other and so forth.

    We are losing a lot of formality in the way that we speak and conduct ourselves. The idea of writing a letter and waiting… When Callas was with her husband she would write a telegram and wait an entire day for a response. We couldn’t imagine that now. But I think in that telegram there was a lot more meaning than in the text messages we send today.

    That’s one of the problems we have, and we also have the problem of a shorter attention span. Our attention span is constantly getting shorter and shorter. With television and cinema, they constantly flash different images and camera angles to access the primal part of the brain that is attentive when something changes in the perimeter. We in the opera theatre don’t have that, so we are asking a public to go from being attentive to their environment, to sit quietly there and watch us sing. It’s not an easy ask for a public of today.

    Another important thing; empathy is something that seems to be lacking more and more in society today, and it’s crazy because today we see so much and we hear so many stories, that one would thing that our empathy would increase, but actually in my opinion it is decreasing between people, and I think music and theater have a responsibility to develop and encourage the publics empathy for the characters. When La Traviata was written it was a scandal because the protagonist was a prostitute and they couldn’t deal with that, they didn’t want that. The reason why they didn’t want that was because when they came out of theater they felt empathy for a dying prostitute. Before they went in the theater they may have felt that she deserved to die of consumption due to her trade.

    To give an example of a lack of empathy for a certain type of disease in more recent history, in the early 1980s many people did not feel empathy for people who contracted AIDS as it was associated with homosexuality and with drug use and there was a great lack of empathy for people suffering from the virus. Society needs to constantly develop understanding and empathy, it is too easy to just discriminate against what we don't understand. Hopefully the same people in the 1980s who were homophobic and might have said that a gay man deserves to die of HIV with education and exposure to gay people will realize that there is nothing strange or wrong about being gay and that no one deserves to die or be ill.

    So, I think it’s really important for opera and all the artforms to present and to help to develop certain ideas for people, so that when they are in the theatre, they relax, their emotions are accessed and as they watch the opera they start to reflect, hopefully, about things. I think the music helps us in that respect, to slow things down a little bit. It is no coincidence that one of the first things a political regime tries to, control, suppress and manipulate are the arts.

    OL – Interesting answer! Has there ever been a character with whom you found it difficult to sympathize? Or are there any roles you don’t think you would sing because you dislike the character and would find it difficult to find some aspect you could identify with?

    JP – No, so far no, but for example Norma is one that I wouldn’t tackle, at this point I don't have the life experiences to attempt to understand where she is coming from. I'm not saying that we have to experience everything that we portray onstage, we have to be able to exaggerate experiences we’ve had and create a web of our own experiences and others experiences that we may have lived through with them which can serve to interpret the character we are playing and I think that’s also where reading can really help. I think reading is more important than watching cinema or television. Cinema and television are helpful but at a certain stage the problem with television is that it is a passive medium, it gives you images, you don’t have to create them, whereas if you’re reading, there is much, much more information in a novel than in a television adaption or a movie about the novel.

    Also reading you develop your imagination and your ability to create pictures and so on, and I think it’s really important for us to be able to put ourselves in that situation and fill it in with emotions. So if your role asks you to kill another character, we could take emotions from experiences we’ve had and just say, “OK, this is similar, this is not similar, if I exaggerate this ten times, it might feel like I was killing this person.”

    I haven’t found a character that I dislike, and I feel very, very protective of the characters I do like. Lucia is very important to me, as is Elvira. I feel protective of them as personalities, I’m not quite sure why. I feel very cranky when I see them played like idiots that giggle, I'm not saying mad people don't laugh but the intention behind the laugh or the calmness that is contrary to the circumstance is what creates an atmosphere of madness for me. This little shallow girl that giggles is done by people who probably haven’t experienced firsthand depression or madness in their lives, because they will go for very simplified versions.

    For example, an aria I saw several years ago performed by a woman. She sang “Pleurez, mes yeux” – her father has been killed, and she sends someone to kill her lover even though she still loves him because he killed her father. And she says “now I can cry” – so this girl was being a bit hysterical, throwing herself around the stage, but it’s not like that, when someone is really at the very very end and they’re really depressed they are very still and empty and solid. So you can see what people have experienced and what they haven’t, to a certain extent when you see them on stage.

    OL – That’s right. That’s pretty much what I was thinking when you said it was too early for you to sing Norma – not only vocally. She is quite a different sort of person than Elvira or Amina, and maybe requires more gravitas, and is more suitable for a bit older performers – maybe you’re too young at 33 for Norma?

    JP – Hm, hm. Exactly. She is thinking about killing her children, and I haven’t even had any children. [laughs] With Norma, there are so many different problems. One, it’s one of the Callas roles, so you are really asking for it, if you are singing it. Two, the problem of young singers singing it, it’s not a question of whether you have the voice to sing it or the physical ability to sing it; it’s whether you have the ability to control yourself, because she gets so angry and it’s all central when she is angry; it’s aggressive and you need to be able to sing that, to project that, without trashing yourself. I’m certainly not at a stage when I can do that, because I get way too emotional, still.

    And I think that’s why it needs to be tackled later in your career when you learn to pace yourself more and to control your emotions when you are performing, and to find that balance between giving emotion and not giving everything. Also, with Norma, it’s another of those roles that once you sing it, then they ask you for that all the time, because there aren’t many, so it’s a bit of a misstep. If you are happy with what you are singing, why would you then go and sing a role where you are going to lose some of the things that are lighter? It’s a role that once you go to it, you don’t go back. And there is so much to sing in the repertoire that I’m in right now, that I don’t see the point.

    OL – Right. Now, if we could talk a little about your schedule and your plans: You live in Como, and you sing at many Italian opera houses, including, of course, La Scala. Do you consider yourself based in Italy?

    JP – I’m a resident in Italy, so, it’s my home. [Laughs] My dog is Italian. Absolutely, I live in Italy for my life and my career, and I like that. There is something good about living in Italy. When I moved here I was very Australian and I had the opinion that operas were exaggerated, and then gradually learning the language and living here where people are much more flamboyant and much more open and much more passionate… It’s not that they are more passionate, actually, because the Germans are just as passionate as the Italians; it’s just that an Italian person is much more comfortable with showing it. And they have faster emotions, more violent emotions, whereas a German or an Australian or myself might take a number of years to develop the emotions that an Italian will experience in a couple of months.

    So it’s good to feel part of it, because I sing the Italian repertoire so I need to speak the language. In Italy and I can have a career singing exclusively belcanto operas, works that in America are considered rare belcanto in Italy are standard repertoire for most theaters so there are just more options for me in Italy. I also feel that the orchestras in Italy play this music very differently. There is more respect in general for this type of repertoire.

    OL – How so?

    JP – There are differences between their pizzicato and that of other orchestras; just the way they play is different, they are not bored by it, with an Italian orchestra that knows how to accompany a belcanto singer it feels like they carry you along and you are floating on their sound below. Here they talk about the differences between Donizetti, Rossini, and Bellini, whereas maybe in Germany where they perform so many different operas they are talking about the differences between German repertoire and Italian repertoire – you know, much larger differences.

    An orchestra that plays Mozart and Strauss all the time is not going to play Rossini and Bellini brilliantly, just like an orchestra in Italy will not play Auber, for example, these are specialised repertoires. It’s not because they are Italian. It’s because they’ve been playing it the most, for a long, long time. With this crisis in Italy, if they close down an opera theater and a musician goes to find work elsewhere which is perfectly normal, you can’t then put together an orchestra in five years and expect that they will play this music brilliantly like before, because it’s not going to be the same. This type of playing and this type of emotion is passed on from one player to the next over the years, so if you interrupt this tradition, you’ll lose it

    OL - I interviewed Anna Caterina Antonacci recently, and she said that Italian operatic productions are frozen in time, and while they were theatrically compelling a decade ago, now they’re falling behind those of other countries. However I’ve just watched your blu-ray disc of Adelaide di Borgogna, and the stage director Pier’ Alli made compelling use of backstage projections, and I thought that the production was very good (not to forget, you sang angelically!). So what is your opinion of Italian productions, these days?

    JP – I disagree. Personally I really, really love traditional productions, so, that’s one of the reasons why I work in Italy. I don’t see the point of another Don Giovanni in which the entire cast is having an orgy. I really dislike this. I love the fantastic costumes that they make in Italy and the stagings, and that’s how I see opera, and I don’t think that just because it’s a period costume and a period production it doesn’t have to be relevant, because these emotions are relevant in every century. We work with the same emotions – love, hate, jealousy, happiness, sadness; that is always relevant. So no matter what you put on stage or around the stage, you should be able to act these emotions for the audience.

    I think that modern productions are also great; they can say a lot, they can add to it and so on, as long as they have a good reason – it can’t be just because someone wants to make a show of themselves, and then they put naked people on the stage so that people talk about it. Or, you have to sing a scene on stage while dancers are doing all the 'acting' and you are just immobile in the corner – I’ve seen this many a time – and the paradox is that the director puts the singer on a corner because obviously he thinks that the singer is a bore and has nothing to say. And it’s not true.

    I think a lot of the time people don’t trust in the ability of the music to slow things down for the public to be actually able to understand the underlying feelings. They need to let it be, to let the music come through on its own. And there is some fantastic poetry as well; we are not just talking about music, we are talking about language and stage movement. The singers should be able to move themselves in a way that is graceful inside their costumes and so on, and that can be very fascinating for the public.

    I remember – someone a few years back asked me where I was singing because they wanted to go and see an opera; they had never seen an opera in their entire lives and they were really interested. They went to the theater to buy tickets and they found out that it was a modern opera set in the 1980’s, so they didn’t buy tickets because they said they didn’t see the point of seeing an opera in the 1980’s; they wanted to see real opera. And that was a general public person.

    You know, this whole obsession about making opera relevant to the public of today by putting people in underwear or modern costumes, because they think that that makes it more accessible to the public, they are making a big mistake. Because the public can turn on the television and see that, and they can go to the cinema and see that. They want to see something different if they are going to pay all that money; they want to see something special.

    OL -Well, Italy has other difficulties now, with budget crisis, old theaters with poor acoustics that aren’t being renovated, and chaotic administration of opera houses. How is the experience of singing in Italy, these days?

    JP – As I said, I’ve been working for six years, mostly in Italy and it’s always been like this for me. [laughs] So I have no idea if it was different before. One knows that when one is singing in one year, maybe the contract will be cancelled, maybe there will be strikes, maybe they won’t pay you for six months or a year afterwards. But for me it really doesn’t make a difference. I don’t care. I mean, I do care if they are taking advantage, if they are doing it on purpose, then I’ll argue myself. But in my case I’ve been very lucky; I haven’t had any productions cancelled in six years, I have never had any contracts cancelled, and I’ve been paid by every theater I’ve sung in. Two or three theaters have taken six months to pay, but that’s all. And I knew that before I went there, and this was discussed, because they had problems.

    I don’t think one can go to work thinking that the money is the important thing. One has to take care of oneself, one has to be able to pay one’s bills, it’s absolutely true, and the theater shouldn’t be taking advantage of a situation, but it’s not the primary reason to decide if you are going to do a production or not, especially if the theater is honest with you and tells you that they have problems.

    In Italy most opera houses are not renovated so the backstage areas are like they were fifty years ago – I find it kind of romantic, I like that. The administration is frustrating in most cases, because they won’t tell you if you are singing first or second cast, when you’ll be singing, they change the dates, that kind of thing. There is this opinion in Italy that if you sing in an opera here, the opera house has the right to your entire life for that six week-period, and they will tell you every day what you will be doing next without giving you any kind of schedule.

    I suppose because I’ve always worked like that I’m OK with that and I don’t have issues. But the more I work outside of the country the more they give me a schedule and they give me days off, and I don’t have to work for fourteen hours a day, I start to think that it is actually quite nice to work outside of Italy. [laughs]

    OL – Well, I don’t want to appear like an Italy basher, because I’m actually a dual citizen; I’m Italian as well, so, I love Italy. I just wanted to discuss the situation there, a little bit. Not to forget that Como is such a beautiful region, so, you’re privileged.

    JP – Oh, that’s the thing, in Italy you walk out of the theater and you are surrounded by what you sang about. Verona is still like it was. You get a real feel for how people lived, especially in Venice. For example, you walk in Venice once all the shops are closed and it’s night time, you can imagine that you are there three or four hundred years ago. Where else can you do that? It’s incredible.

    OL – Right. Let’s talk about that Adelaide di Borgogna. I think it is a good showcase for bel canto soprano arias, and there are some very good duets with the trouser role of Ottone. However I found it a bit un-theatrical, and less imaginative than other Rossini scores – of course in Rome at the time all recitatives were secchi, which can be a bit monotonous. This opera wasn’t successful in its premiere, and never gathered much of a following. What is your opinion of it?

    JP – It’s not Rossini’s fault, it’s the way the drama was. Ottone goes out and comes back five minutes later, having won a battle that would actually have been something like a couple of days on horseback just to get to! It’s obviously difficult for the stage director to do something about that. But I enjoyed the production, I really liked it. I liked the costumes. I think the libretto is a bit lacking, you can’t do much with it. There are some great moments, musically. I enjoyed it, I might sing it in America; we’ll have to see.

    OL - Now, Ciro in Babilonia. You did it twice, first at the Caramoor Festival in a semi-staged production, then at the Rossini Festival in Pesaro with almost the same cast, the same conductor and stage director, this time in a fully-staged, charming that also had rather interesting projections, nice period costumes, and some neat tricks like the chorus looking like spectators in an antiquated movie theater, in more modern clothing, mixing up two timelines. Not only this is another example of a compelling and modern production, but also, I like much better Ciro as an opera, as compared to Adelaide. What are your memories of that production, and your opinion of this opera? Any plans to release that compelling production on DVD?

    Photo Credit Eugenio Pini

    JP - I really loved the costumes in that production, they were just gorgeous. It will indeed be released on DVD/Blu-Ray, on the Opus Arte label. Ciro in Babilonia, I really enjoyed it. Yes, it functions a little better than Adelaide di Borgogna in the dramatic sense. Davide Livermore, the director did a very good job with Ciro, splitting it up and using the period costumes, and then the cinema to kind of help the production through, because it is another one that is lacking in terms of dramatic sense. I had a great time; The performance at the Caramoor Festival was my debut in America, so that was moving and thrilling for me. The conductor Will Crutchfield was great, and my colleagues were fantastic. It was amazing singing with Ewa Podleś.

    OL – Wow, isn’t she great?

    JP – She’s incredible!

    OL – Michael Spyres is a sweet one as well; Opera Lively interviewed him in person for almost two hours, and he is such a nice guy!

    JP – He is a great guy, he is one of my closest friends, since we did the Otello by Rossini in Bad Wilbad. He is like a brother to me. It was lovely to be able to sing with him, because he was there with his wife soprano Tara Stafford-Spyres, it was just a lovely summer month hanging out with friends. It’s a real treat when you get to sing with friends. And Ewa, apart from being a big inspiration as a singer, she is just a really great person. It was a lovely and really enjoyable experience.

    OL - In May you did another relatively obscure Rossini opera – Demetrio e Polibio at the San Carlo in Naples. Would you please tell us about it?

    JP – It was the same production they used in Pesaro three years ago. For me personally it’s really important to sing at least one Rossini opera a year, so when I had the opportunity to sing this role in Naples I really jumped at it, unfortunately it’s not easy to sing Rossini outside of a festival unless it’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia. Until Naples I’ve only actually performed Rossini's Opera Seria in festivals; I did the Armida in the Garsington Festival, Otello in Bad Wildbad, and then the other two I did in the Rossini Festival in Pesaro, so for me it’s important to sing Rossini in a theater, as part of a season, as well.

    OL - You’ve also sung at many of Europe’s leading international houses: Covent Garden, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Vienna State Opera, Zürich, and Antwerp, just to name a few. In the New World, you’ve sung at the Caramoor Festival in New York, and in Peru. Do you have plans for debuts at any of the major U.S. or Canadian houses? I know that this year you’re not scheduled for North America, but I heard that you’ll be in Washington DC at some point for a concert. Can you tell us more about it? If you can’t discuss specifics, can you at least tell us if you are in discussions with any of our houses?

    JP – In Washington DC I’ll be making my debut with the Washington Concert Opera, I think in 2015, they saw me when I sang Lucia in Berlin last December. About other houses, nothing I can announce as yet, I haven’t really looked for work in America. I’m not a very ambitious person, in that sense. I’m not one of those singers who calls up the agent and says “I want to sing in here, and here, and here.” As long as I’m singing things that I’m happy singing, I’m happy.

    OL – But we want to see you here!

    JP – [laughs] I would love to come back! I would also love sing more in South America, to go back to Peru, I had such a great time, there. I told them “I’ll come back any time.” I think we are going to do Lucia there, because it is just such great fun! I certainly did like to sing in America, because I had a great time there. But my agent is Italian. [laughs]

    OL - And what about Australia? Are there any plans for a visit home to sing with one of the major houses there? I realize it’s a very long flight from Europe to Australia and that you lose a considerable amount of time just traveling. But are you able to go back to Australia occasionally to see family members?

    JP – No, I don’t go back. Last year I was able to go back after five years away, I had two and a half weeks off between Venice and New York, so I went back to Australia because my sister had a baby, and I wanted to see the baby, and that was the last time I went back, last year. I tend to fly my family to wherever I’m singing, because I find it easier. I don’t have that much time off, it’s a long lay over, it is not very feasible to go home and hang out. It would be lovely, but it is not realistic.

    This year I’m flying my sister and her husband to Spain, which will be great because her husband is from Chile, so he speaks Spanish, so I’ll rent a big house! My father comes over when I make major house or role debuts. For him it’s very important when I sing at Covent Garden or La Scala or Pesaro; he comes and sees it. And my mum comes once a year, but we try to make that when I am free or at least at the beginning of rehearsals so we can have more fun together.

    OL – But what about the opera public in Australia? Are they following your career? Or is it hard to be a prophet in your own land?

    JP – The fans write to me on Facebook and they ask when I will come. It’s not just a question of wanting to go. I want to go, but to sing something that is good for me. I have waited a long time but I will finally make my debut in Australia in May of 2014 with my role debut of Violetta in La Traviata with the Victorian Opera in Melbourne.

    OL -Let’s talk some more about your recent experience at Ópera Perú in Lima, your first Matilde in Guillaume Tell. First of all, were there any striking differences regarding performing in South America, in a developing country, as compared to venues in Europe, and North America?

    JP – The Gran Teatro Nacional in Peru is state-of-the-art. It’s fabulous, it’s new; they just built it. It’s shockingly good. Amazing acoustics, all the stage machinery. Maybe the audience is more enthusiastic than an Italian audience might be. There were standing ovations every night and all that kind of thing. I think there are a lot more fans there, not so much that they are obsessive or anything, but they like the artists, there. I had a great time. I found the singers much more relaxed than in Italy, anyway. We went out a lot to dinner and so on. It was a really enjoyable experience, lovely performances. The orchestra was made of particularly young people who came from disadvantaged areas of Peru [Orquestra Juvenil Sinfonía por el Perú], so that was really interesting to work with them as well.

    OL – Wonderful. Do you have any plans to sing at the Colón in Buenos Aires or the Municipal in São Paulo?

    JP - I certainly do hope so. Some people from those houses came to see our performances and to talk, so I hope something comes from that.

    OL - Tell us about singing with Juan Diego Flórez, in his homeland.

    JP – Juan Diego is really cool. He is a really, really nice person, and it was just so fascinating to watch him sing, because he has this incredible technique and complete control. It was one of the few times when I sang with someone and felt that they inspired me to work that much harder. Because when you sing with someone who is really good at it, you think, “oh, I wish there were more hours to my day to figure these things out.” It’s really inspirational. He has complete control of his voice. He never pushes it, he never exaggerates, he is very graceful and elegant about the way he sings, and he is really good on stage. He is always able to be in the role, because he doesn’t have to think about his technique, because it’s all done, you know? You can see that he works hard and it’s all under control.

    Another thing I really liked about watching him is that he has this ability to pace himself, to keep everything under control, which I haven’t learned yet, myself. So I watched him singing, especially in the last night, from the wings, and it was really amazing to watch. And of course he is a big star there and has lots of fans. And he is really nice, he helped everybody, did everything he could to help me, to help the chorus, and the orchestra. He is a great colleague.

    OL - Guillaume Tell is an opera that is difficult to produce, given its length. It’s hard to put it all on stage, but it is also hard to cut. How did the Peruvian crew go about it?

    JP – I think they did their best. We didn’t have much time to rehearse. I could have used an extra week, personally. But it really went well in the end. I think they were lucky with the staging. We had Massimo [Gasparón], he is really good, and has been working in Peru for eleven years doing productions; he is used to them and they are used to him, he is very good at pushing things along. It came out pretty well at the end. [Editor’s note – we learned that there were very discreet cuts, just some repetitions of cabalettas and some choral music were cut, but everything else including the ballets was preserved].

    OL - And then, tell us about singing alongside a great veteran like Leo Nucci. Did he give you any guidance?

    JP– Leo Nucci, it is so easy to sing with Leo Nucci and to pretend that he is your father in Rigoletto! I had this awe for him. Gilda is Rigoletto’s daughter but she doesn’t really know it because she is brought up in a convent, then she is taken out of the convent and brought home by this person who is her father. You can imagine she is all the time at this convent thinking about her father and her family, and she finally meets him, but he is so far away, still. He makes such an impression on her.

    Jessica with Nucci in Parma

    So there is this awe of his figure, then this wanting to be accepted, and in this case the character and the performer overlap a lot, because with Leo Nucci there, I think as a young singer, when you approach a singer who’s had such a great career and sings in such an incredible way, you also have these feelings of awe and respect and wanting to be accepted, and he is of course such a lovely person; he does everything he can to help you. He is funny and easy to get along with, outside of the theater as well as inside of the theater. So it’s really great, singing with him. And when you perform Rigoletto with him in Parma every night you repeat the Vendetta because the public won't let the opera continue without a bis, it’s very fun and exciting.

    OL - On the 8th of May, you have been awarded the prestigious La Siòla d'oro - Lina Pagliughi prize (in the past awarded to sopranos such as Luciana Serra, June Anderson, Joan Sutherland, Mariella Devia, and Patrizia Ciofi). Tell us about it.

    JP – It’s a big honor to receive this award. It’s incredible. I’m very excited about it. I don’t know what else to say. All the singers who have won it are singers that I really admire, so that makes it even more important for me. In addition to the diamond broach in the form a the Siola I have also received the Medal of the President of the Republic, a very high honor in Italy.

    OL – And it’s great that you’re getting it in your fifth year of professional singer.

    JP – Yes, I’m really proud of it.

    OL - You’ve also sung with some of the world’s leading conductors, such as Sir Colin Davis, Nello Santi, Kent Nagano, and Christian Thielemann. In addition to your teacher, Maestro Gelmetti, have there been other conductors who played an influential role in your career?

    JP – I think every conductor plays an influential role, either if they are a great conductor, or if they are not, because if they are not, you learn to be auto-sufficient, because otherwise, what will you do? The most influential conductor in my career has been Daniel Oren who basically took me all over the world with him. With him, when I perform I sing much better than I even imagine I can sing, and I don’t know why. I still haven’t figured out what it is. He is an absolute genius. He just changes everything, he changes the orchestra, and the mood, and he changes it according to how you are.

    I remember one time when I was singing Lucia and I was unwell, so in four performances out of the five, he changed everything so that I could get through the performances – and not just get through; he made me sing well, and it was a great show. For the last performance, I didn’t say that I had recovered, but I had recovered. And within two bars he realized it, and he changed everything. He made me hold all the high notes for a very, very long time. He made me repay everything that I hadn’t done in the first four performances, you know? [laughs] So, he is really special as a conductor. And as a person, he has really helped me a lot.

    OL - Tell us about Jessica Pratt the person. What do you like to do outside of opera?

    JP – I like to go to walk in the hills, and nature. I think it is very important for us to be in touch with nature, and to spend time with animals. When I was in Australia I was a volunteer in a veterinary hospital; I took care of koalas and kangaroos. Two years ago I adopted a little dog. He is missing an eye. He is thirteen years old, and he’s got a dislocated hip because somebody had beaten him up. He comes everywhere with me now, in Italy. Now he’s got lots of hair, and he runs around on three legs, and he is perfectly fine.

    And I think it’s also important that people realize that dogs who lived ten years in a cage are perfectly capable of changing and living happy and healthy lives. He’s never given me any problem, he comes in the train, he is a little dog so he goes in a bag, he sits in the theater and waits until I’m done with my show. He is incredible. So I have him, and every now and then we go on protests about anti-vivisection or anti fur etc. I like Cross Stitching and I read a lot.

    OL - What kind of person are you – outgoing, or reserved, etc?

    JP – You know, I’m both, because I’m very, very reserved, but you can’t be very, very reserved when you go on stage. I had a really hard time getting over that, because as a child I would not go to parties, I would not go out. If I had to go to a party I’d find a cat or dog and I would sit in the corner with the cat or dog until the party was over. And now I find myself not only having to go to the party, but I have to be the one in the middle of it, so that was very difficult for me to come to terms with in the beginning. I also had a hard time with the applause at the end of the opera. I used to be embarrassed.

    In the beginning I didn’t know what to do. I remember, my colleagues would count for me. I could hear them behind, saying, “stay there, stay there, one, two, three, four, five, OK, now you can come back.” So, I’m getting better at it, I’m getting used to it but my colleagues still tell me I run away too quickly from the applause. Now I have these moments when I am very introvert, but also others when I’m very outgoing. But generally speaking if there is no pressure on me I’ll just choose to stay at home and read or wonder around the streets with my dog.

    OL - What are some of your goals in life, in opera, and outside of opera?

    JP – In opera, I’m achieving the goals that I’ve set, always have, maybe because I don’t set goals that are impossible. Because I don’t think in opera one can set a goal like – “I’m going to sing at this place, I’ll have this career.” One should set goals that one can achieve, which means setting goals that you have some sort of control over, such as how you sing, and how you practice. So my goals are more about improving my legato, being able to do good staccati, and get to a point where I can express emotion without being a slave to that emotion; being the puppeteer, not the puppet, as my father says. I’d like to raise awareness about animal rights, try to help as many people as I can, buy a house one day, and I’d like to have a family, and be happy. I think these goals are achievable.

    OL – Very good. I loved this interview, it was a lovely one. And I was thrilled to know that the Ciro in Babilonia will come out on DVD. When will it be released?

    JP – On the 1st of July this year! And there is already a way to rent a streaming of it from the Internet, although I don’t know very well how it works; I’ll put it on my website.

    OL – Great, it was very good. Thank you so much, and thank you for your time.

    JP – Thank you.

    OL – I hope you come to our opera houses, eventually.

    JP – Me too! [laughs]


    Let's listen to the singer.

    The complete Lucia mad scene from Berlin, December 2012 is online here:

    And there is a wonderful rendition of her "O luce di quest'anima" from the New Year's Concert in Venice 2012:

    Her impressive Ciro in Babilonia is complete on YouTube:

    Part 1 [here]
    Part 2 [here]


    If you came to this page through a link from another site, please consider exploring our other exclusive interviews (Anna Netrebko's, Joyce DiDonato's, Anna Caterina Antonacci's, Luca Pisaroni's, Thomas Hampson's, Piotr Beczala's, scholar Dr. Philip Gossett's, veteran singer Sylvia Sass', tenor Jay Hunter Morris, and stage director Thaddeus Strassberger's are especially good, among about 90 artists), news, and articles by clicking on the Articles tab above and using our new clickable content index [here], or the Section Widget on the top left of the page; our very active discussion Forum (of course, by clicking on the Forum tab - and please notice that over there we also have an area with content in Spanish, German, French, Italian, and Portuguese).

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    the great veteran singer Frederica von Stade; already recorded but pending transcription; emerging soprano Lisette Oropesa, and Wagnerian bass-baritone Greer Grimsley, and about to happen, Massimo Giordano.
    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Schigolch's Avatar
      Schigolch -
      Ms. Pratt sang yesterday Rigoletto in Seville, apparently with great success. She is already a gifted Belcanto singer, and I can see now that also a very clever young woman.

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