• Così fan tutte at NC Opera - Interview with Elizabeth de Trejo (Fiordiligi)

    [Opera Lively interview # 117] Continuing our coverage of North Carolina Opera's staging of Così fan tutte, read below the interview with Elizabeth de Trejo who will be singing Fiordiligi.


    Our partners North Carolina Opera are presenting a fully staged production of Mozart's delightful opera buffa Così fan tutte, ossia la scuola degli amanti (Thus do they all, or The School for Lovers) in Raleigh, on Thursday October 3 and Saturday October 5 at 8 PM, and Sunday October 6 at 3 PM, at the Fletcher Opera Theater, Duke Energy Center. Tickets can be found [here].

    When visiting the NC Opera web site for tickets, do pay attention to the very interesting 2013-2014 season, which is truly remarkable, featuring public favorites, new music, and something as compelling as Rusalka (one of this writer's favorite operas).

    Our North Carolina readers must be, by now, familiar with the incredible evolution of NC Opera, still a young company, but definitely thriving and becoming very strong under the smart leadership of General Director Eric Mitchko and Artistic Director & Principal Conductor Timothy Myers. Each new season of NC Opera has been better than the preceding one, and the company is in meteoric ascension, bringing to the Triangle world class shows with a level of quality unheard of in the history of opera in our metropolitan area. Dear reader, if you haven't been to a NC Opera production yet, you'll be surprised.

    Mozart's and Lorenzo da Ponte's outstanding work does not need introduction for the seasoned opera lover, given that it is one of the most beloved operas in the entire repertory, and a certified masterpiece. For the beginner, there is rarely a better introduction to opera, given that not only its music is sublime with one phenomenal melody after the other, but its high quality libretto is extremely funny, witty, and thought provoking.

    Our coverage of the show begins today, with a very interesting interview with the intelligent and insightful soprano Elizabeth de Trejo, who will be singing the leading role of Fiordiligi. Opera Lively will interview all singers in the six roles of this opera. We have planned for each of these mini-interviews, a core of a few questions that will be the same for all singers so that we'll get to compare and contrast their different takes on the same topics, and another handful that will be specific to the role and to the singer's career. We'll attend the first show, and publish a review.


    Ms. de Trejo has sung for the Metropolitan Opera and has also appeared at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Other prestigious assignments have included a performance in Milan, Italy, a recording with the Verdi Orchestra, and she is featured in a DVD of Der Rosenkavalier recorded at Opernhaus Zurich where she was a member of the International Opernstudio.

    She had an aria written for her in Anton Coppola's opera Sacco and Vanzetti. Recent roles have included Violetta, Lucia, Adina, Gilda, Marguerite, and Adele. Ms. de Trejo has earned her Bachelor of Music from Loyola University, and her Master of Music from Yale University. More details on her career can be found by visiting her website - click [here].


    The Opera Lively Exclusive Interview with Elizabeth de Trejo

    © 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 Luiz Gazzola. Photos of the singer are recovered from her website; fair promotional use. Photo credits unknown to us, will be added when known.

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

    Elizabeth de Trejo - I expect that this will be a beautifully put-together production. I expect that it will have some of the highest quality music and acting possible, led by the exciting and forward thinking artistic team at North Carolina Opera.

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

    EdT - As if it wasn’t already apparent in his previous operatic and vocal compositions, Mozart proves that his writing for the voice is king. Così, to me, is the zenith of his vocal works. It is not only saturated with beautiful melodies, but the melodies are so generous to the voice, allowing it bloom and liberty, akin to bel canto. It’s quintessential Mozart, an amalgam of sacred, profound beauty in one scene and the next with the smartest comedy you’ve heard in any opera.

    OL - Fiordiligi is not easy to seduce. Her resistance is broken by an aria turned into duet – a beautiful one, sung by Ferrando, starting with “Volgi a me pietoso il ciglio.” Mozart seems to be promoting the power of music, here, like he did in The Magic Flute where music can tame the beasts. Any comments?

    EdT - Fiordiligi is not easy to seduce because she is virtuous. Truth is her Credo. She is not putting on an act, she really does not like the idea of being untrue in any way. The drama comes when she allows her weaker self to entertain the idea of being with this new stranger, and her recitative and aria, “per pieta ben mio..”, is her frustration at herself for allowing these base feelings to control her. This is a real inner crisis for her. Ferrando communicates with her in a more serious way than he does with Dorabella and Fiordiligi cannot resist his words.

    OL - Fiordiligi’s aria "Come Scoglio" is one of the pieces in the repertory with the most high-low leaps in all directions. It is exceedingly difficult, I would imagine. Some historians believe that Mozart disliked the original singer who was Da Ponte’s lover and was very arrogant, and was in the habit of dropping her chin in low notes and throwing her head up and back in the high notes, and Mozart wanted her to behave like a chicken bobbing her head up and down on stage. Being Mozart the musical genius that he was, even if he composed this aria as a sort of plank played on the original singer, the end result is still extremely beautiful and compelling. Tell us please about what you think of this aria and how you approach it.

    EdT - I will say that it is not an easy aria to sing, but it’s VERY effective in carrying Fiordiligi’s theme. Virtue and Truth, her Credo. I cannot imagine it another way; it’s wonderful. This is part of what makes her fall so great in act 2. She is dead set against these intruders gaining one foot further into their domain and then she relents in the end!!
    I don’t believe that Mozart could have ever allowed a piece of his to be heard by any public that wasn’t considered by himself to be his best in that moment. Having said that, it’s possible that knowing what he wanted to communicate musically, he thought it would be comical to incorporate register switches in order to amuse himself.

    OL - People say that Mozart is easier to sing given how well he writes for the voice. But the "Guarda Sorella" duet that opens your role is likely to be a bit exposed so early in the opera, with a relatively wide range and high tessitura. What are the vocal challenges of your role?

    EdT - There is no opening of any opera that doesn’t feel exposed in some way. That initial vocalization is always filled with a nervous excitement. The first duet with Dorabella is very special and it’s a beautiful expression of their individual personalities and their closeness as well.

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

    EdT - Well, there are many that I like and respect, British Soprano, Susan Chilcott, Renée Fleming, Monserrat Caballé, to name a few. I am particularly in love with how much personal color choices and musicality with which Renée Fleming performs the role.

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

    EdT - Well, I would say the key is same is the same for any role, to be as true to the score as you are able with your instrument and your understanding of the text.

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

    EdT - I would imagine that they end up with their original fiancés; with, of course, a very different perspective on romance and relationships.

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

    EdT - Well, this is a tough issue. No, I don’t think it’s necessarily misogynistic, but perhaps we should consider the age of the women in this story and the average marrying age of women during this period in history. I was a little ‘flighty’ myself when I was 17.

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

    EdT - I would say that he is right, that we are each seducible to some extent, even if it is only in the mind and not fully, physically carried out.

    OL - You’ll be singing Norma in 2014; a role, I’d say, harder to perform both emotionally and vocally, as compared to Fiordiligi. Tell me more about it. How are you preparing for it?

    EdT - Norma is very different than Fiordiligi, and the challenge is in the character. I am spending my time preparing an emotional space for Norma to reside in my mind. It is a very big persona and I have never played anything quite like it. I think that I am young for the part, but I know it will be a great role for me, and I am very excited about taking on this project in a nurturing environment.

    OL - You sang in a Zarzuela concert in Mexico City and Lincoln Center. Can you tell me how you got into Zarzuela and if you have future plans involving it? With the growing US Hispanic population, I’m curious to see if Zarzuela will get a foothold here.

    EdT - I must thank my tenor husband, Mauricio Trejo. He brought me along and introduced me to Pablo Zinger, who is a well-known Zarzuela specialist and has conducted Zarzuelas for Placido Domingo. Zarzuela is Spanish light opera. So, it’s basically musical theater. It’s absolutely ideal for seasoned and new opera goers. It’s easy to produce, generally, and most of the music is really sweeping and gorgeous.

    OL - Thank you Ms. de Trejo for your insightful answers, and I look forward to listening to your Fiordiligi.


    Let's listen to the singer in Una Voce Poco Fa, from Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia:


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