You are singing Isolier in Le Comte Ory for the first time. Are the challenges different from other Rossini operas you’ve done?
It’s the first pants role of Rossini that I have performed, so that’s a bit of a detour for me, but vocally it has many of the same demands that Rossini makes for his heroines—a huge vocal range, loads of fast notes, and a need for a true bel canto technique.
You’ll also star as the Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos—another trouser role, but a completely different musical world...
I’ve sung the Composer before and it speaks very strongly to me—he is ardent and naive and purposeful. Strauss sketched him so perfectly that I only need to sing what’s on the page and he will hopefully spring to life!
What makes it such a perfect part?
I think it’s that combination of innocence and dedication to music. “Sein wir wieder gut” is an anthem to the world of music, and I think anyone who has had the honor to sing those words has a special affinity for this young man.
Next season, you’ll star in the world premiere of The Enchanted Island, a new Baroque pastiche. Did you have a hand in choosing what you would sing?
I spoke rather passionately about Handel’s Medea from his opera Teseo, which I’ve recorded, and I was very happy to see one of her vengeance arias make the cut. But I also trusted fully the instinct of [conductor] William Christie, who knows my voice quite well. I’m excited to see how it will all come together.
You play Sycorax, a sorceress. Have you started developing the character yet?
She is a bit of a mystery! I will need to study the libretto in greater length, but by seeing the costume sketches and speaking with the directorial team, I think she will be a huge challenge to play. She is destitute and powerless at the start of the show—and to create the journey of her slowly getting her power back should be hugely rewarding.
You’ve become one of the world’s most in-demand mezzos—yet you still find time to keep up your blog, Yankee Diva!
It scratches that “teacher itch.” I think there is a real hunger, particularly from younger singers, to get some insight as to how the inner workings of this business function. It makes me very happy to offer them the odd observation here and there! —Matt Dobkin
This interview was first published online in March 2011 and in the Met’s Playbill in April 2011.