Amneris will be your third Verdi role at the Met. Tell us about your connection to this composer’s music.
When I was studying, Verdi was the composer to whom I was most drawn. I couldn’t wait for the day I would be able to sing his music! Fortunately I had a voice teacher who knew how to put the brakes on—she encouraged the enthusiasm but helped me to channel that excitement to early music. When I finally got to do Azucena in Il Trovatore, I had already been singing for 13 years—but that role made me feel like a grown-up in a very different way. It was like a graduation of sorts.
For all its epic moments, Aida really is an intimate love story. What’s your take on Amneris?
At her core she is a privileged, petulant child, who is completely confused by the idea that she cannot have what she wants. This child is constantly at odds with the mature woman who knows the score. She is in love with a man who loves another, and there is nothing she can do about it. At the end, it’s the passionate woman that extinguishes the childish princess—she is confronted with real love and loyalty, and she cannot help growing up. I try to bring out that contrast in her.
You sing a wide range of repertoire, from Baroque to Wagner to Stravinsky. Did you always plan to have so many vocal styles?
When I was younger, I wanted to keep my voice as flexible as possible, so that was by design. Then I was fortunate enough to be offered some wonderful roles early on that really helped my technique. I also continued to develop my recital repertoire, which is the cornerstone of my musical life. I learned to sing through songs, and I suppose it was the varied song repertoire that made me look for the same in opera. I have been very lucky to have the opportunity to sing so many different parts, because they all inform one another in some way.
As a graduate of the Met’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, what kind of advice do you give to young singers?
Learn how to move your voice. It doesn’t matter if you’ll never sing a Handel role— learn a few anyway. Have an idea before you show up to rehearse. Don’t wait to be told what to do, take some action. Be open to criticism but learn to be discerning about what is helpful and what is not. And be ready when your moment arrives. —Philipp Brieler