Friday, September 28, 2012

Meet Our Singers: ANYA MATANOVIČ, Marzelline

Fans of Seattle Opera’s Facebook page may remember seeing photos of soprano Anya Matanovič’s famous opera finger puppets, dating back to her mainstage debut as Nannetta in Falstaff in 2010. The YAP Alum and Issaquah native makes finger puppets based on the characters—and costumes—of each production she’s in. She’ll be creating some before too long for Seattle Opera’s upcoming Fidelio, which opens with Matanovič singing Marzelline’s aria: a beautiful splash of color and warmth in a grim and oppressive prison setting. I spoke to her the other day about recent adventures of Seattle Opera’s 2011 Magic Flute cast, about singing Beethoven, and about falling for a girl in drag.

Now Anya, lots of sopranos like to audition with Marzelline’s aria, “O wär ich schon mit dir vereint,” which begins our production of this opera (unlike those productions which begin with the little bickering duet with Jaquino). Is this one of those arias you’ve been singing for years and years?
In fact, it is, yes. Which is difficult, actually, because my technique has developed. I’m constantly learning new things, you know, but when I go back and sing that aria I feel like I’m 18 again...I was in college when I first learned it. I sang a concert version of Fidelio senior year, and kept doing the aria for auditions. So the rest of this opera, coming back to it, everything was fresh and new and wonderful, but the aria—old habits!

Anya Matanovič made her mainstage debut as Nannetta in Falstaff in 2010, pictured here (left) with Sasha Cooke as Meg and Svetla Vassileva as Alice
Rozarii Lynch, photo

Below, listen to a sound clip of her performing Nannetta's Fairy Queen aria from that production.

Is it hard to sing? It’s long, it’s got some high stuff...
The tricky part is adding dimension and depth, both dynamically and with the color of my voice. Beethoven has a tendency to write vocal lines that linger right in the passagio, that spot that’s difficult to maintain for a long time. It’s written in such a way that it would be easy to just blast it out and sing it, so the trick is to both maintain beauty and find a variety of colors. I’m having fun exploring that, with Chris [Alexander, Stage Director] and Asher [Fisch, Conductor], and I'm so inspired by the cast and what they do with Beethoven's music. There are places where Asher is encouraging us to not be afraid of really taking the soft moments back so that the music just sparkles. And with a cast like this one, it can be pretty thrilling stuff!

And that aria is the first thing we’re going to hear, when the curtain goes up. You’ll have everyone’s attention. What will you be doing as you sing that aria?
You’ll see!

Not telling, ok. Would you recommend this aria to young sopranos? You know, as an audition piece, if they need something in German?
Yeah, it’s a good one. It’s very sweet, and...it’s Beethoven! Can’t go wrong with Beethoven.

A lot of people complain that his music is awkward and impossible to sing.
Ohh...it’s difficult. But it’s a privilege, I feel privileged to sing Beethoven.

From Seattle Opera's 2011 Magic Flute: Anya Matanovič, Marcy Stonikas, and Lindsey Anderson as the Three Ladies study John Tessier as Prince Tamino
Rozarii Lynch, photo

What have you been up to since we last saw you in 2011?
Right after Magic Flute here I went to Glimmerglass for the summer and sang Micäela in Carmen, my first time doing the role. Francesca Zambello’s first summer at Glimmerglass, and I got to work with the wonderful theater director Anne Bogart, who’s founder of the SITI theater company. It was really exciting to work with her and her colleague Barney O’Hanlon. I had read a lot of her writings before that—she’s interested in an actor’s physicality—really interesting stuff. And a beautiful place to spend a summer! Then I did Susanna in Figaro in Kentucky, where we had the orchestra strike and ended up performing with two pianos.

Oh, my.
And then I did my first Adina, in Utah, and my first Pamina, in Crested Butte, Colorado, at the Crested Butte Music Festival.

Now, the music director of that festival is Keith Miller, the former football player who sang Sarastro in our Flute. Did you get connected with him when we did Magic Flute in Seattle?
Yes, and I also worked with him at Glimmerglass. Keith and Phil Cutlip, who was our Papageno in Seattle, and also Wesley Rogers, who was in the Seattle Young Artists Program with me, we all did that Crested Butte Flute. It’s a beautiful place.

Big theater?
Tiny! I’ll be singing Pamina in Utah again this year...it will be nice to revisit it within the same year, and also in a bigger theater. But the most exciting news for me in this past year is that I became an auntie (my sister lives just up road on Capitol Hill) AND I became engaged to my sweetie of ten years! So not only do I love coming to Seattle to sing because it is a delightful company to work with, but I also get to spend time with my family and friends while I am here. New York is so far away!

Anya Matanovič in rehearsal for Fidelio, with Arthur Woodley (Rocco)
Alan Alabastro, photo

Let’s get back to Fidelio. In this opera, you’re in love with a guy who turns out to be a girl in drag. Have you ever played a character with as complicated a love life?
[laughs] I don’t know that I would call it “complicated,” because to me it’s just like every other character I play who’s head over heels in love. I mean, I don’t know she’s a man! We haven’t staged the end of the opera yet, so I don’t know how we’re going to deal with the revelation—embarrassment? Heart-break? What I see at the end, with this amazing love they [Leonore and Florestan] share between them, I think that’s when I realize what REAL love is.

What do you think happens to Marzelline after the events of the opera?
I think she is forever changed. I switch what I’m saying right away and begin praising Leonore’s nobility. In that moment I realize maybe what I had was infatuation, childish love, but if I could love the way Leonore loves Florestan, that’s the noblest love. I was searching for love, and now I find it. That’s why I fell in love with Leonore; she’s who Marzelline wants to be.

Anya Matanovič in rehearsal for Fidelio, with John Tessier (Jaquino)
Alan Alabastro, photo

Marzelline starts this whole opera, in our version, with her rosy fantasy of what it would be like to be married, and it’s all nice but very, very domestic. And she learns that what real love takes is...perhaps more ‘active,’ if that’s the right word. Leonore certainly isn’t a housewife.
Right, because at the beginning Marzelline is stuck in this prison, and everything is so dark. She fantasizes about another world, where even if it’s dark they’ll have this love and this life to come back to at night. But what she learns from Leonore is the courage to love so much that you would risk absolutely everything.

One final question: have you made any more opera finger puppets lately?
Yes! I made the best ones ever for the Carmen we did at Glimmerglass, and we even made a YouTube movie with them. And here it is!

Anya Matanovič’s finger puppet for Falstaff

Anya Matanovič’s finger puppets for the Merry Wives of Windsor (complete with letter from their portly admirer)

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