Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Chat with Marcy Stonikas

Believe it or not, Young Artist Marcy Stonikas didn’t even see her first opera until she auditioned for a spot in Oberlin Conservatory of Music’s vocal performance program in 1998. But that day, Marcy saw Carlisle Floyd’s Slow Dusk and Menotti’s Old Maid and the Thief, and she had an epiphany. “I had studied classical voice prior to that point, but I finally understood what that could lead to,” said Marcy, who up until then had mostly been a musical theater and jazz performer. “Those singers’ voices had a similar quality to my own, which I had never encountered before that! It was a very exciting revelation to consider that I might one day have the opportunity to sing in such a grand production.”

This month Marcy performs the Prima Donna/Ariadne in the Young Artists’ production of Ariadne auf Naxos. Strauss’s opera-within-an-opera is divided into two parts: the prologue and the opera. Stonikas plays the role of the opera company’s prima donna who sings the title role in their opera about the mythical Ariadne, which is performed in the second half.

Marcy has sung Strauss music before--“I LOVE singing his music. It’s so gratifying.”--but this is her first Ariadne. Her other roles as a Young Artist this season have included Fiordiligi in Mozart’s Così fan tutte and Brünnhilde in the children’s opera Siegfried and the Ring of Fire. The role of Ariadne requires a singer who can handle the Wagnerian style, and Marcy is up for the task. Listen to the ecstatic, rapturous music with which Ariadne—sung by Deborah Voigt-yearns for Hermes, the Messenger of Death, to free her from a life she hates:

Du wirst mich befreien,
Mir selber mich geben,
Dies lastende Leben,
Du, nimm es von mir.
An dich werd' ich mich ganz verlieren,
Bei dir wird Ariadne sein.

Thou shalt set me free,
give me to myself.
This burden of living,
thou takest it from me.
I will lose myself in thee,
Ariadne will be with thee.

Marcy has enjoyed her time with the Young Artists and the guidance she’s received in the program. “I think some of the most influential things that I’ve been most changed by already involve an embodiment of everything that I sing and do onstage,” she said. “To understand every nuance of what the words mean (on every level possible) and then to let myself get emotionally involved with the characters that I play is exciting and invigorating.”

Once Ariadne closes and YAP wraps up for the year, Marcy will be sticking around Seattle to cover Jane Eaglen’s role of Aunt Helen in the world premiere of Amelia. She’ll also head to Chicago (near her hometown of Elmhurst, IL) to sing Mahler’s 8th Symphony with the Symphony of Oak Park and River Forest. And we haven’t seen the last of Marcy in Seattle, either—she’ll make her mainstage debut with the company as the Second Lady in The Magic Flute in May 2011.

Photo: Marcy Stonikas in Così fan tutte. © Bill Mohn photo; Ariadne costume sketch by Melanie Taylor Burgess.

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