Monday, March 28, 2011

A Chat with Amanda Opuszynski

This Friday, our talented Young Artists open their production of Don Giovanni at the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue. Today, we hear from soprano Amanda Opuszynski, who takes on the role of Donna Elvira. We ask her about this production, and what she thinks about her character and the womanizing Giovanni.

What are the unique vocal demands of Donna Elvira?

Elvira is the kind of person who has high highs and low lows, and her music reflects that completely! The more agitated she becomes, the more her vocal line is full of dotted rhythms and sudden leaps to much higher or lower notes. When she's calm or trying to blend in with those around her, her music is much more lyric and even-keeled. Basically, the person who sings Donna Elvira has to have a strong middle voice, no fear of high or low notes, and the courage to make abrupt vocal color changes to communicate the character. I think it's a great role, and I hope I am doing it justice!

On one hand, Donna Elvira is kind of a nut. But Mozart also lets us get close to this passionate, powerful woman. What do you think of her character?

It's funny, because every man I've talked to about Donna Elvira thinks she's crazy...but I've never seen her that way at all. Personally, I think a lot of women can relate to Elvira! She's a smart, sexy, strong woman who got mixed up with a bad boy, and she's still drawn to him even though she knows he's bad news. (Apparently women have had these issues for centuries!) She loves him, she hates him, she wants him, she wants him dead.... We never quite know which Elvira we're going to get when she enters the scene, and while that unpredictability often earns her the "crazy" label, it also makes her incredibly real. Over the course of the opera, we see all of her layers, from the outermost rage to the innermost longing. I think she's brilliantly written, and I'm honored to bring her to life in this production.

Amanda Opuszynski (Donna Elvira), with Marcy Stonikas (Donna Anna) and Erik Anstine (Leporello), during a recent Don Giovanni staging rehearsal.
Photo by Alan Alabastro

What would you tell a friend who behaves the way she does?

As an objective observer, I would tell a friend in this situation that Giovanni is never going to change no matter how loudly she screams, how hard she hits, or how much she cries! She needs to just let him go! Of course, when you're actually in a situation like this, your judgment is totally clouded by your emotions. It's normal to think you can change someone you love.

Which of the characters you’ve played this year is most like you: Donna Elvira, the Prima Donna in the fall YAP production of Viva la Mamma, or the Forest Bird in Siegfried and the Ring of Fire?

It sounds ridiculous, but given the choices, I'd have to pick the Forest Bird. I'm petite, perky, and really enjoy all things purple!

David Krohn, Amanda Opuszynski, and Erik Anstine in last fall's Young Artist production of Viva la Mamma.
Photo by Bill Mohn

In this production, Don Giovanni is seductively taking off his clothes on a screen behind you while you’re singing the big aria, "Mi tradì." Does his stage business play a role in your performance, either vocally or dramatically?

I think "Mi tradì" is an incredible aria. It perfectly captures the moment when Elvira finally allows herself to feel the hurt and longing that she has been stifling with rage and revenge. Considering the way Giovanni behaves during the opera, it's sometimes difficult to understand why Elvira is so drawn to him at all. In this production, Giovanni's actions behind the screen give a glimpse into his past with Elvira. It's a visual reminder that she can't get the memories of their time together out of her head, and dramatically, I have to fight not to be drawn into Giovanni's seduction. I have to make myself face the reality that he will never change and I have to give him up. These dramatic moments often signal vocal changes in dynamics, color, etc., so I think Giovanni's involvement in the aria is a very interesting way of showing the audience exactly what Elvira is fighting inside.

Who are your vocal heroes?

Mirella Freni and Anna Moffo. They both have such warm, brilliant voices, and I aspire to the ease and beauty of their singing.

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