Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Our Young Artists Talk about "Viva Verdi!"

The Seattle Opera Young Artists have spent an entire season singing Verdi’s operas. They celebrate the great composer’s bicentennial in our "Viva Verdi!" concert on April 6—a dynamic evening featuring some of Verdi’s greatest music. The beginning of La traviata, the magnificent overture to La forza del destino, “Va, pensiero” from Nabucco, the arresting “Storm Scene” from Rigoletto...and that’s not all. What more could one ask for in a single performance?

2012/13 Seattle Opera Young Artists: Tenor Theo Lebow, Mezzo-Soprano Deborah Nansteel, Baritone Hunter Enoch, Soprano Dana Pundt, Bass-Baritone Matthew Scollin, Mezzo-Soprano Sarah Larsen, Pianist/Coach Christopher Lade
(photo by Alan Alabastro)

The fine young musicians of our Young Artists Program shared some of their thoughts with me—what they’ve learned, what they’ve found challenging, and how Verdi has changed them.

Dana Pundt starts the concert with what she calls Violetta’s tour de force. Violetta’s first aria in La traviata is the most challenging music Pundt has sung with the program all year. “It’s very exposed in places,” she says, “has high-flying acrobatics in others, and requires an incredible legato almost throughout.”

Dana Pundt and Sarah Larsen in La Cenerentola
(photo by Elise Bakketun)

Mezzo-soprano Deborah Nansteel is getting the opportunity to revisit a role she first sang in 2011 as a Young Artist in San Francisco Opera’s Merola Opera Program. Eboli in Don Carlo is a role she loves. “It is a big sing, and it is a very dramatic role so that makes it challenging,” she says. “But it is one of the most exciting scenes I’ve done.”

Theo Lebow in Fidelio
(photo by Elise Bakketun)

Usually a singer has only one challenging role to learn for a performance. Theo Lebow has three! The New York-born tenor plays Alfredo in La traviata, Don Carlo, and the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto. “The challenge for me,” he says, “is balancing myself through three very demanding roles. The vocal writing is daunting, requiring a lot of conservation.” The rehearsal and training, he says, has taught him to pace himself as he transforms from ardent suitor to doomed prince to self-interested ladies’ man.

Pianist/Accompanist Christopher Lade, who is back for his second year as a Young Artist, will make his conducting debut with this concert, leading “Oh dischiuso รจ il firmamento” from Nabucco. “I'm just looking forward to working with the orchestra and accompanying Sarah Larsen,” he says.

Sarah Larsen in Madama Butterfly
(photo by Elise Bakketun)

In addition to singing Fenena’s aria from Nabucco, Sarah Larsen is looking forward to embodying Preziosilla in La forza del destina. “She gets to sing several rousing, zesty numbers,” Larsen says, “‘Rataplan’ being the most famous of all. The challenge of ‘Rataplan’ is one of ensemble—the chorus and orchestration are very crisp, so one has to be mindful of rushing the tempo. This is probably my favorite piece to sing on the concert.”

Hunter Enoch is also looking forward to singing an evening that ranges from ensembles to individual roles. “As a young singer, it is infrequent that one is fortunate enough to sing this music outside of a chorus situation. The music is amazing, and I am so glad that I have had this opportunity to sing it…I have learned a lot about the inner game of singing as well.” Enoch takes on Verdi’s tormented jester in the final scene from Rigoletto, and also sings music for Barone Douphol, Fra Melitone, and Rodrigo in Don Carlo.

Deborah Nansteel, Dana Pundt, and Theo Lebow in Verdi's King for a Day
(photo by Elise Bakketun)

Matthew Scollin is most looking forward to singing the role of the assassin Sparafucile in Rigoletto. He has enjoyed the opportunity so sing the “heavier” roles of Verdi, as compared to Mozart, for example. His main takeaway from a year with Verdi applies to every role he’ll ever sing. “I’ve learned that I need to have something to say when I’m singing,” he says, “not just go through the motions.”

Dana Pundt, too, has taken something meaningful and lasting from a year with Verdi. “I feel that I’ve rediscovered my reason for singing,” she says. “After being preoccupied with technique, study, and accuracy for so long, it’s become something artistic and fulfilling once again.”

Join us on April 6. It’s a performance you won’t want to miss!

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