Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Meet Our Singers: STEPHANIE BLYTHE, Fricka/Second Norn/Waltraute in Götterdämmerung

Seattle Opera is blessed to have Stephanie Blythe, one of today's leading singers, playing three important roles in our Ring. Blythe, who won Seattle Opera's 2008 Artist of the Year Award for her definitive performance as Amneris in Aida, has also enchanted Seattle audiences as the delightful Isabella in L'italiana in Algeri and the seductive Carmen. But her first Seattle appearance, as Fricka in 2000, brought such strength and dignity to the queen of the gods that she has commanded the role ever since. She spoke with us about the Ring, her colleagues, and why she keeps coming back to Seattle.

Stephanie Blythe singing Waltraute's Monologue

How did you choose to sing Fricka?
I came here to sing Fricka because I trusted Speight Jenkins and Stephen Wadsworth to help me to make the right decision about what I should be singing in the Ring at that moment at that time. I took their advice, and I don’t regret it.

Greer Grimsley (Wotan) and Stephanie Blythe (Fricka) in Die Walküre
Chris Bennion, photo

How do you describe Fricka?
Fricka is a woman who is love with a man who is about to make the biggest mistake of his life. She knows it, and there’s nothing she can do about it. Later on she’s given the opportunity to confront him and give him a way to solve this problem, knowing that if he does go through with what she asks of him, it will end any relationship they have. She’s willing to make that sacrifice to do the right thing. Very few people will say that. Most people who see the Ring see Fricka as a harpy, a nag, but I don’t see her that way at all. And quite frankly it’s doing this production that’s convinced me that that’s absolutely untrue about her.

Stephanie Blythe (Fricka) contemplates the dead Fasolt at the end of Das Rheingold
Rozarii Lynch, photo

How did the production convince you?
Because of how we’ve talked about the character and how it’s staged. It’s far more interesting to play a character with layers than somebody that’s, well, a pain in the ass. It’s more interesting to play someone who is upset about something because they love someone, not because they love being upset.

Greer Grimsley (Wotan) and Stephanie Blythe (Fricka) in Die Walküre
Chris Bennion, photo

Do you have a favorite Ring memory?
There are too many to count...being a part of Greer Grimsley’s first Wotan. Being honored to be Greer’s first Fricka. I think that’s probably the greatest thing I take away.

When did you take on the role of Waltraute?
I had been doing the Fricka and Second Norn for a very long time. I mentioned to Speight that I’d very much like to add another role because I wanted to learn something new about another character in this show. And Waltraute is a very interesting character. She has one scene, and what she has to say is incredibly important. The scene is very much like the Fricka/Wotan scene but with a totally different outcome. It’s an essential argument, and I enjoy that kind of confrontation. Fricka wins her argument and Waltraute does not, really, until the very end.

Stephanie Blythe as Waltraute in Götterdämmerung
Rozarii Lynch, photo

Do you learn the role by singing it?
You learn the role before you sing it. But you learn more about a character every time you sing it. I’ve never sung anything the same way twice. I’ve sung Fricka with Greer now many times, and I can tell you we do it entirely differently now. The movements may be very similar, but the attitudes and emotions and motivation behind them are very different.

Do you love that about your job?
Absolutely. It’s never the same. No performance is ever the same because the audience is never the same. Every performance changes with the audience. The audience very rarely take on what an enormous part of the process they are. An audience can make or break a show. And Seattle has a very successful Ring cycle largely due to the support of our audience.

What are you looking forward to this time around?
I’m looking forward to working with Asher Fisch. We’ve only worked together once before, and I enjoy his conducting very much. I also enjoy his brain. He has an exceptional brain. His thought processes are really singular, and I’m always intrigued by that. I have a very distinct feeling that when all is said and done, he will have taught me a tremendous amount. Even though I know this role very well, he will have further enlightened me. And I hope I will have done the same for him.

Stephanie Blythe as the Second Norn in Götterdämmerung
Rozarii Lynch, photo

How do you feel about being back in Seattle? I’ve been doing this since 2000 and it’s not an easy show and it’s not an easy process to put this together, but I relish the opportunity. I have kept coming back, not just because I love the show but also because I love this company. I feel a great kinship to this company. I adore everyone who works here, and I consider Speight Jenkins family, truly, even outside of the opera world. I love the city, everything about it, I love the audience here, and that’s where you want to be.

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