Thursday, February 13, 2014

Meet Our Singers: DANA PUNDT, Anna Gomez

Dana Pundt made a striking impression as Cinderella’s wicked stepsister Clorinda last year in Seattle Opera’s La Cenerentola. In The Consul, she returns in the supporting role of Anna Gomez, one of the characters stuck forever in the Consul’s office. Dana told me about the psychologically detailed acting-work that goes into even a small role, such as this one—and about the vocal work she’s already doing for a role she’ll sing a year from now: Semele, in Handel’s opera of that name.

Dana Pundt sings "Sempre libera" from La traviata

Your character, Anna Gomez, sings one of my favorite lines in The Consul: “There has to be someplace for me in this large world.” Tell us a little about her.
Anna Gomez is a survivor from a Nazi concentration camp. She’s probably one of the more tortured souls in The Consul. We’ve decided to take it in the direction that she has PTSD from her experiences. Her husband is missing...

Was he in the camp with her?
Yes. And she may have had a child, but if so, we think that child is also dead. Everything is heightened for her—she’s very jumpy all the time. She has taken refuge in this country, wherever The Consul takes place—they never actually say!—but her visa is about to expire, and she’s looking for somewhere to call home.

Dana Pundt at rehearsal for The Consul
Alan Alabastro, photo

Menotti gave us a very detailed physical description of your character and her mannerisms. For instance, he says she has a big white streak in her hair. How do you find her physicality?
You’ll see she has a hand tic, which Menotti described, and Peter has asked me to add a bit of a limp as well. I sort of embody anxiety when I’m out there. Actually, it’s not particularly challenging for me! [laughs]

Being a soprano, anxiety comes naturally!
I’m kind of comfortable with the crazy! It’s the sweet and innocent that I have more trouble with.

Dana Pundt sings a passage from Suor Angelica

That’s right, the last time you were on the mainstage you were a sweet, innocent little nun... Suor Angelica...

...with her precious little lambs. And now you’re back to the high-strung.
Yes; Anna is skittish and frightened of everyone. The psychology of trauma is fascinating; it’s something I’ve always been interested in.

Melanie Taylor Burgess' costume design for Anna Gomez in The Consul

On the first day of rehearsal for The Consul, many people from Seattle Opera’s staff and cast shared real-life stories of escaping persecution, either their own or a family member’s. Did you have a strong reaction to that discussion?
I did, in fact I got a little teared-up listening to everybody. It sort of hits home; it’s very real.

Margaret Gawrysiak (Vera Boronel) and Dana Pundt (Anna Gomez) at rehearsal for The Consul
Alan Alabastro, photo

Now, next year, we’ll be presenting our third-ever Handel opera, and you’ll sing the title role in Semele at Seattle Opera! Have you done much early opera?
Not particularly. I learned Cleopatra’s arias in college, but this is my first complete Handel role. I’m excited!

Not sure if you consider The Magic Flute early opera; but I saw you’re doing Queen of the Night.
Yes, I’ve done that very often. I did it in outreach, so you really rack up the numbers that way.

Have you started working on Semele yet?
I’ve looked at the arias. It is GORGEOUS. But it’s somewhat of a challenge; it’s a big role, and the style of coloratura is very specific and very different from anything else I’m used to singing. I’m a bel canto girl. I used to think, “I’ll never meet a coloratura passage that will give me any trouble.” But then I started learning this, and...oh, my God!

Why should people come to The Consul?
It’s relevant and moving. And I think it’s more accessible than a lot of opera. It’s in English, it’s about something that many people still remember...I think it’s easier to relate to this than Aida, say. Not that Aida isn’t wonderful; it’s just a different kind of animal.

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