Thursday, March 5, 2015

Meet Our Singers: MARY FEMINEAR, Semele

Soprano Mary Feminear sings Semele at Friday night’s performance, opposite Theo Lebow’s Jupiter and Deborah Nansteel’s Juno and Ino. This young American soprano is just as comfortable with the rich mid-range of Ariadne’s Composer as with Lucia di Lammermoor’s high-wire act, and you’ll hear her remarkable range and powerful voice displayed by Handel’s music. We’ll get another chance to hear Feminear soon, when she takes on the role of Pamina in Pacific Musicworks’ The Magic Flute in May at the University of Washington.

Mary Feminear sings a passage from Semele (click play to listen)

Tell us about the character of Semele. Do you find it easy to connect with her?
Semele is full of flaws, which are at times painfully difficult to see past. She's a social climber and a narcissist. But there is also beauty there. Handel keeps us aware of this by giving her some gorgeous moments, full of light and humanity. To me, those moments are what make Juno's wicked plans so tragic. Semele, though self-obsessed, does have so much potential.

Mary Feminear getting ready backstage, with Principal Hair and Makeup Artist Calli Dey
Philip Newton, photo

Later this spring, Seattle audiences will also get a chance to hear your Pamina. How is singing Mozart different from singing Handel?
To me, singing Mozart is not all that different from singing Baroque. Mozart developed a great love of Handel over his lifetime. And one has to assume that at the time, styles hadn't changed so much. I still think of phrases in Mozart as a series of gestures, like with Handel.

The place where they differ is in the matter of ornamentation. Handel gives you the liberty of elaborating on some of his ideas in da capo arias and even in some other cases. If Mozart repeats material, he writes out exactly what he wants, note-for-note.

Mary Feminear as Semele
Elise Bakketun, photo

There are lots of roles for your voice type, but there are also lots of singers competing for those roles. How does a young soprano make a name for herself today?
It's true, there are a lot of singers and the repertoire is vast. But getting overwhelmed doesn't help. So far, I'm just sticking with the repertoire I'm drawn to and I don't question it. Following my instincts has always been the best plan of action.

Mary Feminear as Semele
Philip Newton, photo

You received great press for the roles of Aréthuze and Proserpine in Charpentier’s La descente d’Orphée aux enfers, which you sang recently with Gotham Chamber Opera. Many New Yorkers are looking to this small company for imaginative productions of interesting repertory. How was your experience with them?
Neal Goren is as talented at choosing spaces as he is at choosing rare and wonderful music. He is also incredibly supportive and encouraging with his singers. We need that, in order to feel like we can take risks ourselves. This performance stands out in my memory.

Mary Feminear as Semele and Theo Lebow as Jupiter
Elise Bakketun, photo

Speaking of interesing new productions, Seattle Opera’s Semele has inspired lots of superlatives!
It's been deserving of all of it. If you're looking to have a stunning visual and musical experience, one that will stay with you, come see Semele! Everyone has put an incredible amount of energy into this new production. The result is a heavenly world that is inspiring for the audience to live and dream in.