Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Meet the artist: Marcy Stonikas

Marcy Stonikas in Recital premieres at 7 p.m., on Friday, Oct. 9 on Seattle Opera's Facebook, YouTube, and website. The performance is available to the public for free until Friday, Oct. 30, 2020.

Marcy Stonikas began her relationship with Seattle Opera audiences in 2010 as a member of the Young Artist Program. Since then her "spine-tingling soprano" (Opera News) has been heard on the McCaw Hall stage in The Magic Flute ('11), Turandot ('12), Tosca ('15), Ariadne auf Naxos ('15), Aida ('18) and most recently in Britten's The Turn of the Screw ('18). We are excited to welcome Ms. Stonikas back for a virtual recital premiering October 9, 2020 when audiences will be able to enjoy her "huge, clear, commanding voice" (Washington Times) once more.

This recital is co-hosted by Florida State University College of Music and was filmed at the Ruby Diamond Concert Hall on the Florida State University Campus. Pianist Valerie Trujillo is Professor of Vocal Coaching and Accompanying at Florida State University. 

Tell me your favorite Seattle Opera memory? 
It's extremely difficult for me to think of only one memory that could be classified as my favorite, since at last count, I figured out that I have been involved with 15 productions since I first came to Seattle as a Young Artist! Some of the most fun memories that I have from being a Young Artist was performing in Siegfried and the Ring of Fire (a Jonathan Dean arrangement of Parts II and III of the Ring cycle) with and for elementary schools around the Seattle area. Doing opera on tour is such a bonding experience for the cast, and it was simply awesome to be able to perform with very hard-working, eager 5th graders for the rest of the children at their schools. I guess another really amazing experience for me that particularly stands out was the opportunity to reprise my role in Ariadne auf Naxos. It is probably my favorite role/music to sing, and to be able to sing the role twice in Seattle was a gift.

Marcy Stonikas, far left, as one of The Rhine Daughters with Jenni Bank, and Megan Hart. Bill Mohn, photo. A work of student art inspired by a performance of Seattle Opera’s “Theft of the Gold.”

What’s your favorite non-opera music?
That's hard for me to say with any resolve, because I love a lot of other music. Over the past several months, I have been listening to music that makes me feel happy and that makes me think of nice times in my life. I love big band music and most music from the 40's. George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter are some big time faves as well, particularly when I can listen to Rosemary Clooney, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Mel Torme singing them! I'm also very into The Beatles, and that's a family love, so you can regularly find us playing them—especially while we're cleaning the house. And then, when I'm feeling all nostalgic, I can get pretty into my 90's alternative rock that I used to listen to on repeat when I drove all around, like kids of the 90's were want to do. 

Marcy Stonikas as Ariadne in the 2010 Young Artists Production, with Joanna Foote as Naiad, Jennifer Edwards as Echo, Jenni Bank as Dryad, and Vira Slywotzky as the Composer. Chris Bennion, photo

Favorite thing to watch on Netflix?
Oof, that's also a hard one, particularly when I am forced to think about the sheer mass of Netflix that I've consumed over the past months in quarantine! I binge watched Parks and Rec right when everything first shut down, and that was really wonderful. I have an ongoing re-watch of The Gilmore Girls going and just when I'm getting a bit tired of the light-hearted stuff, I have Forensic Files galore to keep my true crime itch scratched. Grace and Frankie and West Wing are also regularly on. Whenever my son actually deigns to share the TV with me, we usually opt for an episode of Nailed it!, which I turned him on to, and I can't even explain my joy with the most current season of The Great British Baking Show that's airing! I've re-watched all of those so many times over.

We could all use a laugh right now. What’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you onstage? (Or any funny singer story you can share).

This is a difficult question for me to answer, surprisingly! Fortunately, I've never had a wardrobe malfunction on stage (thank you, amazing costume designers and wardrobe people!) and the only things I can come up with are, frankly, a bit too blue to be sharing readily on the Internet, lol!

Marcy Stonikas (The High Priestess) backstage during Aida. Ariana Buck photo

One occasion that I call seeming very...well, surreal, was the performance of Tosca that I jumped into at Seattle Opera in 2015. I had more than 48 hours notice, which honestly isn't bad at all, and I was even able to get a really last-minute rehearsal onstage, but Greer Grimsley, who played Scarpia, was unavailable to attend. So, our first and only time to rehearse the (spoiler alert) stabbing at the end of Act II was on set, behind the curtain, during first intermission. I certainly hope that we (i.e. me, because Greer sells EVERYTHING!) were convicting enough, and that it wasn't completely obvious we hadn't even really rehearsed!  

What are you most excited about with regard to your upcoming Seattle Opera recital?
The best part of my upcoming Seattle Opera recital has been finding my way back into singing. I definitely went through a mourning period at the beginning of COVID-19, during which time, it was difficult to make music. It felt like it would be so long until we would be able to perform again. The gravity of the pandemic made it extremely hard to do something as "inconsequential" as practicing my singing, because people all around me were getting sick and worse! But it's been extremely therapeutic and healing to get back into practicing music. Music has always been a sort of escape for me. I have felt such gratitude and peace return, things I had been lacking over the past several months. And I intentionally chosen music that I have a very strong connection to. That makes it easy for me to give each piece the emotionality that it evokes for me.  

"To this we've come." Magda Sorel (Marcy Stonikas) sings an aria of desperation amid an unfeeling bureaucracy that sees her as a number on paper rather than a human being. Elise Bakketun photo

How can Seattle Opera fans support you, and opera artists in general right now?
The biggest way that Seattle Opera fans can support me is to not forget about the performing arts (and artists), in general. There are so many people who are directly impacted by the shutdown of productions/seasons at theaters all over the United States, and it breaks my heart to think about any one of them struggling to figure out what to do and where to go now. This is what we DO, and it's been a viable way of life, to the point that many of us have probably taken the fragility of the industry for granted. We are all hurting right now, so if I can implore everyone to PLEASE wear a mask, socially distance, and wash their hands—that would help all of us so much. (I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir!).  

Because our medium has been forced to completely shift to online productions, I also encourage you all to seek out opportunities to directly support artists who are putting out online content. My management company actually put together a platform that can be found at which will have ongoing new posts from Seattle Opera performers such as Sarah Coburn, Kevin Burdette, Maggie Gawrysiak, Will Liverman, Freddie Ballentine, Anya Matanovic, Weston Hurt, Rachele Gilmore, as well as many other talented artists!

Bacchus (Jeffrey Hartman), god of wine, comes to the rescue of abandoned Greek princess Ariadne (Marcy Stonikas). Elise Bakketun photo

What’s been the biggest challenge for you this year? 

Not getting bogged down by the enormity of the global pandemic, as well as the negative impact that it's had on my family, friends, colleagues and the world. It's been really hard not to completely shut down (which I admittedly did for a period of time), and just live in a total state of fear, resentment, anger and blame. I have really worked hard not to let those feelings overtake me. I have tried to refocus my energy to the positive things/people in my life. 

What is one thing you will never forget from 2020? 
The things that I have learned—and try to remind myself of regularly—are the things that have changed markedly from how my life was before, but in a good way. Yes, I ended up losing a lot of present and future performance opportunities, but I have spent so many days/weeks/months consecutively with my nuclear family. Being with my husband and son every day, all day, has honestly been a major blessing. That will be a hard habit to break. 

Marcy Stonikas (Miss Jessel). Philip Newton photo

My (almost) daily nap was my other favorite thing that I was very sorry to have to wean myself off of once the school year started up again, and I had lessons to teach over Zoom (I'm an Assistant Professor of Voice at Florida State University). Because there is less traveling, fewer errands, and not as many things that occupy my day from start-to-finish, I have been able to keep up a better level of self-care— and that's certainly good, even if I'm doing it because I'm in a particularly difficult time.  

Why does opera still matter—even though we cannot all be together in the opera house right now?
One of the most important things to remember right now is that opera matters more NOW than it does under normal circumstances. Similarly to all of the non-opera music and Netflix I consume, listening to opera and other classical music is completely and utterly therapeutic. The unbelievably beautiful music, the amazing productions and the massive amount of individuals it takes to put on one show is truly staggering. I find that I am able to more freely express my emotions (i.e. cry) when I'm listening to or watching a production that I love.

Jeffrey Hartman (Bacchus) and Marcy Stonikas (Ariadne) in Seattle Opera's "Ariadne auf Naxos." Philip Newton photo

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