1. How did you first become interested in singing?
I don’t actually remember a time when I was not singing. My mother had a keen interest in it as a young woman and made sure all of her children grew up with a strong background in music. All of us studied instruments and all of us sang in our local children’s and church choirs. From the beginning music was not just a hobby for me – it was a way of life and passion unmatched by other areas of interest. Fortunately Milwaukee public schools had a fantastic arts curriculum where I met teachers who were able to both encourage and focus my interests. It wasn’t until high school that I discovered the thing I loved to do most was something I could do for a living.
2. Where/with whom have you studied?
My first real voice teachers were Raymond Roberts, Diane Lane and Katherine Pracht at the Milwaukee High School of the Arts. I also studied piano for 13 years with Diane Kachelmeir and Elena Abend.
My formal, conservatory training was with Kathryn Cowdrick at the Eastman School of Music and Pamela Fry at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Coaches included Russell Miller, Benton Hess and Steve Bailey.
I’ve participated in master classes and lessons with Jeffrey Thomas, Barbara Bonney, Kurt Streit, Dominik Argento, Jose Maria Condemi, Robin Guarino, Ellen Hargis, and Stephen Stubbs.
I’ve also studied Baroque Performance Practice with Paul O’Dette, Corey Jamason, and Ellen Hargis, and Baroque dance and gesture with Stephen Adby.
3. What is your favorite opera and why?
My all time favorite opera is Orfeo by Luigi Rossi – the sheer beauty of his music is unparalleled for me, and he writes with such elegance and grace it’s impossible not to get swept up in it. I also am obsessed with the Orpheus legend. Charles Gounod’s Faust is also a favorite. It has absolutely everything: soaring melodies, beautiful orchestration, well defined characters and an interesting storyline. It’s extremely captivating for me both aurally and visually.
4. What is your dream role?
Right now, Cleopatra in Handel’s Giulio Cesare. She is such an interesting, multi-leveled character: she’s sexy, calculating and manipulative and yet, at the same time, immensely vulnerable. I feel Handel presents so much in the score to work with, and breaking that musical road map apart to find the appropriate approach and nuance for each phrase he’s written is something I find invigorating and thrillingly difficult. This is a role that stretches the performer both as a singer and an actor, and I find that challenge very stimulating.
5. If you could have dinner with any composer, who would you choose and why?
Johann Sebastian Bach. What a unique and passionate individual! His music is absolutely exquisite, and difficult enough to make the most seasoned musician want to pull his/her hair out. I am constantly amazed at his unparalleled skills as a musical craftsman and how much his music can yield to those who really study and work to master it. And after 2 wives, 21 children, a past filled with loss and a bittersweet professional history, I can only begin to imagine what he could tell me! Oddly, however, very little (if anything) is written regarding his own opinions of his music and those of his peers – I would love to sit and discuss life and music with such an immense musical figure whom we still know so little about.
6. Do you have any pre-performance rituals?
I follow the same routine for every audition and performance: I sleep in and warm up slowly throughout the day, usually taking a walk or watching a movie to avoid peaking too early. I try and avoid excess dairy or caffeine and push fluids (a favorite being hot water and honey). I also get to the performance space early so I can really “arrive” there and have enough quiet time to focus and review staging, music, etc.
7. What has been your most unusual performance to date and why?
While I don’t wish to incriminate any of my colleagues on paper….I think my most bizarre experience was during a concert I did in San Francisco. I was told that the second half of the concert would be done in the dark to create a relaxed mood for the audience. Since I was given a stand light I was game for the experience, but I almost lost my composure entirely when, after my solo, the conductor raised a yellow glow stick in place of his baton. Apparently this was done so the choir could see cues clearly in the dark, but it was honestly one of silliest moments I’ve had in my concert work.
8. If you were tone-deaf, what would your dream job be?
If I were tone-deaf and couldn’t sing for a living, I most certainly would have gone into medicine. I have an especially keen interest in surgery. I took my first First Aid class when I was 14, and have been fascinated ever since by how our bodies work and are put together.
9. What’s on your Ipod right now?
I don’t actually own an I-pod! I’m so behind the times. But if I did have one it would probably have Byrd’s “Great Service,” Bach’s BWV 12, 106 and 80, Buxtehude’s “Jesu meine Freude,” all the Mozart operas, Monteverdi motets, Susan Graham singing just about anything, Barbara Hendricks singing Wolf, Ann Sophie von Otter singing Brahms, Floyd’s “Susanna” and a random mix of Joni Mitchell and 80′s pop music….I have very ecclectic tastes.
10. What are you most excited to do in Milwaukee?
I was born and raised in Milwaukee, and the very first opera I ever saw was presented by Florentine. I’m honestly ecstatic to be performing with the company that first exposed me to the world of opera and showed me what life as a performer could be like. I left home to study music in New York and California when I was 18, so this will also be the first time I’ve been in the same city as my three siblings for almost 9 years. I’m really looking forward to spending a lot of time with them, and with my young niece and nephew!