Florentine Opera Development Manager Kelly Schlicht recently sat down with mezzo-soprano Sandra Piques Eddy to talk about her role in the upcoming production of Venus & Adonis/Dido & Aeneas, her time singing at the Met, and what it’s like to be back in Milwaukee.
KS: You play Dido, the title character in Dido & Aeneas. What drew you to this role?
SPE: I’m glad you asked me this question! Dido’s lament was what made me fall in love with opera in the first place. It was my introduction to opera, really. I was an undergraduate music education major at the Boston Conservatory and we were listening to a Janet Baker recording of Dido’s Lament, the final aria. I was blown away by the beautiful line, word painting and the hypnotic ground bass. It seemed like the singer was experiencing emotions on such an intense level and we as listeners were able to feel it, too. This is a dream to play this role because it made me fall in love with opera.
KS: What’s special about Dido?
SPE: Dido and Aeneas is a story from Virgil’s Aeneid so it’s a fanatical love story with an unhappy ending. Though Dido is laden with sadness, “press’d with torment” as she expresses in her first aria, the opera has moments of levity with the witches and the sailors and the lovely chorale sections. I’m finding the character very sympathetic because she seems as if she is both strong and fragile. I want to portray her as a real woman, with very real feelings who happens to be the Queen of Carthage. Dido’s status and rank must dictate a certain decorum yet she confides in her confidants of her true feelings.
KS: This is your role debut. Does it feel safer to try out a new role in a place like the Florentine?
SPE: I think so. I feel that the audiences here are so enthusiastic and responsive so it’s great to try something new out here. It’s great to sing both old favorites and debut roles here in Milwaukee!
KS: How does baroque repertoire differ from other classic repertoire in opera?
SPE: I love baroque opera. I love listening to and performing in them. There is something so expressive about the long languid lines, the dissonances, the period instrumentation and the florid coloratura phrases. As singers we are called to use so many vocal colors and this is especially in baroque repertoire. I’m always thrilled to use my voice as an expressive instrument in this particular way.
KS: You performed in Semele (2009) and Idomeneo (2012) with the Florentine. How does it feel to be back, and how has your life changed since then?
SPE: There’s a wonderful musical and dramatic integrity at this company. The people are so talented but also great to work with. It’s so warm and inviting, and people feel free to try things out and experiment with their singing or acting. As far as what has changed, the first time I was here singing a role, I was four months pregnant with my daughter! So it’s changed a lot since then.
KS: You’ve also been in more than 100 performances at the Metropolitan Opera. What’s that like, and why come back to Milwaukee?
SPE: My Metropolitan Opera debut season was back in 2001 and I can tell you honestly that I still feel the immense gratitude as I walk into the building, to the rehearsal space, on the stage or even as I stand out in front just looking at the theater! I hope this feeling never gets old. I think it’s important to have those feelings of inspiration and appreciation- it’s what drives me to be better. I am always thrilled to come back. The company has a wonderful reputation and I’ve had great experiences here in the past both on and off stage!!
KS: What are some of your favorite things about Milwaukee?
SPE: The food is amazing! I know it’s winter but I had my first frozen custard here in 2009 and I make it a point to get as much of it as possible! Ha! Also, I have a friend here named Melanie, whom I’ve known since high school. time I do a show here, she brings her mom and her sisters, and they get all dressed up and go out to dinner and come see my show. They already have their tickets for the Sunday performance. So it’s great to reconnect with them and have that special connection to this city.
KS: What should people know about this production before attending?
SPE: The operas are both in English, so there’s no worry about understanding the story. Just take it all in and let us tell you, or sing you, a story!
See Sandra Piques Eddy as Dido in Venus & Adonis/Dido & Aeneas on January 26, 27 and 28 at the Wilson Theater at Vogel Hall in the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. Call 1-800-32-OPERA to order tickets today!