Friday, April 25, 2014

Voigt on Voigt

Photo: Dario Acosta
We don't normally post previews, but seriously, what opera queen could resist the chance to chat with soprano Deborah Voigt (even if by email!), who is appearing with pianist Brian Zeger at Celebrity Series this Sunday? So forgive us this one time - and enjoy what this smart, talented lady has to say about her program - and herself!


HR:  It’s so great to have you back in Boston again. I caught your performance of “Voigt Lessons” last fall, and it was wonderful. But I see you won’t be singing “Nessun Dorma” this time around – and I’m so disappointed! ;-) 

DV: Well to be honest, I’m really looking forward to doing a more traditional recital. Although it is classical in nature - all of the composers are classical - I have purposefully chosen to do lighter fare and to sing a lot of things in English. It may be a little selfish of me, because I love singing these songs, and it’s a chance to be a little more relatable and allow my audience to get to know me a little bit better. They have been seeing me in armor and other costumes for so many years now, I like to have the chance to be more approachable. 

HR:  Last time we saw you, you sang a lot of popular music – but this time you’re focused on art song, and I think your fans will be happy with the program you’ve selected: some Strauss, of course (one of your specialties), as well as the Tchaikovsky songs with which you won the Tchaikovsky Competition back in 1990. So I’m sensing a little autobiography going on here, a kind of “Voigt Lessons 2, the Art Song Edit!” 

DV:  Brian Zeger and I have been performing this program all fall, and we’ve done it in the past as well, so we sort of know what works. Some of the audience may have never heard these songs before, and they all do have a special meaning to me. Ben Moore is someone who I have known for several years. I have actually recorded the pieces that I was doing in recital and I really just love his music. It’s very melodically driven and I am melodically driven - and while he is a contemporary composer, he really knows how to spin out a beautiful melody and how to set a text really well. 

Bolcom was also someone who Brian introduced me to and I just fell in love with these songs. “At the Last Lousy Moments of Love” is one that I added for this tour and it’s just a great song about the trials of romance and, unfortunately, I can relate to that. I had never sung any Bernstein, so I just thought “it’s about time!” He is an American treasure and I never had the chance to meet or work with him, so this is sort of a tribute to someone who has been so central to American song for so long. Of course, I grew up singing and dancing around to “West Side Story,” so I thought “Let’s visit him and see what else is out there." 

And as an American I do feel a cultural connection to these songs, probably more than to anything I’ve sung in my career, to be honest. Part of that satisfaction comes from the fact that I've spent about 25 years singing in an art form that is not mine, in languages that are not mine, and playing characters that I relate to, certainly on an emotional level, but — you know, it’s hard to think of yourself as a goddess (although there are those moments!) 

HR:  Some in your audience may be less familiar with composer Amy Beach - or “Mrs. H.H.A. Beach,” as she was known in her day. Mr. H.H.A. Beach, of course, is long forgotten, but Amy is remembered as the first female American to win acclaim for large-scale art music. What drew you to this pioneering woman? 

DV:  Well, unfortunately there is not a lot of opportunity to hear music by female composers. Brian Zeger is an absolute genius at knowing repertoire for all voice types, so he introduced me to these songs and they just hit me immediately and I feel that her music is very lush. These are songs that have been in my repertoire for a long time and I absolutely love having the opportunity to bring them to a wider audience. 

HR:  Let's talk a little more about Brian, with whom you’ve often worked before. What’s the secret to the success of your long partnership? 

DV:  I absolutely love working with Brian. Many of these songs feature him A LOT, and the piano part is often … well, I believe I will say, more difficult than the vocal part! He is such a fine pianist that I like the opportunity, myself, to just sit back and listen to him play—watch him sweat for a few minutes! 

HR:  So what’s next for Deborah Voigt? Strauss was a specialty, but recently you’ve moved on to Wagner. What are your future vocal plans? Any particular roles you dream of tackling, or any new directions you’re hoping to explore? You know whatever you do we’ll still want you back on a Boston stage sometime soon! 

DV:  At this time I am feeling so blessed and fortunate to be where I am in my career, to feel like I’ve done practically everything operatically that I’d like to do. Of course there is one role that I haven’t done that I’m still dreaming about, and that’s Strauss’ Elektra. Besides than that, I’ve done quite a bit and I’m just really enjoying looking at other things, other options.  I’m very interested in musical theater and it’s a lot of fun, so I see that in my future. It’s nice to have made it to a point in my career where I have choices and can still exercise performance muscles that have been dormant since I performed musicals back in high school!

Deborah Voigt will be singing selections from Strauss, Tchaikovsky, Bolcom, Beach and others at 3 pm this Sunday at Symphony Hall.

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