Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Aldrich and von Stade Part 2: Great Scott’s Characters

By Erica Miner

EM: Can you talk about the interaction between your two characters?

FVS: We just have one adorable duet, kind of a trip down memory lane. Just dear.

EM: Like the Countess-Susanna letter duet in Figaro. That’s as sweet as it gets, even with the undercurrent of what’s going on.

FVS: Yes. Basically my character is a singer but not professional, who never went there and had the goods. But mainly I’m just in awe of this kid, what she’s done and accomplished, and care about her and want her to succeed but be happy too. The way Jake has written it, my character is very happy. She’s married a rich man who’s devoted to her and she’s found a wonderful life. In Dallas there was a woman who’s very much like Winnie. She was the wife of the guy who owns the football team.

KA: Oh my gosh.

EM: Did Jake base your character on her?

FVS: No, he didn’t, but it was fun because she had artwork installed in the big new stadium in Dallas so the people going to these games can enjoy beautiful art at the same time. She wants the best. As an older opera singer I want the best for these kids. I know the pitfalls, I’ve done it. You want to save them if you possibly can.

EM: What do you two most look forward to about this west coast premiere?

FVS: I’m looking forward to hearing Kate, and this wonderful gal (Joyce El-Khoury) who sings the “Star Spangled Banner” at the Super Bowl. She’s hysterical.

KA: She’s so funny.

EM: What a great role.

FVS: Wonderful role. And this marvelous countertenor role. Really there’s not a bad role in the whole thing. I’m looking forward to a triumph for Jake. Not because I think he needs it (Laughs). 

EM: Kate, what role have you not done yet that you would like to do? True confessions.

KA: That’s one of those questions that gets asked a lot. I would have my list and then I’ve started to check them off (Laughs). I had Jane Seymour in Anna Bolena and now I’ve done it. Then Rosenkavalier, La Favorite. I’d love to do La Favorite again. Then a French Don Carlo in a couple of years. I would love to get back to Werther. I think it’s my best role but I’ve only done it twice.

EM: I think Flicka can relate to that.

KA: The other night we were talking about repertoire, Rosenkavalier. I have her recording with…

FVS: Evelyn Lear. Oh my goodness.

KA: It’s a great recording. I love it so much.

FVS: Thank you!

KA: I listened to that so much when I was preparing my first Rosenkavalier. It means a lot to me.

FVS: That was one I learned in 10 days and suffered ever since. You know that (Sings) “Wass heisst du, wass du…” I thought, is it three, is it two, is it one?

FVS, KA: (Sing in unison in German, laughing.)

FVS: That’s just where I thought, “Please let me get it right.”

EM: I sat in the first fiddle section right by the (Met) pit wall and got to watch it. I can’t tell you how much fun we used to have.

FVS: Did you ever go on tour?

EM: Oh yeah.

FVS: Weren’t they crazy, those tours? And they would just wine and dine you to death. I always got in trouble because I was really skinny then and looked like one of the ballerinas and they would be like, “We didn’t invite the ballet.”

EM: As Cherubino you sure looked like a boy.

FVS: (Laughs) That was fun.

KA: I’ve been meaning to tell you this. My husband was mad for you in Cenerentola when he was like a little boy.

FVS: Really!

KA: It’s one of the things that got him into classical music. You rocked his world.

FVS: That is so cute. Thank you.

EM: Flicka, you’ve done it all. Is there anything else you want to do?

FVS: No, I love if I’m asked to be part of it. I told Jake, “Listen, if there’s a certain amount of decay (Laughs), you’re not going to hurt my feelings. Just don’t worry about it.” I did this piece of Ricky Ian Gordon’s last year, which I really had fun, I played a 92-year-old woman, so it was a little closer to home. I had a ball doing it. Now my basic goal is to get money for these young kids. This wonderful organization called YMCO, Young Musicians Choral Orchestra in Berkeley, a youth program to get kids into college. We help 80 kids, all low income. It makes me sad that so many kids of color and Latino kids don’t get a chance. Not for lack of ability, they just never have had the exposure to anything. Music solves so many problems in their lives. It’s just extraordinary.

EM: Music as an outlet is such a creative force for kids.

FVS: If you go to a lot of the performances of the youth orchestras you’ll see six African-American kids. You have to go after them in the communities. The success rates are incredible. Whether they end up in music or not doesn’t matter. They just get so much from what they’re doing.

EM: They can discover something about themselves, find something they never knew existed.

FVS: Yes.

EM: Will you be singing any recitals?

FVS: I have a couple with Jake, here and there. That’s fine. Even now I feel like I’ve abandoned my husband. It’s not that much fun for him to come and sit around in a different city.

EM: Kate, what’s next for you after this?

KA: I’m doing a rarely performed work, L’Olympie by Spontini, at Théâtre Champs Elysées in Paris, then Carmen in Poland, in Naples and Verbier Festival.

EM: Do you still enjoy doing Carmen after having done so many?

KA: I go through periods where it’ll fall into a lull but it has less to do with me and more to do with a production that’s ordinary and non-thought provoking. The way these guys wrote opera…every phrase is dense with information about the character and plot. Even the way words are set - a single word gives you all the information you need. So I love to play around with that. You can do that in a role like Carmen I’ve done so many times.

EM: So your comfort level is pretty high at this point.

KA: There are moments, of course. Like the fact that the hardest aria is the very first thing you sing, the Habanera.

EM: It also must have a lot to do with your Don José.

KA: Yes. Last summer I sang with Jonas Kaufmann. I’m loving it right now, but… 

FVS: (Laughs.)

KA: I know. It was so difficult to work with him. And we had to kiss, even.

FVS: Oh, right, really tough.

KA: And I had to listen to him sing, “La Fleur que tu m’avais jetée.” That was also difficult.

FVS: Is he nice, too?

KA: Oh, he’s heaven. I adore that man. He’s a decent, good person who defends himself when he needs to, his personal space and musical choices. Very smart, very instinctive actor, which I love. We didn’t necessarily do the same thing from night to night, and he was all about that, just let’s make it real as it comes. So that was fun. He’s such a great Don José.

EM: You guys are amazing. I cannot wait to hear you sing this opera.

FVS: We can’t wait for you to hear it. I think that’s how everyone feels about it. “Wait till you hear this, you’re gonna love it.”

KA: And that scene…

FVS: And then that scene.

KA: When my brother came with my kid and his wife and two kids to see a rehearsal and they left after my first scene and I said, “No, no, you have to stay because there’s that scene, and that scene is really funny and that scene is touching and the thing that happens when the thing falls.”

EM: I’m sure the audience will be pumped. Also because it’s in English. So accessible.

FVS: Jake’s music is easy on the ears, much easier than with piano. When you hear it with the orchestra, it’s… (Sighs). 

EM: Kate and Flicka, I’m so thrilled to meet you both. Toi, toi for Saturday. 

KA, FVS: Thank you!

(Great Scott is performed May 7, 10, 13, 15, 2016, at the San Diego Civic Theatre.)

Photos used with permission of the artists
Erica Miner can be reached at: [email protected]

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