Friday, April 29, 2022

Flying the Flags for Ukraine & South Bay Chamber Music


Ukraine Benefit Concert, Temple Israel, Long Beach
South Bay Chamber Music Society, Los Angeles Harbor College

Cécilia Tsan.
Two cello/piano recitals were given last weekend in the South Bay area, and a joint review of both seems appropriate as each included the same single genre piece by one composer, while between them the two events encompassed another composer’s complete output in that same genre.

More importantly, however, the second concert, hosted by Temple Israel, Long Beach, was specifically organized by the cellist Cécilia Tsan as a fundraiser for Ukraine, and opened with a somber account of the Ukrainian national anthem. The donations website remains open, and can be accessed by clicking here or on the flag above. 

Timothy Durkovic
The work common to both recitals was Debussy’s Sonate pour Violoncelle et Piano, L144, and the performance by Ms. Tsan and Timothy Durkovic (piano) which formed the climax of their benefit concert was as passionately heartfelt as was her introduction to the event. The implacable determination of the Sostenuto e molto risoluto marking which heralds the sonata's Prologue was as fully realized by the players as was the capricious spontaneity of the succeeding Sérénade and linked Finale, where they negotiated all the quasi-improvisatory twists and turns of Debussy’s score with seeming effortlessness.

Claude Debussy.
This marvelous performance slightly put in the shade the very fine account of the same work that, two evenings before, had ended the first half of the South Bay Chamber Music Society’s last concert in its 2021-22 season, by Eric Byers (cello) and Steven Vanhauwaert (piano) in LA Harbor College’s concert hall. Listening to the sonata in both of these fine acoustics, it was impossible not to reflect on Debussy’s situation as he wrote it in 1915—a French patriot tormented by the war’s impact on his country, and already ill with the cancer that would kill him less than three years later amidst the German bombardment of his beloved Paris.

Eric Byers.
If (to grossly over-simplify) Ms. Tsan dwelt on the emotionally expressive aspects of Debussy’s cello writing, Mr. Byers seemed rather to relish its timbral resourcefulness—an impression perhaps enhanced by the fact that his and Mr. Vanhauwaert's performance immediately followed their account of the Three Meditations from Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, the huge “theater piece for singers, players and dancers” that he composed for the inauguration of Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center in 1971.

The original production of Mass at the Kennedy Center.

Critically castigated at the time, Mass came in from the cold when it was revived during the 2018 Bernstein centenary, in particular through an acclaimed new complete recording under Marin Alsop. Though Bernstein's voluble religious questionings remain for some listeners one of the less relatable aspects of his art, these Meditations, arranged for cello and piano from the orchestral originals that form the 12th, 17th, and 25th sections of the complete Mass, certainly form a way into at least one aspect of the work.

Steven Vanhauwaert.
I have doubts that the resulting triptych adds up to a coherent whole, but Byers and Vanhauwaert were clearly committed to the Three Meditations, sparing nothing of the cello line’s fractured, angular intensity, punctuated by thunderous piano dissonances, pizzicati so intense that the strings thwacked off the cello’s fingerboard and, to open and close the last Meditation, rhythmic taps from Mr. Vanhauwaert's fingers on the piano structure to simulate the sound of bongos.

Robert Schumann.
No contrast could have been greater than the preceding item, an account of the Adagio and Allegro, Op. 70, by Schumann, as forthrightly intense in the Adagio as the Allegro was fleet. Before that, their recital had opened with the gently mournful Two Pieces composed by the 15-year-old Anton Webern in 1899, his earliest work to have survived and a universe away expressively from his atonal and hyper-aphoristic Drei Kleine Stücke Op. 11 (1914)—a skillful piece of programming by Byers and Vanhauwaert to open their second half.

Anton Webern.
The three pieces contain a mere 9, 13, and 10 measures respectively and are all over in under two minutes, but the score is deluged with detailed markings—more indications as to timbre, dynamic, expression, attack, etc., than there are actual notes—and the players’ performance was a minor miracle of attentiveness to all these.

Gabriel Fauré, by
John Singer Sargent.
The first work programmed in Tsan's and Durkovic’s benefit concert, Fauré’s Élégie Op. 24, maintained the mood of grieving. Mr. Durkovic’s clear articulation of the repeated C minor chords that led into the main theme on the cello were a welcome corrective to some more histrionic and soulful interpretations, while the contrast was literally breathtaking between Ms. Tsan’s first forte statement of that theme and the mere thread of tone, virtually without vibrato, with which she articulated its immediate pianissimo restatement.

The two recitals joined hands again with the inclusion by Byers and Vanhauwaert in their SBCMS recital of Brahms’ Cello Sonata No. 2 in F major, Op. 99 of 1886 and—as the centerpiece of their Ukraine fundraiser—Tsan's and Durkovic's performance of his Cello Sonata No. 1 in E minor, Op. 38, of which Brahms wrote the first two movements in 1862 (plus an Adagio which he later discarded) and then the Allegro finale three years later. 

Johannes Brahms in 1889, 
three years after the composition
of his Cello Sonata No. 2.
Tsan's and Durkovic’s account avoided the pitfall of overdoing the non troppo aspect of the first sonata’s initial Allegro non troppo marking. In some performances this, together with the inclusion of the long exposition repeat, can make the first movement seem interminable, but their forward-pressing performance was rich and elegiac rather than doomily dragging, and with the omission of that repeat made the first movement more equal in scale with its two successors.

Equally well caught were the bittersweet courtliness of the Menuetto and Trio, and their immaculate ensemble in the Allegro finale’s torrential contrapuntal writing made for some edge-of-seat listening as the movement swept to its dark conclusion.

After the Debussy sonata, the brief Largo third movement of Chopin’s Cello Sonata in G minor Op. 65 made a touching encore and exeunt to this memorable hour of music-making in the best of causes, which so far has raised almost $15,000 for victims of the Ukraine war.

Finally, back to Byers' and Vanhauwert's South Bay Chamber Music Society recital. In complete contrast to the minor-key homogeneity of Brahms’ first cello sonata, his second sonata is far more varied in mood and texturally adventurous, with much use of cello pizzicato and tremolando effects on both instruments.

Performing the work as their final item, Byers and Vanhauwert were equally masters of the first movement’s wide-ranging drama (complete with exposition repeat), the tender processional of the Adagio affetuoso, the scherzo’s impulsive, improvisatory character, and the concise, exuberant finale. It would be difficult to imagine a finer conclusion to the SBCMS's first post-Covid season. 


Ukraine Benefit Concert, Temple Israel, Long Beach, Sunday, April 24, 2022,
3:00 p.m.
South Bay Chamber Music Society, LA Harbor College, Friday, April 22, 2022, 8:00 p.m. (repeated at the Pacific Unitarian Church, Rancho Palos Verdes, Sunday, April 24, 2022, 3:00 p.m.)

Images: Cécilia Tsan: Courtesy LA Phil; Timothy Durkovic: artist website; Debussy: Piano Street; Eric Byers: artist website; Steven Vanhauwaert: artist website; Schumann, Webern, Fauré, Brahms: Wikimedia Commons.

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Thursday, April 21, 2022

Lawrence Brownlee Speaks as He Sings: Gloriously


INTERVIEW: Lawrence Brownlee

McCaw Hall, Seattle

On Friday, April 29, one of the shining stars of the opera world will bring his outstanding artistry to the stage of McCaw Hall. Lawrence Brownlee is one of today’s leading bel canto singers. Having honed his craft in Seattle Opera’s Young Artist program, Brownlee has become a fixture at the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro all Scala, and the Royal Opera House. 

On his much-anticipated program Brownlee, accompanied by pianist Shelby Rhoades, will perform classic Italian art songs, operatic arias, spirituals and more. He is also delightful company and expressed himself as articulately when speaking as he does when singing.

ERICA MINER: Welcome back to Seattle! You recently knocked our collective socks off with your performance in Rossini’s Le Comte Ory. What was your journey to the opera stage? 

LAWRENCE BROWNLEE: It started in high school. I didn’t know much about classical music back then. I knew more about musical theatre, madrigal singing, jazz, typical show choir music—the music I knew from school. I grew up in the church, so I have a strong background in gospel music, not necessarily classical. I had a high school teacher who told me that the tone of my voice suited opera in classical music. Through his urging and support I was invited to take part in a program for gifted music students at the university in my hometown of Youngstown, Ohio. At the culmination of this ten-week intensive training, we had to give a recital. I was singing in the classical style for the first time. I got a standing ovation. It kind of shocked me. I wasn’t expecting that. I just thought the program was something fun to do in my last year of high school. A gentleman there approached my father and me: “Where are you from. Who are you?” he said. “I don’t know if you realize what type of amazing talent you have.” It was his suggesting—his “chorusing,” I like to say, for me to come there and study with him at Youngstown State University. His name was David Starkey. He had been a singer, a teacher, he did stuff in Europe and Germany, but not a big international career. He thought I had something special. It was there that I began the journey of classical music and opera, though I was singing more art songs then. He made me believe I had something special. I went to college thinking I would be a lawyer and taking music on the side. I entered a few competitions. Then my voice teacher after Mr. Starkey had me transfer to a school in Indiana. My teacher there had the same type of enthusiasm for my voice, that I had something really special. After winning a few competitions, I believed I had something and began to work on my instrument and craft. I was advancing, being singled out time and time again. So I thought, “Maybe there’s something here. Forget being a lawyer. If it doesn’t work out with the singing I can go back and try to be a lawyer later on. But I want to see where this leads me.” I had really good instruction, teachers, and opportunities. All that led to where I am today.

EM: You were right. You do have something special.

LB: [Laughs]

EM: Your recital here includes art songs, Mozart arias, Kurt Weill and spirituals. Can you give us some details?

LB: Happy to. I’ve done this concert, “Song of my Youth,” a few times. All these songs were important to me in the beginning of my career. For example, the very first classical piece I sang was Tu lo sai from the “24 Italian Songs and Arias.” The first French piece I ever sang, the first German piece, the first aria. All of these have meaning to me, things that got me excited, that I worked on my craft. They planted seeds for me to endeavor other things. I remember when I sang them as an 18-year-old, very bright-eyed and bushy tailed, very green unrefined singer. Coming back to these pieces more than 30 years later, I realize these are great gems of beauty that can be very expressive and meaningful for someone who’s 18 or 50, which I am going to be in November.

EM: You’re doing arias from Don Giovanni, Magic Flute, Street Scene.

LB: Yes. Tamino’s Dies Bildnis, my first opera role. Street Scene was the first aria I ever sang in English. I’m known for having a flexible voice, so I had to put something with movement on it. Il Mio Tesoro was one of the first I sang with movement. I’m singing “Sally Garden,” my first English piece. Après un Reve. Even before I tried to become an opera singer, in church and the tradition of gospel, I sang spirituals that are meaningful to me. This is full circle, all the things that contributed to my education as a singer are a part of this recital. That’s why this is called “Songs of my Youth”—returning to these pieces that got me on the road to where I am today.

EM: How wonderful. I’m so impressed with how articulate you are in expressing yourself verbally.

LB: [Laughs] That’s very kind.

EM: I thoroughly enjoyed your CD, Amici e Rivali, which I reviewed when it came out, one of over a dozen you’ve made. Do you have plans for another one soon?

LB: A couple of things are in the pipeline. I’m currently working on a project attached to a tour next spring, on African American composers, about the Harlem Renaissance. Several young, gifted composers already have agreed to be a part of this. I’m waiting on some of the last confirmations now. That album is planned. Erin Morley and I have been discussing doing a bel canto duet CD, similar to the one I did with Michael Spyres. Both of us are trying to juggle our schedules, pairing up with the orchestra and conductor. We’re very invested and eager to make that happen. A couple more opera recordings, something with Lisette Oropesa in a year or two. I’m looking forward to a few other projects on the horizon planning around my career and the others I’m collaborating with. While I’m in relatively good voice I hope to put them “down on wax,” as they used to say.

EM: Coincidentally, I just interviewed Erin a couple of weeks ago for her La Scala debut last week. She’s also a delight, so the two of you together—I can’t wait.

LB: [Laughs] We’re looking forward. We’ve never shared the stage before, but next spring we’ll do that new production of The Magic Flute at the Met. Tamino and Pamina.

EM: Heaven. This question is actually from my husband, who’s French and is a big fan of yours. He says, “You make everything you sing seem effortless. Is it as effortless as it sounds?”

LB: [Laughs] I’m definitely working at it. One of my early teachers—I’ve had a total of 4 major teachers over my 30+ years of studying—said singing should be an extension of speaking. Another one said, you need to make something difficult sound easy, to work to be the Master of it and never let it be the Master of you. They were looking to me to try and create that illusion, that it sounds effortless, like I just woke up and could sing it. My approach to doing anything is to find my own way to make that seem as if written for me. There is much work going on, but I have found myself working in the bel canto arena, and that gives me an understanding of the style, which makes everything appear easier. I’ve always had a very flexible voice, a very high tessitura that I maintain that was a part of my natural attributes from the vocal standpoint. I felt I’ve always been in the right place as far as what I was presenting in my stage career. On the subject of French, before we spoke I was in my studio with my piano, getting ready to go to Paris National Opera to do a French baroque piece, Platée by Rameau, which I’m completely out of water [Laughs]. It’s an entirely French cast, conductor, and stage director. That is going to be a real challenge for me. I speak a decent amount of French, but I think I’m going to make significant strides, because I’ll be forced to do so. I’m looking forward to it.

EM: Rameau in Paris. What could be better. New topic. You’re known for your activism for diversity in the industry, and for advocating for opera as an art form. Could you address that, and Cycles of My Being

LB: Cycles of My Being ties into my being an advocate for the art form. A friend of mine, Jason Moran, the fantastic jazz pianist, and educator, and I were doing something for NPR, a field recording of the song, “There’s a man going around taking names.” The piece was featured in a movie by Ava DuVernay, Thirteen, about the 13th amendment. Jason and I were talking about using our art as a platform, how it gives us an opportunity to talk about things that are close to our heart. This was at a time where a lot of things were on the Internet, in the newspapers. Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, all the stories we heard of police brutality, police aggression, constantly before our eyes. It meant something to us to use our art form to speak about that. I remember preparing a recital for the next season at Carnegie Hall. They approached me and said what would you like to do. I said I’d like to sing Robert Schumann’s song cycle Dichterliebe, and couple it with another song cycle. I thought, wouldn’t it be great to do a song cycle that speaks to the experience of Black men in America. What we deal with, our reality, knowing that when I wake up in the morning my reality and potential are much different than someone who has blond hair and blue eyes. My skin, this house I walk around in, are going to be viewed in a certain way, people are going to assume certain things about me before I open my mouth to speak. These people don’t know who I am but limit what I can be. It would be great to talk about our existence in ways people can understand; I wanted to take my own experiences along with a young African American composer and librettist to come up with something that speaks to what it is to be a Black man.

I paired myself with Tyshawn Sorey, a MacArthur Genius Grant award winner, a wonderful avant garde composer with some crazy, beautiful ideas. Along with Terrance Hayes, who’s very provocative, in your face, asking questions about life, calling into question things we have dealt with being Black people. We all came together to create Cycles of My Being. For us to be able to talk about love, hope, hate, so many other issues, that people can understand we have the same desires as you. We want to be fathers and husbands, contribute to society and be law abiding citizens. But our reality sometimes—the path to that is not as easy. The first piece says, “America, I see you hiss and stare. Do you love the air in me as I love the air in you? Do you have the same love for me as I have for you?” I’m proud to be a Black American. But when you think of the men who came back from the war, who died for this country, put their lives on the line, were treated as second class citizens. So many other things that have been a part of the structure of the DNA of the United States. We go on to talk about what hope means for us. My hope is simple as imagining I have a better life in a way that’s different from someone who has the “golden ticket.” A heterosexual white man who grew up in whatever type of financial situation has the best advantage to be successful in our country. Hoping for me is to be able to have access to things others take for granted.

Cycles of my Being has been very cathartic for me. I’ve taken it from Provo, Utah, 99.99% Caucasian, to New York City and Chicago, which are decidedly different from Utah. It's been such a wonderful experience for me. All of those places I’ve taken this, it’s been so positively received. Having this done by all Black men who can push the question, ask about hate. Why do you hate me—is it because you envy something about me? A lot of difficult things to listen to but that was by design. To do it in a way people would be uneasy but could listen and it would start some type of dialogue within them, to begin to think of things in a different way. Eventually being anti-racist, a supporter of equality. Cycles was a passion project of love, one I will be happy to take around. 

Tying into the other part of the question. In my life, in my experiences, I am an activist outspoken for diversity and initiative. Even when I was in high school, my choir was very diverse. Our (female) teacher talked about brotherhood, love for mankind. That’s in my DNA. Even in my family. I’m one of 6 kids. Being a part of a bigger group, a larger ecosystem, a fraternity. It’s built in that we should be outgoing, to give a hand to help others. All the things I’ve done in my life, my career, have led up to that. I take it as a responsibility that I’m meant to do, to reach out to and help others. To be a spokesperson is very close to my heart that I hope to be doing as long as I can.

EM: I applaud your passion. I saw some episodes of your Facebook Live series The Sitdown with LB. What were some of your most memorable moments?

LB: I had so much fun in that series talking to so many of my friends and colleagues. People that I admired as a young singer. Obviously George Shirley, a person who was so important for me as a young singer of color, a tenor specifically. He’s been a friend and mentor. To see him at 87 years old, sharp as a tack, and to recount his experiences, some of the difficulties in his career, his love and passion for being a teacher, an educator. That was meaningful for so many people. Talking to Simon Estes was a lot of fun, similar to Mr. Shirley. Martina Arroyo, Vinson Cole. Even some of the younger singers. Will Liverman is a good friend. Pretty Yende, Angel Blue. Talking to all these people about their careers, their struggles—by design about being an African American singer. It wasn’t just about African American, it was their passions, hobbies. Denyce Graves talked about cooking. Later she told me she created a spinoff cooking show during the pandemic when we were all at home and had the opportunity to be in one place, to create and develop. I haven’t done any series in about 6 months, but a lot of people have told me they’d like to see more episodes so more will be coming soon. It’s fun to engage, to be the interviewer sometimes instead of the interviewee [Laughs].

EM: Those are names of people I adore, and one of those names is Larry Brownlee. I feel so blessed to be able to talk to you and have enjoyed it thoroughly.

LB: It’s been so nice speaking with you. And thank you for those nice things you’ve said. We are interviewed often, but this has been an especially pleasant one, and I appreciate your part in it. It’s been very delightful. Thank you so much.

EM: The pleasure is all mine. Thank you, Larry, for spending time with me. I look forward to seeing you onstage! 


Photo credits: Shervin Lainez
Erica can be reached at: [email protected]

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Erin Morley’s Star Lights Up the Opera World


Monarca Studios

INTERVIEW: Erin Morley

Teatro alla Scala

Soprano Erin Morley has become of late a force to be reckoned with. From her high-profile performances in the title role of the groundbreaking Eurydice, Matthew Aucoin’s reimagination of the Orpheus tale, at the Met, to singing Sister Constance in the Met’s GRAMMY-nominated Dialogues des Carmélites, the Richard Tucker award-winning singer’s star is rising at an astonishing rate. 

Her last-minute debut in 2013 as Sophie in the Met’s Der Rosenkavalier defined her as a performer to watch. Now, on April 15, Morley will make her much-anticipated La Scala debut singing the high-status role of Zerbinetta in Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos. She recently added to her considerable symphonic experience with Mahler’s Symphony #2, also at La Scala. Here, communicating from Milan, the soprano shares her infectious ebullience as she holds forth on multiple aspects of her career. 

ERICA MINER: Erin, I am so delighted with your success. If anyone deserves it, you do! Such amazing talent coupled with an appreciation of how hard you have worked to achieve so much. 

ERIN MORLEY: How sweet! Thank you so much!

E Miner: Let’s begin at the beginning. Where did you grow up? How did you find your way to the opera world?

E Morley: I grew up mostly in Pennsylvania and Utah, and my family is all very musical. My dad always sang songs with me and my siblings at the piano, my mom taught me violin and piano and eventually became a recital partner. As kids, my siblings and I were always involved in theatre, dance, choirs, orchestras, you name it! We learned to appreciate all styles of music. Both of my parents are very active in the music scene in Salt Lake City today.

E Miner: Who were your greatest influences?

E Morley: Certainly my parents, especially my violinist mother…and my early teachers. Voice teacher Betty Jeanne Chipman and piano teacher Solveig Lunde Madsen. These women were huge in shaping my choices after high school. Solveig had studied piano with Olga Samaroff Stokowski at Juilliard and then concertized all over the world. She was an exceptional pedagogue, and her stories were like food for my hungry young musician’s soul. Juilliard became my dream and I’m very glad to say I made it there (but as a singer!) As I started to become interested in opera as a teenager, I discovered Renée Fleming, Cecilia Bartoli, Ruth Ann Swenson, June Anderson, Beverly Sills, and then Edita Gruberova, Natalie Dessay, Joan Sutherland, Maria Callas, Renata Scotto . . . Legends. I will be forever learning from their work.

E Miner: And what great choices for inspiration! You have received one of opera’s most esteemed honors, the Beverly Sills Award, and are a graduate of the Met’s prestigious Lindemann Young Artists Development Program. How did that feel, and what was the experience like for you?

E Morley: It’s an enormous honor. The Beverly Sills Award came to me during the pandemic, and it was a sort of light in the darkness for me. I got the news when I was in Vienna, the city was still largely locked down, I was singing “Der Rosenkavalier” at the Wiener Staatsoper to an empty house—my only performance in an entire year. I think so many artists questioned their worth during the worst of the pandemic—this award gave me such a surge of energy and hope. Of course I was elated!! And I adore Beverly, so to have the Met’s award in her name is extremely special. 

Michael Poehn

E Miner: Your Twitter videos accompanying yourself at the piano with your golden voice helped me and countless others get through the worst days of the pandemic. Did you feel strongly about doing those?

E Morley: Thank you so much for saying that! It was something I felt very strongly about sharing—and honestly helped me through the pandemic too. It was my reality during most of the pandemic, alone with my piano, trying to reach people somehow. I felt I had to spread the message that music was still alive and could still move us and heal us. I’m so glad people connected with it, and that connection certainly fed my soul.

E Miner: One word: Eurydice. Does it get any better? 

Marty Sohl

E Morley: Everything about that project felt so “once in a lifetime”! I never imagined I’d be singing a title role at the Met, I never imagined my face would be all over Lincoln Center, I never imagined I’d be premiering a new work of such importance. And the collaboration with Sarah Ruhl and Matt Aucoin was thrilling. They were both so generous to me. The cast was remarkable. The HD Broadcast was so special…Definitely one of my life’s defining moments! I’m also completely thrilled to be returning to the Met at the end of May as Gilda. Rigoletto is such an iconic work and the performance history at the Met is overwhelming. Happy soprano right here! Two huge roles in one Met season. I’m gobsmacked, really. 

Michael Poehn

E Miner: Perhaps it does get better: your La Scala debut on April 15! Tell us everything.

E Morley: Oh my goodness, where to begin!? I’m making my La Scala debut!!! This is huge for me emotionally, to even walk inside the door on the first day was overwhelming. I came to Milan 16 years ago with my husband John for a few days, and we saw Ariadne auf Naxos. Can you believe?! We had partial view seats and I couldn’t see very well. This nice man in the front of the box gave me his seat. (What an act of kindness, and he probably had no idea how meaningful it was to me.)
I was, quite simply, changed by the experience of seeing that performance. Now I am here, singing the same opera, for my La Scala debut. This is the stuff dreams are made of. I can’t believe how my career is playing out. So grateful for all the opportunities I’ve been given. Very grateful to general manager Dominique Meyer for bringing me here.
I have felt connected to the music of Richard Strauss and especially the role of Zerbinetta throughout my career. It’s a huge pleasure to debut at La Scala with something so familiar to me and with such a fantastic cast. Krassimira Stoyanova as Ariadne, ahhhhhh that voice is insanely gorgeous. My family is coming for opening night, my friends…It’s just a really really big moment.

Dan Norman

AND I am also making my concert debut in Mahler's 2nd Symphony – TOMORROW (Mar. 30)! This was a last-minute addition to my schedule, and the first time I will have ever sung the Mahler 2. I have spent the last few days learning the part with Maestro Riccardo Chailly and I feel absolutely transported by this music.

E Miner: Yes! That piece is the pinnacle. I’m dying to hear about the album you are making of Ricky Ian Gordon’s Huit Chansons de Fleurs, accompanied by Gerald Martin Moore, with flutist Ransom Wilson. 

Andrea Carson

E Morley: I’m SO excited about this album! We just finished recording last week. Yes, we have Ricky’s new song cycle, which is 8 songs about flowers, really about savoring life and confronting its impermanence. Beautiful poems and music. And then we have several songs in a variety of languages about birds - Ransom Wilson joins us for Michael Head’s “Bird Song” which isn’t heard very often but is a total gem. There are a lot of surprises on the disc, including “La Libellule” (the dragonfly) by Saint-Saëns which is rarely heard and was written for (about??) the famous singer Sibyl Sanderson, and a fantastically difficult aria from Arthur Sullivan’s The Rose of Persia called “Neath My Lattice” (with several high F#s - whew!...) The whole program is a sort of garden collection of our favorite things. I can’t wait to share it with the world!

E Miner: And we can’t wait to hear it! While in Berlin last February, you participated in a demonstration against the Ukraine war. Do you feel it’s especially important for artists to express their outrage over this situation? E Morley: As a world citizen, yes, I feel the need to express outrage over this. I am horrified by the war in Ukraine. The consequences have already been world-altering. I did attend that massive protest in Berlin on February 27, and it will forever remain one of the most deeply moving experiences of my life. To see throngs of people coming together, speaking out against the evils of this war, and at the Brandenburg Gate…I walked alongside Ukrainians, Georgians, Germans, and Russians, among others, all united in purpose. It was awful to think of what brought us there, but absolutely inspiring to feel the power of the people’s voice. 

Courtesy of the Artist
Of course many terrible things have happened since that day. I think our best course of action as artists is to donate to humanitarian aid, through concert benefits or otherwise, and to promote peace and unity within our concert halls. I certainly feel a renewed appreciation for freedom and privilege in a way that I didn’t a couple of months ago, and I think we have a responsibility to use that freedom and privilege to sustain those who are suffering.

E Miner: Which roles are on your future wish list? What exciting projects are in your immediate plans?

E Morley: Well I’m happy to say that two very exciting roles are coming up rather soon. Lakmé will be in May with Washington Concert Opera in DC, (Gilda at the Met following shortly thereafter), and Norina (Don Pasquale) will be this summer at Glyndebourne. Looking ahead, I have a couple of new roles coming up for next season, which will be announced soon, and I have the exciting new Simon McBurney production of Magic Flute coming up at the Met. Happy to say Gilda is still a big part of my future plans. And I have some recordings coming out soon, including Meyerbeer’s Robert le Diable, recorded with Marc Minkowski and Opéra National de Bordeaux this past September.

E Miner: These all sound amazing. Thank you so much, Erin, for spending this time with me. Toi, toi for La Scala! I look forward to following your continuing meteoric rise!

E Morley: That means so much to me, Erica. Thank you for your support!!! 

Michael Poehn


Photo credits: Monarca Studios, Michael Poehn, Marty Sohl, Dan Norman, Andrea Carson
Erica can be reached at: [email protected]