June 25, 2015 – Der Neue Merker
Thomas Adès success opera “The Tempest”, which was first performed in front of more than a decade in London, was now to be seen in Vienna. The opera is based on Shakespeare’s “The Storm”. As in New York the Canadian Robert Lepage staged.
On the occasion of the premieres, we invited the singer and actress of Ariel, the American soprano AUDREY LUNA to an interview, which took place on 25th June 2015 in the Vienna State Opera.
She was the only one to come to Vienna from the MET cast of the first performance, and the press and the audience were equally enthusiastic. As a “Zerbinetta to the Square”, as a “Clou of Production” with a kind of “Helium Tessitur”, they were described on the cult pages, they were admired by their “vocal gymnastics” on the three-bar G and because of their “inspiring sovereignty”. And even in our austere OnlineMERKER, the reviewer was wrestling with this “over-drift madness”.
From the Viennese stand to high heights!
Frau Luna, are you in Vienna for the first time?
I’ve been here several times, the last time for 2011. But when I was 19 years old, I spent 3 months here, in the course of a music study program organized by my university in Oregon. Just a few days ago, I visited my host family again, they were also yesterday in the performance.
I remember that I was very busy during my stay, we went on trips to Salzburg … etc. In the rest of the time, I came almost every day to the Staatsoper and looked at everything on the stand. This was great for me, for I was still so young and still had many open questions in my life; I knew I wanted to sing, but I was unsure if I had enough talent to make a career out of it. Here, on the stand of the Viennese Staatsoper, I could spend three months watching every evening people who had done it and I got to know many operas. I was in the autumn / winter here, I remember that I saw a lot of Wagner, among other things a Tosca production and a magic flute and much more.
It was, of course, very surreal after this entry now with a commitment to return to the house – I have not told anyone here (laughs).
Where in the US have they grown up?
I was born and grew up in Oregon, then studied in Ohio and had been living in Hawaii for about 8 years … that is now my home for me.
How did they get in contact with music?
With me in the family, no one is really musical, but my mother, who works as a kindergarten teacher, recognized very early on that I had a certain talent in this direction – I was always happy (laughs). She promoted me early And I graduated from a series of out-of-school activities – violin, flute, piano, singing, ballet – and gradually it became clear that what interested me most was the singing. I am really very grateful to my mother, she was a single parent and has given me all this training with her little teacher. I knew very early that I wanted to be on a stage, with about 16 years I realized then that I wanted to sing operas. Then came a long period when I did not know if my wish would come true.
What did her education look like?
When I was ten years old, I started taking private lessons and then continued to study singing at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. My teacher at the time was Barbara Honn, with whom I am still working today.
When was the moment when you realized that a career in the opera would be possible for you?
I was the second-time Queen of the Night at the Pittsburgh Opera in Pensylvania in 2007/2008. When the first recording became ill, I was asked to sing the whole performance series. These evenings got some attention in the press and very soon thereafter an agent came to attention and took me under contract. My next engagement led me to Hawaii, where I still live today … another milestone was the Renata-Tebaldi competition in San Marino where Leonore Rosenberg, the Casting Commissioner of the Metropolitan Opera, sat in the jury. She said I had to sing for this role in Thomas Adès’s new opera – so I came to “Ariel”! I had five weeks to prepare for the role. When I first held the music in my hands, it seemed impossible for me to sing it, but of course I wanted to try it, after all it was about the Metropolitan Opera (laughs). So I went to a pianist and dared to try – and in fact I met all the high notes. The weeks of preparation were then a slow process in which I gained more and more certainty in the role and became more and more convinced that I could succeed. It was not so much about changing my technique, as I slowly gained more and more confidence.
The singing was then also the first time that I was on the stage of the Met, I sang almost the entire role – in the end they committed me for the performance, which then only three years later – 2012 – stood. Before that, I was given the opportunity to present myself in other roles at the Met, in 2010 I made my debut there with the Queen of the Night, in 2011 I sang the Nayade in “Ariadne on Naxos” and 2012 then the Ariel in “Tempest”.
Before I debuted at the Met as Ariel, I was on the podium in a concert performance in Rome. She was also led by Thomas Adès; Then I was in Quebec and finally heard of the Met.
The role is very challenging – do you have to deal with it differently than usual?
No, not really, I do not need special warm-up exercises or the like, I just have to “place” the voice a bit higher. But what I have noticed is that my vocal bands gain strength in the period when I am singing or tasting the ariel – it makes it much easier for me to sing other high parts (laughs). Sometimes people come to me after the show, who are very worried about my voice, because they can not imagine that the Ariel’s part is undamaged, but it is actually that Ariel made my work easier, mine Voice was never better (laughs)!
On performance days, of course, I am happy, but that is because Ariel is such an active character and runs halfway through the stage, which often feels like a half marathon …
The choreography is really extraordinary, how long did the preparation take?
Oh, I was never very athletic, so I absolutely did not know if I would be able to cope with that. But the collaboration with the choreographer and his assistant in Quebec was great, she brought me yoga and Pilates closer, which was of great benefit to the physical approbation of the role. Here, too, it was a process of slow approach: I had to realize that this “opera body” could also dance! This new deal with my body did me very well, it was great to redefine my own boundaries and get to know each other.
They sing a lot of contemporary music …
Yes, since my engagement as “Ariel”, people seem to see me mainly in modern times, but before that I have sung only classical music. I like the contemporary operas very much, the role of Miss Mao in “Nixon in China”, which I sung in Kansas City and Dublin, is one of my favorite roles, she is such a cruel terrible person, but she just has the best music! But I am also singing a lot of classical concerts, it is simply important for the voice to sing also the repertory of the Belcanto.
How is the work with Thomas Adès – does it rarely happen to have a conductor who is also the composer of music?
Basically, that makes no difference. In my head, of course, I think all the time that this is his own music – but Adès himself is so relaxed and conveys a pleasant calm presence that the collaboration is not very different from that of other conductors …
Do you feel a difference in the work here in the State Opera and the Metropolitan Opera?
Well, the State Opera is smaller, but I see no differences. The staff here are great, the ladies in the costume and the mask are really wonderful, I feel very comfortable.
What are your next season?
In October, I will sing the re-recording of the Tempest here in Vienna. In 2016 I will be in Oslo for the role “The Wife” in the opera “Elysium” by Rolf Wallin, directed by David Pountney.
And then I will be with Thomas Adès new opera “The Exterminating Angel”, which will be premiering in the summer of 2016 in Salzburg.
Is there a connection to the film of Bunuel?
Yes, it is an adaptation of the film material. I’m also very excited.
And which music do you listen to privately?
I am professionally so surrounded by music, that I privately actually appreciate the silence very much. So I hear hardly any music but listen to podcasts … otherwise, I research a lot on YouTube, but I listen rather to contemporary colleagues than old recordings.
Are there roles that they would sing in the next 10 years even like?
“La Fille du Regiment” would interest me, as well as the Elvira in the “Puritani”. And then Ophelia.
Do you have a favorite role?
I love “Lakmé”, which I sang in Montréal, as well as the Giulietta from “I Capuleti ei Montecchi”. Unfortunately these pieces are not played very often, but the two I would really like to sing again.
And what hobbies do you have?
My little one is my hobby (laughs and points at her dog). Roxy is three years old and accompanies me everywhere, we discover together the places we are at.
Do you have a favorite place in Vienna?
I spent a lot of time in Oberlaa, there it is wonderful to relax. And I especially like the parks in Vienna, I love to walk in you.
Are there any plans to bring them back to the state?
We are talking, but I can not say anything concrete about this.
And in which star sign are you born?
I am a Libra-born, but I do not believe in astrology.
In the past few years they’ve been incredibly busy – is there sometimes the desire for more peace?
No, I love this profession and I knew very early about what is connected with it. In addition, I feel very at home in different places and also make the most of this life. My friends and family are in Hawaii, but thank God Skype!
We would like to thank Mrs Luna for the interview and wish her all the best in the last presentation of the premiere series.
The conversation with the artist led Ella Gallieni
Responsible for the design of the interview: Peter Skorepa
The interview took place in the rooms of the Viennese Staatsoper and in the language of the audience
Note on further performances in Vienna:
In the second series of IL TEMPEST, Mrs. AUDREY LUNA will once again present the ARIEL on 12th, 16th and 18th October, 2015, and Christopher Maltmann will perform as Prospero in these performances.