High notes, down time for Queen role

— Janelle Gelfand, Cincinnati Enquirer

Audrey Luna, a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, sings the role of the Queen of the Night in Cincinnati Opera’s “The Magic Flute,” which has its final performance today in Music Hall. Luna lives in Chicago, but she hasn’t been home for more than two years because she’s been on the road, working.

Luna recently answered a few questions for The Enquirer:

Question: Can you explain the role of Queen of the Night?

Answer: The Queen is Pamina’s Mother. In the beginning of the opera she is pleading for her daughter’s rescue. But at the same time, she is coming apart at the seams because, along with her daughter, her power has also been stolen from her. She tries to use her daughter as a pawn to get this power back, with no regard for what will happen to Pamina. She is an evil character, and out of that desperation will stop at nothing. As this is a fairytale, she, like every other wicked character in fairytales, does not come out on top.

Q: Legendary soprano Beverly Sills once called the Queen of the Night the most boring role she ever sang. Do you agree?

A: For Beverly Sills, one of the amazing singing actors of her generation, I can see how Queen of the Night could be boring from a dramatic standpoint. Honestly, the emphasis of this role focuses on vocal technique and not so much on the arc of a character. The Queen can pose a problem dramatically because the character can become two-dimensional. A lot of the responsibility rests on the shoulders of a creative director, which we have in Tomer Zvulun, and he came up with interesting nuances that keep the character alive and interesting.

Q: How do you prepare to walk onstage after waiting for long periods to sing your two arias – including those high F’s?

A: Well, this is my ninth production of the Queen. If you were a fly on the wall of my dressing room, you would see me warm up for a bit, eat some dinner, get my makeup on and then get into my costume. By this time the overture has begun and I know that I have about 20 minutes until my first aria. Then it is about an hour waiting game until the second aria, so I make sure I bring my computer, some books or my taxes, depending on what time of the year it is.

After the second aria, it’s around another hour – a long waiting game – until my last entrance and the end of the show. For me, it’s important to have a lot of things to keep me busy … I would say that the role is not the boring part, but the waiting can be.

Q: How did it feel to sing Queen of the Night at the Metropolitan Opera in December?

A: Singing in one of the most important houses in the country was a dream come true, and something I am able to check off my bucket list. I had one scheduled performance in the Julie Taymor production and covered the rest of the eight-show run. The day of the show was a bit of a whirlwind. I was working with the moving set pieces and all the dancers for the first time that day, then having a dressing room that had my name on it at the Met – it was just surreal. But as soon as I hit the stage, I just went into work mode and said to myself that this is just any other day at the office.

Since singing Queen at the Met, I have also sung Naiad in “Ariadne auf Naxos.” I cannot announce the details yet, but I will have an exciting debut in a leading role coming up at the Met in the 2012-13 season.