We have already extensively interviewed Kathryn before, and it was a gem of a piece! She is very intelligent with great answers. The reader can consult that article by clicking [here].

Singer: Kathryn Lewek
Fach: coloratura soprano
Nationality: American
Web site: kathrynlewek.com
Past appearances in prestigious houses: Among others, Deutche Oper Berlin (30 productions!), The Metropolitan Opera in New York City (twice), Liceu (Barcelona), Teatro Real (Madrid), Oper Leipzig, English National Opera in London, Carnegie Hall in New York City (three times), Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center in NYC, Opéra de Toulon and the Aix-en-Provence festival in France, Bregenzer Festspiele (4 productions) in Austria, Royal Danish Opera in Copenhagen, Vienna Staatsoper, the Hobart Baroque in Tasmania, Washington National Opera, and Houston Grand Opera.
Discography: three CDs and one DVD (also available on blu-ray disc): “Vaughan Williams – A London Symphony Serenade to Music” on the Harmonia Mundi label; “Quicksilver” on Albani Records; “Kathryn Lewek sings Cary Ratcliff” on Albany Records; “The Merchant of Venice” DVD/blu-ray on EuroArts/Unitel Classica
Awards: Audience Prize and 3rd Prize at Plácido Domingo’s Operalia (Verona, Italy, 2013), Grand Prize winner of the Opera Foundation’s 2011 International Vocal Scholarship, First Prize, Classical Idol Vocal Competition
Education: Performance Certificate in Voice, Bachelor Degree in Music, and Masters’ Degree in Vocal Performance, all three from the prestigious Eastman School of Music; fellow at Marilyn Horne’s Music Academy of the West; currently she continues to study with renowned soprano Diana Soviero in New York City

This is our interview #217. Copyright Opera Lively; all rights reserved. Reproduction of excerpts is authorized for all purposes as long as the source is quoted and a link to the full piece is provided. Reproduction of the entire interview requires authorization – use the Contact Us form. Photos unless otherwise stated with specific credit are fair promotional use (we often do not know the names of all photographers; will be happy to include them if we are told who they are).

Luiz Gazzola for Opera Lively – We last interviewed you (extensively) in April 2015, when you sang a remarkable Lucia here at Opera Carolina. About eighteen months later we are glad to see you back, and fortunately it’s not pollen season like last time! We almost crossed paths again: I was at Deutsche Oper Berlin, your former artistic home, four days after your last performance there as Konstanze this summer (great opera company, I was impressed!). Please give us an update: what has been going on in your career since we last saw you? What was most artistically rewarding for you in this past year and a half, and why?

Kathryn Lewek – I’ve had a wonderful year debuting lots of new roles! After debuting Lucia in Charlotte in the spring, I went on to debut the role of Cunegunde in Bernstein’s Candide at the Glimmerglass Festival in Upstate New York in July. The beginning of the 15/16 opera season brought me to Barcelona, Spain where I debuted the role of Teresa in Terry Gilliam’s fantastic production of Benvenuto Cellini by Berlioz. I enjoyed some holiday concerts in Montreal and at Carnegie Hall in New York in December before heading to Madrid, Spain to sing several performances of my old favorite, Queen of the Night, and came back to the States just in time to witness my fiance’s Metropolitan Opera debut in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut(Charlotte audiences will remember my fiancé Zach Borichevsky – as he was my Edgardo in Lucia last year! We fell in love during that production, and he just proposed in August!).

In the spring, I traveled way up to Alberta, Canada to make my debut as Maria in Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda. I made a quick trip to Dallas, TX to sing several performances of Carmina Burana before flying to Berlin, Germany to make my long awaited dream role debut as Konstanze in Mozart’s Entführung. In July, I was delighted to sing the Verdi Requiem for the first time in the city of my alma mater (Eastman School of Music) in Rochester, NY, before taking a much-deserved break in August while visiting Zach out in Santa Fe, NM, where he made a wonderful debut as Anatol in Barber’s Vanessa. And now here we are in the Fall of 2016 and I’m debuting Rosina in the Barber of Seville tonight! 6 operatic role debuts in 18 months!

OL – Oh wow, some great accomplishments there, and I’m glad to know that you met your future husband here at Opera Carolina; of course I remember Zach! Second question: Rosina is a coloratura role, and for such a Queen of the Night specialist like you, that aspect of it must be easy. On the other hand, Rosina was originally written for contralto and most of the time she is sung by a mezzo, although I’ve seen sopranos singing her. Please tell us about the musical challenges in singing Rosina. Is it fatiguing for a soprano, given the lower tessitura?

KL – When I was in school at ESM, I actually sang a lot of mezzo rep while I was finding my way – so I’m no stranger to singing in a lower tessitura. I’m very comfortable singing in my middle voice, so Rosina is like having my cake and eating it too. Rosina lives in a comfort zone for me vocally, but has the high-flying pyrotechnical opportunities to show off what I have become known for in my career. It’s been a real treat to sing Rosina for the last few weeks, especially with such a fantastic and experienced cast.

OL – When you sang Lucia for us at Opera Carolina, you added your own ornaments to the Mad Scene, and they were surprising and exquisite. You also did a phenomenal acting job. Therefore, I look forward to your Rosina. What are your plans for her?

KL – I’ve had a great deal of fun playing with the ornaments and options in Rosina’s material. Since it’s most often sung by mezzos these days, I’ve felt the freedom of combining traditions from both mezzo Rosinas and soprano Rosinas. The result is an evening where you truly see my entire range as a singer and as an actress. I’ve had loads of fun learning Rosina as a character, and as usual, I was determined to make her my own.

I love that within such a comedic opera, Bernard Uzan [stage director] and I have found moments to bring out a true complexity to her character. She has moments that are so funny that she is almost cartoon like, and other moments that are so truly heartbreaking they remind me of moments in Lucia, like when Lucia’s brother Enrico tricks her into thinking Edgardo has left her for another woman. It’s a very full evening for me as a singing actress.

OL – Rosina is delightful, with her defiance of the path that was chosen for her. In her time, it wasn’t easy for a woman to be successful in doing that, but she accomplishes it with wit and charm. As a modern woman, how do you relate to this character, and how do you describe Rosina’s psychology.

KL – Modern women still face similar problems of having their paths chosen for them; the main difference is the severity of the consequences for diverting from those paths. The climax of Barbiere reminds us that women were not viewed as full citizens when Rossini and Beaumarchais lived. Rosina essentially escapes her status as the property of Bartolo by becoming the property of the Count Almaviva.

Time has certainly given women the opportunity to become more independent without the harsh consequences that would have befallen them a couple hundred years ago: Rosina would have been breaking the law by striking out on her own in 1800, while today she would just face headwinds like the gender pay gap and glass ceilings.

Over the years, our society has increasingly welcomed strong-minded women, thanks to brave souls who have the courage to challenge norms: from Susan B. Anthony to Rosa Parks, Marie Curie to Sally Field, and Eleanor Roosevelt to Elizabeth Warren. I wonder what someone like Rosina would have thought if she found out a woman was close to becoming the most powerful person in the world!

OL – Nice answer! This production is going to Toledo first, so by the time we publish this, you’ll have done it there, or will be close to doing it. Please tell us about what to expect from this production, in terms of staging.

KL – Unlike opera seria, comedic opera really comes alive when certain actions happen at very specific moments, right down to the exact beat in one measure of music. It’s very precise. Bernard Uzan and his directorial team have put together a series of these moments throughout the opera, like a machine. These moments appear throughout the opera like comedic coincidences, and are always followed by explosions of laughter from the audience – but in truth they are highly organized moments that have been practiced by the team of performers on stage for weeks.

OL – I love Rossini’s music in all its forms, and rank him as one of the top five opera composers of all time, together with Wagner, Verdi, Mozart, and Handel (sometimes I put Berlioz there too given that I love Les Troyens so much and I’m glad that you did Benvenuto Cellini, but I understand that this is just an idiosyncratic opinion because Berlioz only finished four operas so for wider appeal I pretty much recognize that Rossini is the one that should be there in my top five). Many scholars up to a couple of decades ago would be shocked to hear that, thinking for example that Richard Strauss should bump him out of this top five list. Rossini however not only composed phenomenal comic operas, but many of his serious ones are astounding masterpieces. Please tell us what you think of Rossini’s music.

KL – As an opera fan, I agree that Rossini is one of the greatest operatic composers of all time, and specifically to a coloratura soprano, his greatness shines through his style of melismatic writing. In the opera world there are many composers that wrote wonderful coloratura style singing, and those of us who enjoy singing speedy music love the challenges that each composer lays out in front of us. But what many people outside of the business don’t realize is that Rossini’s coloratura is truly a horse of a different color. His twists and turns and the harmonic underpinnings of his coloratura passages are like no other.

That is why certain singers have literally earned the reputation for being a “Rossini tenor” or a “Rossini soprano.” A singer can master every other composer’s melismatic style of writing, while remaining baffled by Rossini. As someone with a naturally speedy instrument, I have to admit that I had some frustrating moments in the practice room overcoming the fun challenges that Rossini’s coloratura presents! But after many hours, I believe Maestro Rossini and I have come to somewhat of an understanding. And I hope his reaction would be more kind than his response to Adelina Patti (who was famous for her melismatic elaborations) after hearing her rendition of Rosina’s aria: “Very nice, my dear, and who wrote the piece you have just performed?”

To read the full article online on Opera Lively, click here