Opera Chic extends her most heartfelt thanks to Elaine Alvarez, the young soprano who'll replace Angela Gheorghiu -- who was fired by the Lyric Opera of Chicago -- for taking the time late last night to grant Opera Chic an exclusive interview about this most exciting moment in her professional life. Mad props to Columbia Artists Management, Inc. (CAMI) as well.
Below is the interview. Please credit quotes to operachic.typepad.com
(Above: the gorgeous Ms. Elaine Alvarez, Cuban-American soprano).
Opera Chic: "What are your feelings over this weekend before la Prima of Bohéme? Is the excitement stronger than anything else? Mirella Freni says that she kept having 'butterflies in the stomach' right before going on stage even after decades in opera."
Elaine Alvarez: "It's strange. We had our final dress rehearsal today and everyone kept coming to my dressing room, telling me to 'stay calm...don't let nerves get the best of you.' But in all honesty, there wasn't a moment today in which I felt nervous (well maybe just before I knocked on the door! hehehehe)."
"Quite the contrary...what I felt today was peace. This career is full of so much hardship and sacrifice. Especially as a young singer, you find yourself constantly wondering if what you love is, in fact, what you SHOULD make your living at."
"Every once in a while, something happens that shows you that you are exactly where you were meant to be...all the steps you took were leading to this one moment."
"Am I excited? I am beside myself. My face hurts from smiling so much! More than anything I just feel really blessed. This company is fantastic. From the moment I came in the door they have been nothing but gracious and kind. And for them to trust me with this role is a tremendous honor I will remember for the rest of my life. My heart is very full tonight..."
Opera Chic: "What do you think of the role of Mimi?"
Elaine Alvarez: "I absolutely love this opera, and this character. For me, Boheme is the best of what opera can be...it is literally emotion translated into sound. From the moment I began studying this character, I knew it was a fit for me. Mimi has this sincerity about her, conveyed not only in her text, but in the musical lines, that is so endearing,-- you cannot help but love her! I always think of her as being someone who is quietly ablaze. She doesn't wear her emotions on her sleeve, as Musetta or even Rodolfo do, she is much to shy for that. But that isn't to say that her feelings are any less deep. If anything, her reserve makes the revealing of those feelings so much weightier."
"She's been waiting her whole life to feel what she finds in Rodolfo and when she comes to him in Act IV, it's because she can't leave this life without saying what she came to say: 'I have so much I wish to say. Or perhaps just one thing, but large like the ocean: You are my love and all of my life. You are my love and all of my life.' For me, that is the crux of Boheme. Despite the brevity of her life, she loved fully and so she lived fully."
Opera Chic: "I see you have a great majority of roles in the Italian repertoire: how did the choice come to you, was it always a dream to sing that kind Italian roles?"
Elaine Alvarez: "I think this was one of those instances where physiology and taste happily combine! My mother is a music teacher, and so I grew up attending the opera and listening to it at home. From the beginning, it was Puccini and Verdi that I gravitated towards. As I grew up and began my vocal studies, my natural sound seemed to be inherently Italianate. I'm not sure if its because that was the sound I had in my ear or if that's what God intended but thankfully, its been a great fit!"
Opera Chic: "What did Ms. Scotto tell you during rehearsals, what were her suggestions given her amazing experience?"
Elaine Alvarez: "Signora Scotto has been a dream to work with. Not only because she is an icon in this business and one of the greatest sopranos in the history of opera, but because she is so gracious and generous with everyone, it is impossible not to learn from her!"
"From the very beginning, she offered me advice on the character...how to walk, how to carry my upper body...how to truly convey the physical life of the character. As the rehearsal period continued and we got to know each other, she was kind enough to coach me on the entire role."
"I would say her biggest piece of advise was not to try to create expression in the voice, not be affected...to simply say the words and mean them and that the voice would naturally color the notes accordingly. She's not a fan of excessive portamenti. For her, what Puccini put in is exactly enough. If you start adding portamenti here and there for dramatic purposes, the portamenti that he actually indicated lose their significance."
"She also spoke to me about singing Mimi simply. Puccini is word painting a lot of the time in this score, and the delivery of her lines need to convey the simplicity of what she is saying. In the same way that Act III's Mimi/Marcello duet reflects the complexity of what's happening to her internally. Signora Scotto has just been amazing. She is so supportive and so dedicated to creating something special and beautiful. Its truly an honor to be working with her."
Let's all wish la signorina Alvarez the greatest in bocca al lupo!