Kentucky Opera's final production for the season is Charles Gounod's Roméo et Juliette, based on the play by William Shakespeare. The tale of doomed lovers is familiar to nearly everyone, which makes it a perfect, romantic outing for Valentine's Day (Friday, February 14). No head-scratching over plot twists and who's who -- you can just let the beautiful setting and lush music work its magic.
The Louisville Orchestra will be conducted by Emmanuel Plasson, last in the pit in 2012 for Massenet's Cinderella. French composer Gounod's opera is known for the series of duets between the lovers and for Juliette's joyful Waltz Song ("Je veux vivre"), which she sings at the masked ball. The cast members making their debut appearances for Kentucky Opera are tenor Vale Rideout as Romeo, Jesse Blumberg as Mercutio, Gregory Rahming as Frère Laurent, and in the role of Juliette, soprano Ava Pine.
Pine graciously took time out of a busy rehearsal schedule to answer a few questions by way of introduction. [Photo credit: Diana M. Lott]
1. What is your musical background and how did you get into opera?
I was actually a bit of a latecomer to opera. I cut my musical teeth on musical theater, choral music, oratorio work, and baroque operas. And all the while, I held a “real” job working in the marketing department of a company that published software for the very first Blackberry phones. Eventually, performing became such a big part of my life that I decided to try it full time, and I haven’t looked back. When my colleagues in the mobile industry would respond to emails at all hours of the night, I would think “Why would anyone want to be accessible 24/7?” so clearly I was not cut out for that line of work!
2. What is your favorite role so far?
Juliette is very high on the list. The changes that happen to her over the course of the evening are tremendously fun to experience each night. Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro is another perennial fave, both for the onstage antics and the music. But my very favorite is the title role in a contemporary opera called Lysistrata by Mark Adamo. That character gets to express every gamut of emotion, and it’s a fabulous blend of comedy and pathos. A singing actor’s dream!
3. When you are performing, what is a typical day like?
When I know I’ll be in the theater until late, I like to stay in bed later than normal, just resting my body a bit. On performance days I have to be mindful of what I eat. Food really is fuel, and singing opera is just as taxing as extended exercise. At the end of a performance of ‘Roméo et Juliette,’ I’m as tired as I feel after running ten miles. So I try to eat a really good breakfast, a late lunch, and then snack the rest of the day to stay consistently fueled up. I also like to get moving a bit on performance days — running or walking a couple of miles. I like to sing some in the afternoon to wake up the voice, and then warm up completely closer to curtain.
4. Do you have any pre-show superstitions?
I’m always early to the theater — at least two hours before curtain, often more. I use the quiet time in my dressing room to focus and get ready for the task at hand. I wouldn’t call it a superstition, but if I am late, I feel harried and unfocused.
5. What is the weirdest or most surprising thing that has ever happened to you during a performance?
The most surprising things usually involve wardrobe malfunctions — like the time the baritone playing my father in ‘HMS Pinafore’ lost his mustache mid-scene. One moment I looked at him and it was on, the next it was not and I had to fight the giggles. Or the time I threw myself at a character’s knees in anguish, only to discover that his pants had recently ripped and I had an up-close view. Or the time I was doing a contemporary opera that required wearing a microphone, and my quick change took longer than expected. Anticipating my entrance, the sound team turned on my microphone in time to capture my expletive-laced reaction to realizing I’d missed my entrance. But luckily that happened at the final dress rehearsal!
If you scramble, you might still score a pair for the Friday night performance at 8p.m. There will also be a matinee at 2p.m. on Sunday the 16th, but I wouldn't be surprised if both performances end up selling out. Both performances are at the Brown Theatre on Broadway. Visit here for tickets or call 502-584-7777.
[Article photo: Ava Pine performing with Vale Rideout at Kentucky Opera's 2014 Carnevale]
Whet your appetite with this video of Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu performing the balcony scene: