Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Interviews

Written on Skin: the Melos Sinfonia take George Benjamin's opera to St Petersburg

As I approach St Cyprian’s Church in Marylebone, musical sounds which are at once strange and sensuous surf the air. Inside I find seventy or so instrumentalists and singers nestled somewhat crowdedly between the pillars of the nave, rehearsing George Benjamin’s much praised 2012 opera, Written on Skin.

‘Never was such advertisement for a film!’: Thomas Kemp and the OAE present a film of Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier at the Oxford Lieder Festival

Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier was premiered at the Dresden Semperoper on 26th January 1911. Almost fifteen years to the day, on 10th January 1926, the theatre hosted another Rosenkavalier ‘premiere’, with the screening of a silent film version of the opera, directed by Robert Wiene - best known for his expressionistic masterpiece The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. The two-act scenario had been devised by Hugo von Hoffmansthal and the screening was accompanied by a symphony orchestra which Strauss himself conducted.

Mark Padmore on festivals, lieder and musical conversations

I have to confess, somewhat sheepishly, at the start of my conversation with Mark Padmore, that I had not previously been aware of the annual music festival held in the small Cotswolds town of Tetbury, which was founded in 2002 and to which Padmore will return later this month to perform a recital of lieder by Schubert and Schumann with pianist Till Fellner.

Natalya Romaniw: 'one of the outstanding sopranos of her generation’

There can hardly be a dry eye in the house, at the ‘Theatre in the Woods’ at West Horsley Place - Grange Park Opera’s new home - when, in Act 3 of Janáček's first mature opera, Natalya Romaniw’s Jenůfa realises that the tiny child whose frozen body has been discovered under the ice is her own dead son.

Elizabeth Llewellyn: Investec Opera Holland Park stages Puccini's La Rondine

It’s six or so years ago since soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn appeared as an exciting and highly acclaimed new voice on the UK operatic stage, with critics praising her ‘ravishing account’ (The Stage) of Mozart’s Countess in Investec Opera Holland Park’s 2011 Le nozze di Figaro in which ‘Porgi, amor’ was a ‘highlight of the evening’.

Dougie Boyd, Artistic Director of Garsington Opera: in conversation

One year ago, tens of millions of Britons voted for isolation rather than for cooperation, but Douglas (Dougie) Boyd, Artistic Director of Garsington Opera, is an energetic one-man counterforce with a dynamic conviction that art and culture are strengthened by participation and collaboration; values which, alongside excellence and a spirit of adventure, have seen Garsington Opera acquire increasing renown and esteem on the international stage during his tenure, since 2012.

A Chat With Italian Conductor Riccardo Frizza

Riccardo Frizza is a young Italian conductor whose performances in Europe and the United States are getting rave reviews. He tells us of his love for the operas of Verdi, Bellini, and particularly Donizetti.

And London Burned: in conversation with Raphaela Papadakis

Raphaela Papadakis seems to like ‘playing with fire’. After her acclaimed performance as the put-upon maid, Anna, in Independent Opera’s production of Šimon Voseček’s Beidermann and the Arsonists at Sadler’s Wells last year, she is currently rehearsing for the premiere this week of And London Burned, a new opera by Matt Rogers which has been commissioned by Temple Music Foundation to commemorate the 350th anniversary of The Great Fire of London.

Oxford Lieder Festival: in conversation with Julius Drake

In October 2014, the Oxford Lieder Festival - under its imaginative and intrepid founder, Sholto Kynoch - fulfilled an incredibly ambitious goal: to perform Schubert’s entire corpus of songs - more than 600 - and, for three marvellous weeks, to bring Vienna to Oxford. ‘The Schubert Project’ was a magnificent celebration of the life and music of Franz Schubert: at its core lay the first complete performance of Schubert’s songs - including variants and alternative versions - in the UK.

Interview with Star of Florencia en el Amazonas, Elizabeth Caballero

Lyric soprano Elizabeth Caballero’s signature role is Violetta in La traviata, which she portrays with a compelling interpretation, focused sound, and elegant coloratura that floats through the opera house as naturally as waves on the ocean.

A Chat With Baritone Brian Mulligan

Maria Nockin interviews baritone Brian Mulligan.

An interview with Tobias Ringborg

I arrive at the Jerwood Space, where rehearsals are underway for Garsington Opera’s forthcoming production of Idomeneo, to find that the afternoon rehearsal has finished a little early.

A Conversation with Sir Nicholas Jackson

With its merry-go-round exchange of deluded and bewitched lovers, an orphan-turned-princess, a usurped prince, a jewel and a flower with magical properties, a march to the scaffold and a meddling ‘mistress-of-ceremonies’ who encourages the young lovers to disguise and deceive, William Makepeace Thackeray’s The Rose and the Ring has all the ingredients of an opera buffa.

A Chat With Up-and-Coming Conductor Kathleen Kelly

Kathleen Kelly is an internationally renowned pianist, coach, conductor, and master teacher. She was the first woman and first American named Director of Musical Studies at the Vienna State Opera.

Atsuto Sawakami — Sponsor of Italian Opera in Japan

Atsuto Sawakami is a slightly built man in his late sixties with impeccable, gentlemanly manners. He communicates a certain restless energy and his piercingly bright eyes reveal an undimmed appetite for life.

Mark Stone — Oxford Lieder Festival

‘Lieder v. Opera’? At first glance it might seem to be a pointless or nonsensical question.

Oxford Lieder Festival 2015 - Sholto Kynoch interview

Last year's Oxford Lieder Festival made something of a splash when it encompassed all of Schubert's songs, performed in the space of three weeks. This year's festival, the 14th, which runs from 16 to 31 October 2015 has a rather different, yet still eye-catching theme; Singing Words: Poets and their Songs.

For Odyssey Opera, No Operatic Challenge is Too Great

For a company founded in 2013, Odyssey Opera has an astounding track record. To take on Korngold’s Die tote Stadt is ambitious enough, but to do so within only a year of the company’s founding seems almost single-minded.

A Chat with Tenor René Barbera

American tenor René Barbera is fast making a name for himself as one of the top bel canto singers in opera houses around the world.

Stefano Mastrangelo — An Italian in Japan

I’m interviewing Stefano Mastrangelo in the immediate aftermath of his conducting La Traviata for the Chofu City Opera in Tokyo on 22 November 2014; he conveys an air at once of tiredness and exhilaration.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Interviews

Kathleen Kelly
11 Jan 2016

A Chat With Up-and-Coming Conductor Kathleen Kelly

Kathleen Kelly is an internationally renowned pianist, coach, conductor, and master teacher. She was the first woman and first American named Director of Musical Studies at the Vienna State Opera.

A Chat With Up-and-Coming Conductor Kathleen Kelly

An interview by Maria Nockin

Above: Kathleen Kelly [Photos courtesy of Kathleen Kelly]

 

While there, she was the recitative accompanist for new productions of Mozart's Don Giovanni and Le nozze di Figaro. She has curated recital series at both the Vienna State Opera and Houston Grand Opera. Last year she joined the faculty of the University of Michigan as that school’s first Coach and Conductor of Opera. She will conduct Cosi fan tutte there in March 2016.

MN: Kathleen Kelly, does one call you Maestra or Maestro?

KK: I prefer Maestra. Either word means teacher. When I was studying, the convention was to call every conductor “Maestro.” “Maestra is what you call your elementary school teacher!” said one of my mentors. Well, not if that teacher is a man! In my opinion, that old convention was a way of saying that men should not be teachers of little children, and women shouldn’t be on the podium. Old sexism was reflected in the language, but the language itself doesn’t make the sexism. The Italian word for teacher is a noun that shows gender, nothing more. And my gender is female, so I’m proudly Maestra Kelly.

Classical music is an inherently conservative art that preserves the music and traditions of former times. Maybe that is why change is so slow in our profession. But change does happen! I remember when I was ten years old, my Lutheran Church in Northfield, Minnesota had its first female pastor. I remember all the talk, pro and con, about her. Such a controversy—and now, a generation later, female pastors are everywhere. Classical music is slower than the Lutheran Church. Wrap your head around that!

MN: Tell me about how you got started as a musician.

KK: Growing up in Northfield was such an important part of my musical life. The first great music I heard was from the St. Olaf Choir. I loved its sound quality and the expressive way the singers used words. We moved to Phoenix, Arizona, when I was a junior in high school. After that, I attended Arizona State University from which I received my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in piano performance. I feel fortunate to have gone to college in the nineteen eighties when tuition was low. To support myself, I had the usual array of freelance piano gigs, voice lessons and church jobs. I always found myself drawn to work with singers.

Kathleen_Kelly.png

MN: Are there some artists of the past whose work has influenced you?

KK: I’m joining a not-very-exclusive club when I say Leonard Bernstein. He commanded all styles. He was a fantastic pianist, a great musical theater composer, and a wonderful conductor of serious music. He was a renowned music educator. He wanted to bring knowledge of the repertoire that he cared about to everyone. He remains the great beacon of the classical tradition in American culture. Who does not hold him in front as a standard?

MN: Who were your most influential teachers?

KK: One was Patrick Summers, the artistic and general director of Houston Grand Opera. He was the very young music director of the San Francisco Opera Center when I joined that company as an apprentice. He was instrumental in introducing me to opera. I had always played for singers and I was a good pianist, but I didn’t know the opera repertoire or how to approach it as a coach. He was one of my most important mentors in that regard. He taught me how to study a score, study a language, and study a character. He showed me how to put it all in historical context. Also, I learned a great deal from Kathy Cathcart who directed the Center. Later, I worked with James Levine at the Met and learned even more from him.

Sylvia Debenport was the head of the opera workshop at ASU during the late seventies and eighties. I played for a couple of operas during my last year at that school. That is where the opera bug first bit me. Sylvia was a magnificent teacher and one of the most innovative that I have ever seen. She did not merely translate. She used specific coaching and acting techniques to consolidate a language into students’ bodies. A true taskmaster, she had very high standards. She was kind but exacting. I admired her enormously and she remains a model for me.

MN: Where do you now teach?

KK: Now I am very happy to be the first Conductor of Opera at the University of Michigan. I also coach at the Michigan Opera Theater’s new resident artist program, which is right in the university’s backyard. I’m also a regular guest coach for the Domingo-Cafritz Program at the Washington National Opera. I regularly make my way around to YAPs at Los Angeles Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera, and Wolf Trap. Now I’m adding universities to that itinerary: Vanderbilt, Baylor, Western Ontario, Toronto. I love being the regular teacher in one place, and the visitor in many others. It keeps the blood flowing!

MN: What did you learn from your teachers that you are passing on to your students?

KK: I want my students to engage in a successful method of combining their text with its music. They need to understand how the composer was inspired by the story, the words, and how the words drove the musical line. Human beings have so many coloristic and expressive resources that are hard wired in us. Think of how much variety there is in the expression of human speech. We don’t plan that variety. It comes out as we are inspired by what we are saying as each of us follows our own creative spark. In a way, as re-creative musicians, we work backwards from the result to the inspiration. We replant it back into all those hard wired processes. What we want to have come out the other side should feel like a spontaneous creation. It’s hard work but it’s endlessly interesting. It’s the work of a lifetime. If I can help people engage in that, to me that is the essence of teaching and collaboration.

MN: How much work did you have to do to make Emmerich Kálmán’s Arizona Lady ready for performance by Arizona Opera?

KK: A lot! The premiere in 1953 occurred during a still-difficult time in post-war Europe. There were things to be addressed in the orchestration that certainly were addressed at the premiere but which weren’t reflected in the orchestral material. There were problems with making the piece ready for American audiences, too. The second act has a ton of dialogue and very little music. That can work in a small theater, with stars that are well loved by the audience, but in the big barns where we perform in the United States it could be deadly!

For Arizona, we consolidated some characters and eliminated others. We moved a duet from Act I to Act II and interpolated some music from the appropriate era into a party scene, much as many companies do with Die Fledermaus. I adapted almost all the dialogue and lyrics into English, but with the help of the poet and fellow ASU alumnus, Alberto Rios, we also had some dialogue and lyrics in Spanish for the Mexican characters, and left some in the original German for our heroine, Lona. All of this was done with the goal of helping the audience connect with the piece in a more personal way, which is part of the tradition of operetta.

MN: Do you have an anecdote from the “Opera Wars” for us?

KK: I don’t like to tell tales out of school! We’re so intimate in our work with one another, that we have the chance to see each other at our most vulnerable, and sometimes at our worst. A creative rehearsal space has to have room for that, and I feel strongly that we must protect this. I will take this opportunity to talk about one thing, which is the increased tightening of rehearsal time in our profession. Much of that is simply due to financial constraints. However, another factor is plain old boring money. Singers and conductors at the top of the profession, because they can draw audience, have the chance to fit as much work in as possible. They often join the rehearsal process late. This forces the music toward an ever more safe and conservative middle road. There’s no substitute for taking time to know each other, experiment, take chances, fail, and find the road. The world is a huge and diverse place and there are so many interesting artists out there. I hope we continue to invest in creating chances for their voices to be heard.

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):