We’re delighted to welcome Valda Wilson to the Pinchgut family. Valda has had a tremendous career in Europe and we can’t wait to share her stunning lyric soprano voice with you this December in Theodora.
THIS WILL BE YOUR PINCHGUT OPERA DEBUT. HOW DID YOUR ASSOCIATION WITH PINCHGUT OPERA COME ABOUT?
I have always been keenly interested in Pinchgut’s work. I love my opera to be slightly on the grittier side of things – perhaps that’s why I’ve found my way so well in the houses of Germany, where the productions are on the whole less ‘grand opera’ in style and you’re more likely to find yourself singing upside-down in jeans and a T-shirt.
Pinchgut is renowned for its presentation of works and composers that are left field, and I love that. There is so much beautiful music out there and people deserve the chance to hear and see it.
My engagement with Pinchgut simply came from an audition I gave for Erin and Antony a couple of years ago on one of my annual visits back home. I am thrilled to be cast as Theodora!
YOU’RE SYDNEY BORN AND BRED BUT YOU HAVE LIVED AWAY FROM AUSTRALIA FOR SOME TIME NOW. WHAT DO YOU LIKE THE MOST ABOUT LIVING AND PERFORMING IN GERMANY?
Yes, I’ve been in Germany for six years now – primarily Dresden and Oldenburg. There is such a density of performance opportunities here that we cannot imagine in Australia. I’m at my best when I’m performing frequently... so ‘Fest’ jobs in an ensemble have been wonderful for me to develop a wide repertoire and to be constantly busy. In just two seasons here I have made ten role debuts, ranging from Countess Almaviva through to Handel’s Romilda and Iole, bel canto such as La Dame Blanche, classic operetta like The Merry Widow and more modern repertoire including Philip Glass and Britten! Such a full-time ensemble position is unique to this part of the world, and I do love it.The challenge is balancing that with enough freedom to pursue concerts, festivals and guest jobs outside of one’s full-time position.
Opera in Germany is part of the fabric of society: Little children always know what I mean when I talk about The Magic Flute and will sing me the ‘Pa pa pa’ duet... that’s pretty special. No one suggests that I should go on X Factor! The theatres are quite heavily subsidised by the State which makes ticket prices affordable and keeps this amazing art form accessible to the general public.
THEODORA IS KNOWN AS HANDEL’S FAVOURITE ORATORIO. HOW ARE YOU PREPARING TO PERFORM SUCH A FAMOUS AND EMOTIONALLY MOVING ROLE?
As a lyric soprano I’ve sung a lot of highly-strung characters in stressful situations... the thing is, the music still needs to be able to soar, in spite of the character’s desperation. When I’m working on roles like Theodora, I like to work extremely technically on the musical side of things, but keep the emotions out of it until I’ve really got a solid foundation. I think about the drama quite separately and only really allow the two to begin to merge when we then start to stage it. If one tries too early in the preparation process to embrace all the angst, all the bodice-ripping emotions of the character, one runs the risk of sacrificing the beauty of the music.
It is definitely a balancing act! At the end of it all, you want to have done enough technical work behind the scenes such that you can step out on stage and forget it all. That’s our job.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE CHARACTER OF THEODORA?
Theodora is fascinating. Profoundly committed to her faith in the face of tyranny, she cuts a strong figure. But she is not only a noble, virtuous pillar: Her moments of self-questioning are deeply human and extremely affecting. She must also be an extraordinarily charismatic woman... In contrast with Handel’s often florid style, his music for Theodora has a serene simplicity and a spiritual radiance that is breathtaking. She is strong yet vulnerable.
THEODORA WILL BE PERFORMED IN ENGLISH. IS THERE A DIFFERENCE WHEN PREPARING FOR ROLES WITH ENGLISH DIALOGUE WHEN COMPARED TO PERFORMING IN GERMAN OR ITALIAN?
Yes, absolutely! It’s wonderful to sing in a language in which you are truly fluent. There is then an immediacy there that I have to work much harder to achieve in say French or Czech. Young singers: Get stuck into learning foreign languages, it’s never too early!
On the more technical side of things, singing in English does have its pitfalls – in contrast with Italian, English syllables are generally closed meaning you have to work harder to maintain the long legato lines essential to beautiful singing. But that’s a small challenge balanced against the joy of singing in your native tongue!
YOU’RE QUITE THE SAVVY SOCIAL MEDIA SOPRANO! WHY DO YOU THINK IT IS IMPORTANT TO KEEP ENGAGED WITH YOUR AUDIENCE VIA SOCIAL MEDIA TODAY?
I think that opera is a deeply human art form, not something to be put up on an untouchable pedestal. For me what makes an operatic performance really touching is the palpable humanity behind the art... at its best moments, there is a real exchange of energy between the stage and those seated in front of it. It should be visceral and thrilling.
It’s important for me to feel a connection with my audience and I love that social media makes this possible – even when I’m not on stage.