Soprano Ambur Braid was one of the stars of Operanation VII, singing the Queen of the Night's aria (or "Queen 2") from The Magic Flute with indie rockers Broken Social Scene. She also supplied the coloratura for the Ensemble Studio performance of The Magic Flute last month, singing the Queen of the Night. Now she's taking a major role in our upcoming production of Orfeo ed Euridice: she will play Amore, the god of love—best known by the Roman name Cupid—who gives the grieving Orfeo a chance to bring his wife Euridice back from the dead. Amore is one of only three solo roles in Orfeo. Ambur generously took some time out of her vacation this month to answer a few questions by email.
CC: Are there any moments from the night of Operanation that stand out in your memory?
AB: The performance itself was pretty fun and filled with surprises (especially when I knocked a huge diamond earring off of my ear and then caught it discreetly before it hit an audience member in the face) but it was the rehearsal process with Wallis Giunta and Broken Social Scene that was memorable. We met in a small studio the day before Operanation and arranged the Queen of the Night aria as a group. It started off sounding like a banjo jamboree but quickly took its form when I announced that it needed "dirty, grungy guitar action" (When do I ever get to say that in opera?) and proceeded to act that out in an awkward manner. Complete with flamboyant hand movements. Wallis aptly named this process the "Opera Singer Liberation Project." When we arranged the Flower Duet it was so beautiful at the climax of the piece, and the guys really nailed it. I have to admit, I had a tear in my eye.
CC: What was it like to sing the Queen of the Night on stage at the Four Seasons Centre for the first time?
AB: Nauseatingly nerve wracking, but thrilling. It is such an incredible experience to be able to sing in the Four Seasons Centre and with the Canadian Opera Company orchestra. We had one (ONE!) rehearsal with the set, costumes, chorus and orchestra prior to our ensemble performance of The Magic Flute and it was quite a scene, but everyone did such a great job! The whole cast was supportive and sweet, and what made it that much more comforting was having Maestro Debus in the pit, grinning. It was reassuring seeing that smile from the stage and knowing that he was right there breathing along with you. The Queen of Night is so much fun to sing and I enjoy the process from heart-wrenching manipulation to evil and finally to perverse obsession when she and the "baddies" (as our director Ashlie Corcoran aptly named them) snuck into Sarastro's domain. I call her the Drama Queen of the Night.
CC: What’s your process for learning a role? Do you listen to recordings or try to stay away from them?
AB: The very first thing is to translate the text, which I usually do while watching F1 races. The buzzing of the engines helps me focus for some reason. Then I listen to a few recordings to get the "whole" sound of the piece, but that's it for the listening portion. After that it's me and the piano, learning coloratura and running it hundreds of times. Recitative is easiest to memorize when speaking it as dialogue or monologue and then adding in the rhythm. I wish there was a quicker way, but my coach in San Francisco, Kathy Cathcart, gave me these rules to follow: memorize text, add rhythm, add music. After that, it's the fun stuff: drama!
CC: What’s your take on the character of Amore? I’m guessing it’s pretty far from the cherub with a bow and arrow that people usually see when they think of “Cupid.”
AB: Amore is a little matchmaker who tests the couple's virtue and loyalty. Although it would be fun to carry around a bow and arrow, the idea that one is pierced by the arrow tip and instantly in love is more cartoon version than opera. Amore puts the lovers through rigorous challenges to test their love for one another, making it that much more sweet in the end. Isn't everything better when you have to fight for it? I know my husband agrees ;)
CC: Do you have a favourite aria in Orfeo ed Euridice?
AB: Gluck's music is just so romantic and impossibly gorgeous that I absolutely love it. All of Orfeo's music is stunning, which makes sense given his ability to charm all things with his musical prowess. I can barely stand "che puro ciel, che chiaro sol". It creates these breathtaking images in the instrumentation and yet maintains this clean, yet heart-wrenching vocal line.
CC: What’s your dream role?
AB: It used to be Salome and Elektra, but that will never happen. So let's say Lulu.
Photo Credit: © Helene Cyr Photography 2010
Posted by Cecily Carver / in Ensemble Studio / comments (0) / permalink
Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001