By Gianmarco Segato
Adult Programs Manager at the Canadian Opera Company
American coloratura soprano Anna Christy makes her COC debut this spring in the title role of Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. The 2008 English National Opera production by director David Alden was largely developed around her considerable vocal and acting talents. It was such a success that ENO quickly revived it in 2010 and now we’ll have the thrill of seeing it here in Toronto.
Gianmarco Segato, the COC’s adult programs manager, recently sat down with Ms Christy before she arrived in Toronto and here’s a portion of their conversation. For more, check out the "Losing Herself in Lucia" interview which can be found at coc.ca/COCRadio.
Had you sung Lucia before the 2008 premiere of the ENO production we’ll be seeing in Toronto?
The first time was in 2004 at Opera Omaha, in Italian. Then I had to learn it all again in English, and in the higher key for London. At the time the higher key fit me a little bit better. Now that I’m singing it again in Italian for the COC, we’re lowering it back to the key that most people sing it in, so it does feel a little bit different.
What is the process like to flip back and forth between the English translation and the original Italian?
It’s interesting. When I was learning the English version for ENO, it felt very foreign because the Italian was already so entrenched in my mouth and ear. But then I got used to it, and creating that production with David, in the setting he uses (Victorian Scotland), it made so much sense to be singing it in English. After a while I didn’t even think about it. Now that I’m preparing it for the COC, to feel the Italian again in my teeth, my lips, my mouth – feels so good. Certainly Italian is easier to sing in!
Is there an aspect of this character with which you particularly connect?
I always relish the opportunity to lose it; to go into a character and not worry about how far because there is no “too far.” I also relish the opportunity to work with someone like David again because with Lucia, there’s this kind of typical “mad scene persona” that singers often bring on – you’re shaking, you’re bloody and you’re acting maniacally. However, I remember with David the first time we created it for ENO he said, “Less, less, less!” I trust him completely, so I thought, “Okay, I’m just going do whatever he tells me,” and the mad scene ended up being much more eerie.
When you come to the COC, it will be the third time you’ve done this particular production, but I imagine things must develop even though it’s the same production, the same director – how does that process work for you?
It’s always great to refresh something. I’m certainly a different artist now than when I first did the production. It’s only five years ago, but a lot has happened in my life and my voice feels better and different. Art cannot be stale; this just can’t happen. I’m really looking forward to returning to the production in Toronto.
Lucia’s mad scene can be viewed in lots of different ways – as the end result of the bullying and domination she has endured for most of her life. By contrast, there are some who view it as Lucia’s moment of empowerment. What are your feelings about this?
I see it as the moment when she has been truly broken – she’s fragile from the beginning, so you take a journey with her from the first moment you meet her when she has already been so oppressed. You see how everything has been forced on her over the course of Act I, and then in Act II you see the result of what happens when a young, impressionable girl who has been treated thus for her whole life – what happens when the ultimate crime in her mind has been committed [her lover, Edgardo’s accusation that she has been untrue]. She is completely broken. It’s enough that she feels she has lost her love and is being forced to marry somebody against her will, but I think she has been abused in other ways, and to put all of that on somebody so young and fragile… she can’t bear it. That’s my own personal look at it because I feel there has to be something incredibly powerful for somebody to be so broken. I suppose it could be seen as a moment of strength for her, but I feel [killing her husband and subsequently going mad] was the only thing that she could have done.
We’re very excited that you’ll be making your COC debut – have you ever sung in Toronto or Canada before?
I’ve never been to Canada - which is ironic as I was actually named after Anne of Green Gables! I know it’s a total cliché but my mother read all of the Montgomery novels when she was a young girl in Japan, in Japanese. Then when I reached the right age, she peppered me with the books, and I fell in love with them. I actually looked up online to see if I could get from Toronto to P.E.I. on my days off and I just think it’s going to be a little too far, and a little too difficult.
I’m so excited to be coming to Toronto. I have friends there and I’ve heard so many wonderful things about what a vibrant city it is. For me, with all the travel that I do, I really enjoy coming to places that are alive and vital.
We’re also excited that you’ll be giving a recital along with Ensemble Studio Head Liz Upchurch on May 21 called “Bel Canto Bliss,” as part of our Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. What repertoire will you be singing? Will it be bel canto songs or arias, both?
A little bit of both. I’m looking through the operatic repertoire I already know. But bel canto composers also wrote some beautiful songs and so I’m definitely going to be pulling from that repertoire. I’ve done a few of those types of songs already, but wouldn’t mind picking up a few more which I’ve always wanted to sing. And certainly the performance period is so long, I’ll have a good amount of time after Lucia opens to work with Liz Upchurch.
This article is published in our Spring 2013 issue of Prelude magazine. Click here to read the issue online.
Photos: (middle) Anna Christy as Lucia; (bottom) A scene from Lucia di Lammermoor. Photos from English National Opera's production of Lucia di Lammermoor, 2008. Photos by Clive Barda.
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Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001