Norwegian coloratura soprano Caroline Wettergreen makes her COC and North American debut as the iconic Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute
, having become a well-known Queen that has dazzled audiences throughout Europe with her take on the role. We spoke with Caroline to learn more about her start in opera, her approach to the character, and how she prepares for one of the most famously challenging arias in all of opera. Looking for the best available Magic Flute tickets? Click one of the dates below!
COC: How did you get into opera?
Caroline: Opera has always been present in my life—my mother is a huge opera fan, and I started taking music lessons quite early in life. When I started singing, it was obvious that my voice suited classical music, so it was a natural route for me to take. It wasn’t until the final year of my bachelor’s degree in music that I had a teacher who showed me the key to opening up the highest register of my voice. Since then, I’ve sung coloratura roles—and I feel very lucky to have ended up as a coloratura, because it’s a smaller pool of singers!
COC: Did you always aspire to sing the Queen of the Night?
Caroline: The Queen of the Night is an iconic role. But I was always a bit afraid of the high notes and certainly didn’t see myself singing the Queen of the Night until I really started singing coloratura. Most people have heard her famous aria, “Der hölle rache”, and have an idea in their head of how it should sound—Diana Damrau being, probably, the most famous modern Queen. So it’s important to find the way you sing it and focus on that—even if it isn’t quite how you expected yourself to sing it!!
COC: “Der hölle rache” is famously high. How do you prepare to sing it?
Caroline: It’s incredibly high. When you’re preparing to sing Queen, you sort of have to shift gear—it’s almost like your voice sits higher when you sing, because you have to stretch into that next level that you don’t use for other roles. You can almost compare it to running a sprint vs. a marathon: you use different muscles and a different mindset to get to the finish line.
COC: What’s the experience of singing it like?
Caroline: Every time I go on stage in this role it feels like I’m walking a tightrope—you have eight minutes on a tightrope to do all you can, and there’s a tension that I don’t necessarily experience in other roles. The best thing I can compare singing this aria to is standing in the eye of a tornado, where everything swirls around you but you’re experiencing an immense calm. It can be an incredibly powerful experience, and it’s part of why I’ve set a limit on how many times I’m willing to do it per season.
As a singer, I like to know what’s going to happen; you don’t want to leave anything to chance. With Queen, you can’t do that. There are so many factors that go into and out of it and change the outcome. So it’s been interesting to learn how to let go and just be in the moment. There’s nothing you can change in the split second before a note comes out, so it truly is about preparation: getting your voice in the right place, and adjusting to the register and character.
The Queen is an iconic, fairytale-style character, but it’s important to me as a singer to bring her human side out—she’s a dark character with a black crown and a black cape, but she’s also a manipulative mother. I think that can be hard for people to accept, but it’s also what makes great theatre.
- As told to the COC
The Magic Flute runs May 6, 8, 11, 14, 17, 19, and 21, 2022. Tickets are on sale now.