On Oct. 23, local music critic and reporter Larry Kellum spent a leisurely Sunday afternoon interviewing Connecticut’s favorite soprano Jurate Svedaite of the Conn. Lyric Opera before she scurried off to start rehearsals for that company’s eagerly-awaited, upcoming production of Offenbach’s “TALES OF HOFFMANN”. The artist, born, raised and educated in Lithuania, has been starring or appearing in the CLO’s productions for eight seasons now, and has become almost a household name to opera lovers in the state.
What’s in a name? (say: you-RAH-tay sveh-DIE-tay). Who is this lyric soprano that we all adore? She is, first of all, the granddaughter of one of Lithuania’s most celebrated composers; she is a professor of voice at Conn. College in New London; she is a mother of two; the wife of one of the founders of the CLO, and a protegee herself of the famous Ira Siff, one of the greatest voice teachers, entertainers and writers (for “Opera News” magazine) the opera world has ever known. As if all that weren’t enough, she is the possessor of a major league voice ideally suited to French, Puccini, the heavier Mozart and lighter Verdi roles that are the staples of any good lirico-spinto’s diet. To boot, she has the looks of a classic Nordic beauty — svelte and blonde. Yes, a woman CAN have it all!
“Hoffmann” is a new work for her, and here are some highlights of that relaxing, yet stimulating interview……………………………………
LK— When did you first realize you actually had an operatic voice?
JS– “My mother said as a child I cried so much louder than all the other children, but I guess, when I was 12 and singing in an all girl’s choir. Female voices tend to develop much earlier than male.”
LK — Everyone’s favorite role is the one they are currently singing, but any dream roles for the future?
JS– “Manon Lescaut, Adriana Lecouvreur and Elisabetta in “Don Carlo” Vocally, Butterfly, also, but physically, I’m too old and too tall for today’s audiences. They all want small Asian girls in the part.”
LK– Any divas from the past that you idolize or pattern yourself after?
JS– “I listen to many great sopranos, depending on which role I am preparing at the time. Because I am always being compared to Kiri Te Kanawa, she is a favorite because we sing much of the same repertory. I admire Callas for all the drama in her voice, and Mirella Freni for her longevity, for still being able to sing well at age 70!”
LK — Any tenors from the past you would love to sing with if they were alive today?
JS– “Giuseppe Di Stefano and Bjoerling, and maybe even Mario Lanza.”
LK — What is your daily routine on the day of a performance?
JS — “Plenty of rest — the night before, and sleeping in late the day of. I eat a light lunch, go over my music after that, and try to avoid any kind of stress! No, I do not whisper — regular speaking voice.”
LK — You are singing only two out of the three heroines in “Hoffmann”. Why is that?
JS– “Only a coloratura with enough color in the middle voice for the lyric roles of Giulietta and Antonia can do all three. I’m not the light coloratura with all those high E-flats for the doll Olympia.”
LK — Which part do you like the most?
JS– “They are both so different, but I guess I enjoy Giulietta (the prostitute) only because I like the chance to play a bad girl once in awhile! Some of that side of me came out in my Tosca last season.”
LK — Any plans for later life?
JS– “Anything is possible. I’m open to doing occasional cameo appearances in character parts, but I think I will probably write a book about how to teach singing and all the aspects of training the voice. And, of course, I would love to see our CLO become the number one opera company in New England, and to have its own “home” theater, instead of being a touring company.”
“TALES OF HOFFMANN” premieres at New Britain’s Trinity-on-Main Nov.4. One can also see Ms.Svedaite’s versatility as the prostitute Giulietta and the sickly singer Antonia on Nov. 6 at Middletown High School, Nov. 13 at the Garde in New London, an on Nov. 19 at the Palace in Waterbury. For tickets and more info, please visit www.thevirtuosi.org or call 860-229-2072.