It’s National Opera Week! We have guest blogs this week from members of the Utah Opera family, explaining their love and relationship with opera. Are you also touched by the opera bug? Tell us about it on our Facebook page, or comment on any of the Opera Week blogs!
My First Role
By Paula Fowler
My first opera experience was singing the role of Kate Pinkerton in Utah Opera’s 1993 Madama Butterfly. Kate sings only 6 lines and doesn’t appear til the final act, but I loved that the make-up artist told me that while I was sitting in his make-up chair, the name of the opera was Kate Pinkerton as far as he was concerned. The experience of rehearsing and performing with amazing singers in that production, as well as getting acquainted with backstage and onstage life in the theatre, really got me hooked on opera.
I signed on for the Utah Opera Chorus afterwards, and treasure memories of various productions for all kinds of reasons: my family knows I liked being chosen as a “sexy draper” in a production of Carmen, and I loved being part of the costume parades of gorgeous gowns in The Merry Widow and La Traviata (which, as far as the chorus goes, is one big party from beginning to end). I also got a hoot being in the mariachi band featured in our production of Don Pasquale, and enjoyed the challenge of learning the complicated square dance in The Grapes of Wrath. Another delightful highlight was when Propsmaster Kelly Nickle hid the infamous plastic alligator in the bustle of my gown during one of our summer Gilbert & Sullivan productions.
One of my favorite opera chorus recollections is of our production of Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice. The chorus was an important part of each of the 4 scenes in the opera, and in each scene we portrayed a different pure emotion: we were sad at Eurydice’s funeral, angry in red as demons in hell, then serene in white in heaven, and finally exuberant in a final celebration. It was a fantastic emotional and musical journey every performance, and I remember thinking what a fabulous thing it was to be able to pursue singing as a life hobby but get the opportunity to be part of the performances of a professional company. I don’t know any other art form where people can do that.