Friday, April 12, 2013

ARTISTS CORNER: Soprano Angela Mortellaro

ARTISTS CORNER:  Soprano Angela Mortellaro made her Sarasota Opera debut as a Studio Artist singing the role of Gretel in the 2010 production of Engelbert Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel.  Ms. Mortellaro will return this fall as a principal artist to sing the role of Adele in Johann Strauss Jr.'s Die Fledermaus opening November 1st, 2013.  She is currently in Sarasota singing the title role of Annelies - Inspired by the Diary of Anne Frank with Key Chorale April 14.  We caught up with Ms. Mortellaro in between rehearsals and asked her to answer a few questions about her life as a singer, what she learned as a Studio Artist with Sarasota Opera, and what he is looking forward to the upcoming fall season with Sarasota Opera.

Soprano Angela Mortellaro
 Q.  Where are you originally from and where do you make your home now?

A.  I'm originally from Brookfield, Wisconsin. I moved to Chicago recently and love it!

Q.  What drew you to become a singer?  Was there a specific “Aha!” moment of clarity?

A.  Like many artists, I would say that singing found me. I always had an appreciation for music - I studied piano pretty seriously growing up, and my mother is a singer and choir director at our home church. I went to college with the intention of becoming a music teacher, and didn't think of myself as a performing artist. There have been many Aha! moments that told me music is a big part of who I am, and where I recognized the power and beauty of this art form. But, I'm not sure there was a specific moment about pursuing opera as a career. It was more like: I woke up one morning and realized that was the path I was on. Then, I just followed it.

Q.  What can you tell us about this character?  Why should the audience care about her?

A.  Adele is a fun-loving, mischievous and at times ridiculous person. What a riot! She reminds us not to take things too seriously, and I think that is an important lesson we all need to remember!

Q.  What are you looking forward to most about performing this particular role?

A.  I am looking forward to singing this wonderful music! Additionally, I am looking forward to the interplay between all these silly characters through the dialogue and plot twists.
Ms. Mortellaro as Gretel with mezzo-soprano Heather Johnson as Hansel in the
2010 Sarasota Opera prodution of  Hansel and Gretel
Q.  Is there something unique about your process when preparing a role for performance?

A.  I like to work on music over long periods of time, working very intensely, then ignoring it for a while. And working intensely again, and repeat! In the space in between is where I mull over things. This process seems to work for me.

Ms. Mortellaro in the title role of
Lucia di Lammermoor
 Q.  Beyond the musical work, what other kind of preparation/research work do you incorporate in the learning process?  Historical?  Character study? 

A.  I think incorporating research is so helpful. The more information I have about the music I'm singing, the richer of an experience it will be.

Q.  Does your preparation process differ between a role you have performed before and a role you are doing for the first time? 

A.  When I return to a piece I have done before, it is like a reunion with a wonderful friend! I love repeating roles because it is a fantastic opportunity. I have the chance to make different dramatic choices, bring a new vocal perspective, improve or change a cadenza, and I always learn something. Repeating a role is still a new experience because it is probably with a new company and different group of singers, director and conductor who bring their own ideas to a piece. That is really cool. Even if I have done something before, I try to approach each project like I have never seen it before. That way, there is more room for discovery! I love a new project, too. The truth is that I love the learning. I love sitting at the piano and being forever a student. Joy!

Ms. Mortellaro as Amore in Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice 
Q.  Before you were a principal artist, you spent one season as a Sarasota Opera studio artist.  Do you feel that experience helped to prepare you for your upcoming role as a Principal Artist?  If yes, how so? 

A.  Yes, definitely. It not only prepared me to return to Sarasota Opera, but prepared me to sing professionally with other opera companies. Singing Gretel here was kindof a big deal! It was my first big role with a professional company.

Q.  Thus far, what is the most bizarre experience you have had during a rehearsal?  During a performance?

A.  Hmmm. It is hard to decide because there are so many funny things. I'm lucky that nothing terrible has ever happened. Wig malfunctions, props missing, curtains rising when they are not supposed to, dancers falling, carrying topiaries, trap door scariness more than once... One time I accidentally said "mooing" instead of "cooing" during a love aria. One incident that stands out though is a blood pack malfunction during my debut as Lucia with Minnesota Opera. It was a particularly gory production, and at the end of the Mad Scene I was supposed to slit my throat and use a blood pack. It would not burst!!! I squeezed that thing sooo hard and it finally burst... but it flew into the air in a glob and landed on a chorister. The audience couldn't see it, but we were in hysterics after the curtain came down.

Ms. Mortellaro backstage preparing to sing
the role of Despina in Mozart's Cosi fan tutte

Q.  How do you relax in between performances?  What hobbies do you enjoy at home and “on the road”?

A.  When I'm in a new place, one of the first things I do is find the nearest Bikram Yoga Studio. Taking lots of walks and getting exercise is the best way for me to feel relaxed.

Q.  How do you stay connected to family and friends when you are “on the road”?  Do you keep a blog?  Website?Facebook?  Twitter?

A.  Skype and iChat! I talk to my husband on the phone all the time, but to see his face when we are apart is so much better.

Subscriptions are available now for the 2013-2014 Sarasota Opera Season.  Subscribe before April 19th and receive a 15% discount on your subscription!  Contact the box office at (941) 328-1300 or download the registration form at!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

ARTISTS PROFILE: Tenor Heath Huberg

ARTISTS CORNER:  Tenor Heath Huberg made his Sarasota Opera debut while a Studio Artist singing the roles of Peppe in Pagliacci and Delil in Giovanna d'Arco in 2010.  Mr. Huberg has since returned each season to perform such roles as Giles Corey in The Crucible, Cassio in Verdi's Otello and this season as a principal artist making his role debut as Nadir in Bizet's The Pearl Fishers.  We asked Mr. Huberg to answer a few questions about his life as a singer, what he learned as a Studio Artist with Sarasota Opera, and what he is looking forward to this season with Sarasota Opera.

Tenor Heath Huberg

Q.  What drew you to become a singer?

A.  I was involved with local community theater, high school musicals, other theater projects, choir, and band. I had a lot of success growing up as a musician and thought that music may be the way to go. However, college is where opera took hold of my career path. 

Q.  Did you have other aspirations besides music?

A.  A few.  I was relatively gifted in science and math and thought that may a possible career path.  Also, growing up in a farming community presented other opportunities along with family businesses. I also contemplated going into the Navy out of high school, but decided that I wanted to go to university instead.

Heath Huberg as Nadir in
Sarasota Opera's The Pearl Fishers. 
Photo by Rod Millington
Q.  What are you looking forward to in performing this role?

A.  I think the opera The Pearl Fishers is radically under appreciated.  It has stunning moments of the most beautiful music and very thrilling moments that brings an audience to the edge of their seat.  Besides being able to perform this piece with exceptionally talented colleagues, I have the opportunity to help bring the drama to life.  To explore and divulge the intricacies of a character and a culture that is far detached from our normal, and to get to do this on a stage that has many happy memories for me, is what I am looking forward to most.

Q.  Is there something unique about the process you go through when preparing a role?

A.  I don't think so.  I begin by translating every part.  Then I speak the text to find the correct inflection, emphasis...etc. Only after that do I put the words to the rhythm and notes.  I do like listening to several different singers approach to the role.  I believe that by cultivating other ideas and approaches, I am able to inspire and refine my performance.

Q.  What other preparation/research work do you include?

A.  I try to read as much as possible, whether it be historical documents, books, or online resources.  Also, in some cases, I find it useful to watch movies with historical contexts or period set pieces.  

Tenor Heath Huberg as Cassio in Sarasota Opera's production of Verdi's Otello.  Photo by Rod Millington
Q.  How does preparation process differ between a new role and one that you have already performed?

A.  Having already performed a role makes life so much easier.  It is a case of intense reviewing of the text, story, characterization, historical context, music and preparing mentally as well as vocally.  While it is ultimately easier to prepare an all ready performed role, it does still require a lot of preparation and time.

Q.  Before you were a principal artist you were a studio artist. Did this help you prepare you for you role as a principal artist?

A.  Most definitely.  The Sarasota Opera Studio Artist program gave me valuable performance experience, both in concert/outreach and on stage.  It has also helped me refine my preparation process and general performance practices.

Q.  What is the most bizarre experience you have had in a rehearsal and/or performance?

A.  I was in Santa Fe Opera's Young Artist program and had the opportunity to be in a world premiere opera: The Letter.  Santa Fe Opera is famous for not only some wonderful productions and singing, but for its open air theater with beautiful vistas and brilliant enchanting sunsets. On two seperate occasions mother nature had her way during a couple of performances.  The first was a dense layer of fog that rolled in covering the stage, pit, and audience as the ghost of the protagonist's lover appeared to confront his killer: the protagonist.  The second, mother nature kicked up a wicked thunderstorm with high winds that threatened to bring down the set around us (stage hands held the set in place as the performance neared its end). Also, the wind sent dishes and other props flying.  It even made the roll-out stage cover churn like waves on the gulf.  Needless to say, the performance ended shortly there after and the bows were cut short.   

Tenor Heath Huberg as Giles Corey in
the 2011 production of The Crucible.
Photo by Rod Millington
Q.  Do you have any pre-performance rituals?

A.  Nope, just resting up and reviewing music.

Q.  How do you relax between performances? Any hobbies?

A.  While in Sarasota I like to spend time on the beach and go to Baltimore Orioles games.  I like to golf, read, and spend time with family and friends.

Q.  How do you stay connected with family and friends while you are on the road?

A.  I skype and call my family and friends in order to stay in touch with them. Also, I maintain a facebook account to share my experiences with people while on the road.

Q.  We have patrons that travel from all over the United States to see productions at Sarasota Opera.  Do you have strong connections with any particular towns our patons might have in common?

A.  I am originally from Milford, Des Moines.  I did my undergraduate work at Simpson College in Indianola, IA and my graduate work at New England Conservatory in Boston, MA.  I also spent a good amount of time in Salt Lake City, UT as a resident artist with Utah Opera.

Look for tenor Heath Huberg in upcoming productions at Sarasota Opera.  Subscriptions for the 2013-2014 Sarasota Opera Season are now available online at or by calling the box office at (941) 328-1300.