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!

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