Friday, January 10, 2014

ARTISTS CORNER: Mezzo-soprano Chrystal E. Williams

Mezzo soprano
Chrystal E. Williams
ARTISTS CORNER:  Mezzo-soprano Chrystal E. Williams will appear as Rosina in this season's production of The Barber of Seville.  Ms. Williams already has an impressive resume of roles which include Dulcinée in Massenet’s Don Quichotte, Olga in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, Linda in Lost in the Stars, her debut role with the Glimmerglass Festival, Giannetta in L’Elisir d’Amore, Cuniza in Oberto, Nicklausse and La Muse in Les Contes d'Hoffmann, and La Maestra delle Novizie in Suor Angelica among others. Upcoming engagements include soloist in Rossini’s Stabat Mater with the New Jersey Master Chorale as well as with the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra singing Elgar’s Sea Pictures. Read what she has to say about her upcoming debut with Sarasota Opera.   

Q. Where are you originally from and where do you make your home now?
A. I am from Portsmouth, Va and am currently living in the Philadelphia area.

Ms. Williams as Ducinee in
Massenet's Don Quichotte
Q. What drew you to become a singer?  Was there a specific “Aha!” moment of clarity?
A. Hmmm...there was no real aha moment so to speak. I always sang, but never thought "I am going to be a singer one day!" I have always wanted to help others, but it wasn't until I started at The Governor's School for the Arts (GSA) that I settled on how. I originally wanted to teach English/Language to grade school children because I felt and still feel that teachers have great influence on our world citizens. Children often spend more time with teachers than parents, so if during these formative years we can not only encourage their educational growth, but self esteem, self-confidence, thirst for knowledge and freedom to question and explore, then we could help alleviate many of the problems that afflict our citizens later in life. In short, we could help form mentally strong, educated and adept children and thus even stronger world citizens better able to make decisions affecting all of mankind.

My next choice was a psychologist/middle school guidance counselor-similar reasons, but with middleschoolers. Then came a biologist my sophomore year of high school. I figured I could help mankind by finding some biological cure for many of the unknown ailments! Mind you, I have still been singing all the while. GSA had taken a trip to New York City and I remember being glued to the floor listening to Leontyne Price sing on one of the monitors in Tower Records. I asked the head of the program how I could help people and still sing. He said I could help them THROUGH the music. This is what I've been trying to do ever since.

One way I have found so far is in 2004 I founded the Chrystal E. Williams Scholarship to help students wishing to pursue a career in the performing arts. This scholarship is funded in part by my annual concert, "An Evening with Chrystal E".

Ms. Williams as Zerlina in
Mozart's Don Giovanni

Q. You have sung the role of Rosina before.  What do you enjoy about performing this role?
A. What do I enjoy about performing the role of Rosina...I love the music. I love the playfulness, the mischievousness, the mystery. I love the wit involved and the spicy flare that is such a part of Rosina.

Q. What can you tell us about this character?  What do you want the audience to know about her?
A. I want the audience to know that Rosina is much like them. She is constantly discovering and exploring things about herself. She has dreams, desires, goals, and she is determined to see them come to fruition. She will not be out foxed!

Q. How do you prepare a role for performance?
A. I usually start with the libretto, read the text. (I like to find loop holes in the plot and try and figure them out. I'm that person at movies who sits there wondering about certain plot blind spots...) I then look historically and read any books/pertinent information. I take the score to the piano and sightread as much as possible, listen to the overture-always a foreshadowing of what is to come, and then eventually I listen to the rest.
Ms. Williams in Lost in the Stars
at Glimmerglass Opera

Q. Are there any famous "Rosina's" from the past whose performances you admire?
A. There are so many famous Rosina's!

Q. Beyond the musical work, what other kind of preparation/research work do you incorporate in the learning process?   
A. Beyond the musical work, I speak through the text alone, more as a monologue

Q. Thus far, what is the most bizarre experience you have had during a rehearsal?  During a performance?
A. Well, actually, during a performance of The Barber of Seville, Dr. Bartolo's wig came off during one of the ensemble numbers ("La testa vi gira"). Everyone lost it yet still somehow managed to keep singing. It fit so perfectly that the 'mishap' was kept. Ha!

Ms. Williams at the
2012 Giargiari Bel Canto Competition
Q. Do you have any pre-performance rituals?  Performance superstitions?  Good luck charms? 
A. Pre-performance I usually like to clean/straighten up, pack my show bag, snacks, etc. This helps me quiet my mind and be sure I have everything. I eat a good, solid meal a few hours before. Sometime during staging I may have compiled a 'last minute review/reminder' list. I carry this list, my Bible, water, and Gatorade along with my bag. I always call home and my family says a quick prayer for me. Backstage I sometimes do a few squats to get my body ready, say my prayer in the wings, few breaths, then it's to the stage! I try not to have rituals or create tradition so that if ever the situation arises where those rituals/traditions cannot be kept, I am not distracted. :)

Q. How do you relax in between performances?  What hobbies do you enjoy at home and “on the road”?
A. I absolutely LOVE dancing, tango music, cooking, and reading. I also enjoy a good workout or explorative walks in the new neighborhood

Q. How do you stay connected to family and friends when you are “on the road”? 
A. I speak to my family literally everyday, and if abroad, we email. I catch up with my friends via phone/text/email as well.

Described as possessing "dazzling vocal sound", you do not want to miss mezzo-soprano Chrystal E. Williams as Rosina in Sarasota Opera's 2014 Winter production of Rossini's comedy The Barber of Seville running February 15th through March 21st. Tickets are available at or by calling (941) 328-1300.  

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