Thursday, February 26, 2015

ARTISTS CORNER: Soprano Alexandra Batsios

Soprano Alexandra Batsios
American soprano Alexandra Batsios returns to Sarasota Opera this season as the Queen of Shemakha in Rimsky-Korsakov's exotic opera The Golden Cockerel. Her performance has been described as "penetrating and vocally stratospheric" by the Herald Tribune. Ms. Batsios made her Sarasota Opera mainstage debut as Berta in the 2014 production of Rossini's The Barber of Seville. She has also been seen as Annina in Verdi's La traviava, Clorinda in Rossini's La Cenerentola, and Flora in Britten's The Turn of the Screw with Palm Beach Opera. While at Palm Beach Opera, she also premiered the role of Yadwiga in the first staged performance of Ben Moore's Enemies, A Love Story.

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

A. I’m originally from a small town close to St. Louis called Granite City, IL. I currently reside in Princeton, NJ.

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

A. I was always an entertainer. I would sing along to every Disney movie, make costumes out of household items, and subject my family to my “performances.” I wanted to be on Broadway for the longest time! When I began taking voice lessons, I found an appreciation for operatic music and how beautiful and moving it could be. When it was time to choose a major for college, I knew I wanted to perform, and since singing was always something I enjoyed, I pursued voice performance.

Q. Did you have other career aspirations in the works before you decided on singing?  

A. While I was studying chemistry in high school, I had this idea I was going to become a chemist, but that was short-lived!
Ms. Batsios as Berta in Rossini's The Barber of Seville
Q. What can you tell us about this character?  What do you want the audience to leave knowing about her after the performance?

A. The Queen of Shemakha reminds me of Cleopatra in a lot of ways. She’s beautiful and charming, but can also subjugate everyone with her wit. The difference between the Queen and Cleopatra is that the Queen doesn’t need an army to help her dominate because she can do it alone. I think the audience should know that she’s not evil, but her intentions are not completely honest.

Q. How do you prepare a role for performance?

A. It’s important to do all the background study first, that way my attention can be focused on the text, music, and emotion. I try to find and read any source material about the opera to get a sense of the storyline. Then I read the libretto to see how my character reacts to other characters and events. Then comes the translating of the score, speaking the text and finding the poetic line, learning the notes, coaching the role musically and sometimes dramatically, all the while trying to memorize it! I also have to make sure I have the stamina to sing the role. The Queen of Shemakha is a very taxing and unforgiving role vocally, and by learning it in sections then putting those sections together, I am giving myself a chance to find the places in the music where I can take a metaphoric “break.”

Q. What is your favorite opera?

A. My favorite opera is Le nozze di Figaro. It never gets old for me. The minute the overture starts, I’m excited. Every character goes through the entire range of emotions, and to think the opera takes place in one day! It’s amazing.

Q. Favorite operatic role to play? What makes it so great?

Ms. Batsios as the Queen of Shemakha in
The Golden Cockerel.
Photo by Rod Millington
A. My favorite role to date is Clorinda from La Cenerentola. I know the stepsisters from Cinderella are often referred to as “ugly,” but I think the ugly is more on the inside than outside. The role is so fun because the sisters are absolutely ridiculous and in their own little world. The opera is a great comedy and has a wonderful moral. Plus, singing Rossini is a blast!

Q. How did you learn to sing in Russian?

A. I grew up in an Eastern Orthodox church, and we frequently sang in church Slavonic, so I had some background in the Russian language. However, I did go to a coach who knows Russian to help refresh my memory and set me on the right track.

Q. Beyond the musical work, what other kind of preparation/research work do you incorporate in the learning process?  Historical?  Character study?  

A. Understanding a character’s motivation for their actions and emotions is another step towards preparing a role. As an audience, we sometimes only see a glimpse in the life of a character, but what about the rest of their life? Does that character have parents? Are they still alive? What’s that character’s favorite color? What are their passions? Digging into the character’s background and emotional world directly affects how I interpret the music and make dramatic choices.

Q. Do you listen to any non-operatic music or artists?

A. Besides opera, I like listening to musicals, choral music, and a cappella music, specifically Pentatonix!

Q. Thus far, what is the most bizarre experience you have had during a rehearsal?  During a performance?
Ms. Batsios as the Queen of Shemakha.
Photo by Rod Millington

A. Luckily, nothing really bizarre has happened to me yet!

Q. Do you have any pre-performance rituals?  Performance superstitions?  Good luck charms?  If yes, why?

A. The only pre-performance ritual I have is popping Altoids before I go onstage. Got to have fresh breath! The day of a performance I don’t set an alarm (unless it’s a matinee!), eat a hearty breakfast, go for a walk, and warm up my voice. Keep it simple.

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

A. While on the road, I enjoy reading, catching up on my TV shows or finding a new show to watch, cooking, baking, and taking in any attractions that are in the area. I am a huge baseball fan (Go Cardinals!), I enjoy playing billiards, trying new restaurants, and the occasional craft beer.

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. I update my Facebook fan page with pictures and tidbits about my travels for my family and friends. I also use Skype, FaceTime, and email to keep in touch.

Don't miss Ms. Batsios as the Queen of Shemakha in Rimsky-Korsakov's The Golden Cockerel playing now through March 19th. Information and tickets are available at or by calling the Sarasota Opera Box Office at (941) 328-1300. You can follow Ms. Batsios' career via her website at

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