Friday, March 13, 2015

ARTISTS CORNER: Soprano Michelle Johnson

Soprano Michelle Johnson

Soprano Michelle Johnson makes her Sarasota Opera debut this season as Élisabeth de Valois in Verdi's Don Carlos. Since being a Grand Prize winner in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in 2011, Ms. Johnson's career has skyrocketed taking her leading roles at Glimmerglass Opera, Opera Philadelphia, Kentucky Opera, and now Sarasota Opera. Her voice is described as being "velvety and pliant" and regarded as "similar to young Renata Tebaldi." 

Continuing reading to learn more about this soprano on the rise. 

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

A. I am from Pearland, Texas close to Houston, Texas.

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

A. When I was 8 years old I saw a production of Madame Butterfly on PBS. I have been hooked ever since.
Ms. Johnson in the title role of Puccini's Manon Lescaut.
Photo by Kelly & Masa Photography
Q. Did you have other career aspirations in the works before you decided on singing?  

A. I come from a long line of educators. I was certain that I was going to be a teacher in the field of English or History

Ms. Johnson as Elisabeth de Valois in
Don Carlos at Sarasota Opera
Q. What can you tell us about the character of Élisabeth?  What is her role in the opera?

A. Élisabeth is a strong young woman dealing with heavy decisions throughout the entire opera. She battles with being faithful to her duties as royalty and her own wants for her life. She is the face of hope, honesty, and purety.

Q. This is not exactly what one would consider a standard sized role in opera. What challenges do you face taking on a role of this length?

A. My main focus is stamina. One must not give too much too soon. With the leadership of Maestro DeRenzi the role is becoming super familiar.

Q. At the end of the performance, what knowledge about the character of Élisabeth would you like the audience to walk away with?

A. Élisabeth wants the best for everyone, her people of France and the people of Spain. She’s willing to give up her happiness for the happiness of others.

Q. Are there any famous “Élisabeth’s” from the past whose performances you admire?

A. I admire any soprano who attempts this role!

Ms. Johnson as Minnie in Puccini's Girl of the Golden West at Kentucky Opera. 
Q. Thus far, what is the most bizarre experience you have had during a rehearsal?  During a performance?

A. Unfortunately, I have had to hold up a skirt or two until the end of a scene. It’s not fun!

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

A. The only thing I need is about 20 minutes of meditation then I’m ready to go!

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

A. I love movies. So, Netflix is very dangerous. I travel with my Yorkshire Terrior, Jasper, so I hang out with him a ton when I’m off.

Ms. Johnson as Giulietta in Jacque Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffmann.
Don't miss Ms. Johnson's performance as Élisabeth de Valois which was described as "a pure-voiced soprano of regal deportment" by Remaining performances are March 15, 18, 21, and 24. Go to or call (941) 328-1300 for information and tickets. 

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