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Suzanne: Youíve played a wide range of roles for The Dallas Opera over the past year, what stands out in your mind about those experiences?
Ava: The variety. Iíve done everything from Zozo the ďstarĒ grisette (in The Merry Widow to Anna, the sister of the High Priest in Nabucco and I get to bring a little bit of something different to each one. Theyíve each been a challenge because Iím not given a whole lot to work with Ė musically or dramatically Ė and I have to bring all of me to that performance and (allow the character to) be a valuable part of that show.
Suzanne: You looked like you were having a terrific time in The Merry Widow.
Ava: Oh, believe me Ė I was! And also scared to death. As opera singers, weíre not accustomed to being lifted up in the air on one personís hand. So, it was an adventure but, it was fun to step out of my comfort zone in every way: musically, movement-wise and dramatically, as well. I donít really play characters like that. It was fun!
Suzanne: Well, you have a big one coming up with Adele, the maid and so much more, in Fledermaus. Thatís a huge step up for you.
Ava: Yes. Since Iíve been participating in the Young Artists Program at The Dallas Opera, Iíve had a chance to grow a lot and get to know the people at this Company. Jonathan Pell (Director of Artistic Administration) refers to Adele as my ďgraduation presentĒ (laughs) Iím looking forward to it so much! Adele is a little spitfire and so much fun. Sheís funny and Iíll actually get to use some of the skills I developed playing Zozo Ė some of her sass and other qualities. Zozo contains just a smidgen of what Iíll get to do with the role of Adele.
Suzanne: What aspects of your own personality are going into the formation of Adele?
Ava: Well, Adele is in search of a starring role on a stage, so, I definitely relate to that. Sheís mischievous, funny and she just goes for it. She loves life. I think those are all qualities that I have. Sheís also very charming and, hopefully, thatís something Iíll be able to pull off, as well.
Suzanne: You have several exciting roles ahead of you, including the role of The Angel in ďAngels in AmericaĒ at Fort Worth Opera. Thatís a big responsibility, as well.
Ava: Yes, it is. The Angel appears at very important times in the drama and Iíve been told, also, that Iím going to fly! Opera singers donít get lifted very often and donít fly very often, either, so that will be an adventure.
Suzanne: Itís getting to be a habit with you.
Ava: (laughs:) Yes, stepping out of the comfort zone in every way.
Suzanne: Good for you! When you think about the cumulative experience youíve had here at The Dallas Opera, what really strikes you as the most valuable aspect of it?
Ava: Ohhh, I donít think I could list one thing. Thereís been so much. Iíve been able to work so closely with the staff here, Iíve been mentored by so many wonderful people who have seen me at my very best Ė and at less than my very best. They know the extent of my abilities and they know how I can grow as an artist. Thatís why I can go from singing Anna in Nabucco to singing Adele. Theyíre able to trust me with that role. I wouldnít be where I am now without the guidance and learning experiences Iíve had here. And, to be onstage with ďthe big girls,Ē the amazing singers I get to share the stage with. Itís inspiring to see them work, to see their performances and take what I love from them and see if I can apply them towards my own.
Suzanne: Youíre also a great favorite on the local concert stage. How does that affect what you do here at The Dallas Opera?
Ava: Concert work is where I began. I actually sang with the Dallas Symphony (Orchestra) before singing with the Opera. With concert work, you donít have all the trappings you have in opera. You donít have the costume, you donít have the elaborate set and props and youíre very rarely ďplaying offĒ somebody. So, itís you and the music. You have your score and thatís it, so, you have to really learn how to communicate; how to invite the audience in, (in order to understand) what you have to tell them or show them. I think that translates well, actually, into an operatic performance.
Suzanne: And a good training ground for the actress in you.
Ava: Most definitely. When I sing ďMessiah,Ē I want to impart to the audience the drama Ė and thereís so much drama in that work Ė thereís just so much to share and tell. But you donít have a whole lot to work with, so, it definitely stretches you, and thatís a really good thing.
Suzanne: Speaking of stretching: A lot of great singers will specialize in a certain area of the repertoire. That doesnít seem to be what youíre doing at the moment, but, have I missed the signs?
Ava: Well, people describe me as a Mozart singer and a Handelian and that is where my voice trends. But, I will do other things as well. Because Iím just starting out, I kind of get to do a lot of different things knowing that eventually Iíll coalesce into certain roles and genres that fit me best. Thatíll come with time.
Suzanne: In other words, ďWait and see.Ē
Ava: Wait and see.