There is incredible growth when musicians work collaboratively in an interdisciplinary environment. It is exciting not only for the performers but for audiences who crave new experiences. Whether it is music, opera, theatre, dance, or other disciplines, there is no limit to the depths that are explored. That is why I was excited to talk to soprano CarrieAnne Winter and get her take on her recent performance with the In Series as well as her experience in the 2013 Rhymes With Opera New Chamber Music Workshop in New York City.
We covered so much… let’s get to it!
CarrieAnne Winter hails from Rockford, MI, and is known for her expressive phrasing and comic acting. A graduate of the Maryland Opera Studio, she made her professional opera début with Opera AACC in the role of Marietta, where she was described as having a “shimmering sound.” (Bay Weekly). The Washington Post declared her a “perky Blonde” (in Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio), and the Baltimore Sun has also praised her “stellar vocal and acting talents.”
Most recently, CarrieAnne made her Kennedy Center début as a soloist in collaboration with the Washington Ballet where she was featured in Christopher Wheeldon’s ballet, There Where She Loved. Other recent credits include Blonde/Abduction from the Seraglio with In Series, Dew Fairy/Hansel and Gretel with Loudon Lyric. A great supporter of new work, CarrieAnne premiered 2 operas, a song cycle, 2 Masses, and workshopped John Musto’s Inspector General with Wolf Trap Opera. This past year, CarrieAnne also had the pleasure to première new chamber works in the newly opened National Opera Center in Manhattan with Rhymes with Opera.
CarrieAnne has brought her voice to many productions, including Despina/Cosi fan tutte, Rosalba/Florencia en el Amazonas, Die Königen der Nacht/Die Zauberflöte, and Adele/Die Fledermaus. Her concert work includes Orff’s Carmina Burana, Mozart’s Requiem and Schubert’s Mass No. 2 in G. A diverse singer with a jazz background, she has shared the stage with Johnny Mathis, Darmon Meader, and Bobby McFerrin. Upcoming performances include Gilda/Rigoletto with Center Stage Opera.
Congratulations on your recent performance of “La Vie en Rose” with the In Series. The performance featured French chanson as well as dancers from The Washington Ballet Studio Company. What was the experience like to work in such a multi-dimensional performance?
I loved working with dancers! It was incredible to watch people who have worked so hard to master expression in their body the same way I have worked to master my voice. We all strived to achieve the same artistic moment, and when it was created, it was magical.
One challenge I found as a musician was consistency with tempos and phrasing. Just as we have only so much breath to complete a phrase, a dancer must complete a step in a set amount of time. The type of energy for a lift is very different from that of a jump or an arabesque, and you have to find that in the music. This type of collaboration is very much like working with other musicians in that you are constantly ‘listening’ to the other performers and responding. You just have to use your eyes in addition to your ears.
Working with the composers was much more like working with a director/choreographer, in that the director tells you what he/she wants the message to the audience to be. With the dancers, we were performing what our choreographer wanted from pieces that were already considered standards. The final product was much more set in stone. For the workshop with RWO, we were singing what our composers wrote for us, but we were building something for the first time, and so there was much more exploration and flexibility.
We also were working directly with the composers, and so we were able to talk to them about the meaning and source of the text. One of the pieces used text from our own individual palm readings. That particular piece was interesting because it was our own words set to music. In addition, we could say to our composers, “This phrase is really difficult for me vocally. Can we try this on a different vowel?” And the changes were made!
What do you find to be the most exciting aspects about working together in the compositional process?
I loved discovering the music with my colleagues. I remember my group didn’t know what one of the pieces, ‘Bramble Babies’, was about. We thought it was this weird thing with young girls eating raspberries. After we asked our composer about it, we found out it had a much deeper story to it — that it was actually about abortion! It totally changed how we felt about the piece, and how we sang it. The three composers I worked with were really different from each other, and exploring their unique styles was exciting. It was completely rewarding to finally hear the music come together.
Wow, what a difference that must have been! What elements did you find challenging?
The most challenging aspect was the short amount of rehearsal time for such complex pieces. We also had a last-minute replacement for our bassist, so the addition of a new personality to music that we had realized with another individual was an extra challenge.
You perform in such a wide variety of styles. How has working in new music informed your overall approach?
All music has a story. Some stories are clear, or poignant, or funny. As a vocalist, what’s most important is using your voice in a way that expresses the story. You have to be extremely aware of what your voice is capable of, what it sounds like, and what your tools are as a musician. If you want to perform in a specific style, you have to learn what it takes to sound authentic.
What I love about new music is its ability to take modern issues and ideas and give them expression. One of our pieces with RWO was about the Kardashians! I actually don’t watch much television, so I had to look it up and watch some of their show so that I could “Keep Up.”
Ha! Watching the Kardashians for research is certainly contemporary. Another facet of your performance is improv. What inspired your interest in classical improvisation?
A musician is made up of experiences, and my interest in improv probably came from a couple of sources. In college, I had the opportunity to work with a world-class vocal jazz ensemble. We were required to learn to improvise, and it was encouraged for us to arrange and write music. I was also exposed to Bobby McFerrin’s musicianship, and learned how to create circle songs, and was inspired by his ability to improvise concerts. It was probably at that when I lost the fear of making ‘bad’ sounds. Lastly, I have to thank my composer friend, Jonathan Cook. I premiered some of his works in undergrad, and he later took a class in improvisation. During a visit, he described how he had recently improvised an entire concert, and we had an improv jam session that showed me that I could spontaneously create music using the palette of classical vocal sounds.
If you had an extra day of the week, how would you spend it?
Probably the same way I spend most of my days! I would spend some of it singing, some of it with people I love, and some of it doing things I hate, but are necessary.
Time is the most valuable thing I have — so if I’m not spending it the way I want, it’s time for a change!
Amen to that!
Thank you to CarrieAnne for joining us today and sharing her thoughts! If you’d like to see more 6 Questions RE: with singers, composers, presenters, and more from around the country sign up for our mailing list to the right under “BECOME A SYBARITIC FAITHFUL OFFICIAL MEMBER” or find me on Twitter and get the latest in an amusing 140 characters at @mezzoihnen.
Are you interested in finding out more information about the Rhymes With Opera Summer Festival? Did you know that there will be a Baltimore-based summer festival this year!? Check it out:
About the Workshop
The RWO: New Chamber Music Workshop creates unique vocal/instrumental ensembles and pairs them with emerging composers to create collaborative new vocal chamber music. RWO is based in both New York, NY and Baltimore, MD, and the 2014 Workshop will take place in both cities concurrently.
Over the course of eleven sessions, singers will be combined into small ensembles with members of the Rhymes With Orchestra, and each ensemble will be paired with two composers. Composers will write pieces specifically for their ensemble, and each piece will be developed in a series of workshops and rehearsals, offering feedback to both composers and performers in the process. The Workshop culminates in a final performance of the new works.
COMPOSERS will have the opportunity to work with singers at the beginning of the workshop, allowing them to get to know the style and strengths of each individual musician before the writing process begins. Composers will receive feedback on their work from the performers, and will work closely with the performers on their pieces from inception to performance. Composers will participate in masterclasses with RWO composers George Lam and Ruby Fulton.
SINGERS will share their strengths with their composers during the workshop, informing the composition process through feedback and dialogue. Singers will have the opportunity to première new works written specifically for their voices. Participants will be coached by RWO singers Elisabeth Halliday and Robert Maril.
In addition to the development of the new works, participants will attend sessions with guest lecturers and performers under the guidance of Rhymes With Opera. Participants will explore topics including advanced music notation, contemporary performance techniques, creating and maintaining a constructive composer/performer relationship, and the intricacies of commissioning, developing, rehearsing and performing a new work.
To apply, visit rhymeswithopera.org