Mezzo-soprano Kelsey Lauritano and pianist Andrew Sun, winners of the 2018 Marilyn Horne Song Competition Winners Recital, return to the Music Academy of the West for a special recital.
Kelsey Lauritano, Mezzo-Soprano, and Andrew Sun, piano
When: Tonight, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Hahn Hall, Music Academy of the West
Tickets: $10 general admission, free for 7 to17 year-olds.
Information: 969-8787, www.musicacademy.org
By Josef Woodard
Each summer, the Music Academy of the West appeals to any self-respecting classical music fan, and those newcomers eager to learn about “serious” music’s expressive powers and deep lineages. Faculty members and visiting musicians, conductors and composers are generally world-class, and the student “fellows,” carefully chosen from a high-level international pool of young musicians, give the avid audience a chance to witness some future careers in the formative ground level stage.
To make a sports analogy, the Music Academy festival allows us to take a good look and listen at each season’s new crop of promising “rookies,” and sometimes later chart their progress in the musical real world.
Tonight’s recital at Hahn Hall, part of the recital tour granted to winners of the annual Marilyn Horne Song Competition, tightens the focus for us by showcasing starring fellows from last year’s session—mezzo-soprano Kelsey Lauritano and pianist Andrew Sun.
The song recital gives a close-up perspective on the impressive young mezzo-soprano, who also had a memorable turn in the mid-summer opera production of “Marriage of Figaro” in the Granada Theater. My own review of last summer’s opera, in the News-Press, praised Ms. Lauritano’s “sudden bursts of beauty (as) the gender-switching Cherubino.”
The News-Press checked in with the young singer, whose career is already making upward strides.
News-Press: This Marilyn Horne Song Competition has taken you to recitals in major world cities—New York, London, Chicago, and our humble city, of course–and a cash prize. Does it have a particular meaning for you?
Kelsey Lauritano: It’s an honor to be the winner of the 2018 Marilyn Horne Song Competition. It’s incredibly rare to be given an opportunity to present full recitals as a young singer, now that opera has almost completely taken over the classical voice world. I feel very blessed to keep the art of recital alive, even in a small way.
NP: Among other things last summer, you impressed in the role of Cherubino in “Marriage of Figaro.” How do you reflect back on your time spent at the Music Academy of the West? Was it an intense but rewarding experience?
KL: My time at Music Academy was the perfect balance of intense work and rewarding experience. Performing Cherubino was especially a treat, since it’s been my dream role, since I began my studies. Not to mention, you really can’t beat the Santa Barbara atmosphere. If I could sing there forever, I’d be the luckiest artist in the world.
NP: Was there a special bond or connection you made with Marilyn Horne during your time here, and beyond that time?
I was able to work with Marilyn a few times while I was a part of the festival. During our time together, she made it a point to reassure me of my belonging in this profession, that I am worthy. It’s extremely difficult to feel secure as a young singer with the current professional climate, so hearing those words from such a legend truly touched me.
NP: Was operatic voice something you embraced and studied in your early years, or did it sneak into your life by some other route?
KL: I began as a musical theater nut, completely obsessed with everything Broadway. During my youth, I was constantly performing in a musical, in an acting/dance class or in a youth choir. It wasn’t until I was in high school at the San Francisco School of the Arts–which, back in 2008, only had a classical voice program–that I began training operatically.
To be honest, I always had it in my mind that I’d train classically and go audition for Broadway musicals once I graduated high school. This way my vocal technique would be top caliber. It wasn’t until I got accepted to Juilliard that I realized my voice and personality really fit into the operatic repertoire. Once I became fully immersed in the opera world, I fell in love.
NP: On this recital program, you will sing Schubert, Ravel and Falla, but also a premiere by Ricky Ian Gordon. What can you tell us about this new work?
KL: This new cycle Ricky has written for Andrew and I, entitled “Without Music,” is a dramatic story about a woman’s life after the loss of her brother through AIDS related illnesses. It depicts the stages of grief in a way that’s honest and utterly relatable. The texts are taken from Marie Howe’s poetry, true accounts of her life experiences.
The cycle is vocally demanding and emotionally raw and provides Andrew and I with a thrilling challenge.
NP: Do you consider yourself an eclectic, in terms of being able to—and desiring—a broad range of music to work with, including contemporary pieces?
KL: Oh, absolutely. I love almost every genre of classical music, from Baroque to new music, not to mention, song repertoire to oratorio to opera. The classical world is so wide and full of glorious styles. I can’t get enough.
NP: Your opera career is now well underway, working with Oper Frankfurt and other engagements. Do you have long-range goals or notions of how you would like your musical life to unfold?KL: At this point, I’m trying to keep my horizons open. I love being in Germany and learning everyday how incredible the opera world is throughout Europe, but of course I miss my home country. It’s my dream to be able to balance a career both here in Europe and in the States, but that is of course easier said than done.