I am he who kisses his comrade

Today I want to write about love.

It’s 5:30 a.m. in Los Angeles, and I feel overwhelmingly, distractingly full of love. My computer clock says 14:30 Paris time. 36 hours ago I had an emotional final show, then said a lot of hard goodbyes, spent 11 hours on a plane (most of the time spent trying to memorize songs about love), landed last night, slept only a few hours, in my insomnia read the first chapter of a book about consciousness that—far from being drily scientific—made me overflow with love all the more, and am now trying to sort myself out for a recital I’ll sing tomorrow as the sky lightens outside my window overlooking Disney Hall. I haven’t written a blog post in a while, and I think it’s because I just haven’t had the time or mental space to process what’s been happening this year—it’s been such a big year and every potential post feels huge. But I’m not able to keep this down, and I think it’s something we all should feel freer to talk about.

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Win at the Armel Opera Competition

I enjoyed a recent success as a laureate of the Armel Opera Competition in Paris. Organized by the Armel Festival in Budapest, the competition grants roles in a production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni that will receive its premiere in 2019 in Cuenca, Ecuador and then travel to Budapest, where it will be broadcast live on ARTE Concert. I was chosen as Donna Anna, a role I have sung in concert and will be so happy to revisit in a full production with a very exciting team, including acclaimed Hungarian director Róbert Alföldi and German-Mexican conductor Michael Meissner.

Positive reception in Rouen

Our Rouen outing for Mozart’s Enlèvement (as I am now beginning to call it–Entführung, Abduction) has been widely praised, and I got some especially nice mentions this time.

“La soprano américaine  Katharine Dain ne déçoit pas les espérances que son « Marten aller Arten » au concours de Clermont-Ferrand avait fait naître. Avec son chant aérien aux aigus faciles et ses vocalises précises, elle remplit toutes les exigences vocales du rôle.” (“The American soprano Katharine Dain does not disappoint the hopes raised by her “Martern aller Arten” at the Clermont-Ferrand Competition. With precise vocalism and ease in the most precipitous heights, she satisfies every vocal challenge of the role.”) –Forum OpéraREAD MORE

Where’s the push?

“Where’s the push?” asks Victor the choreographer, repeatedly, in our short session on stage in Rouen today to address Konstanze’s physicality in the first aria. We’re trying to refine her vocabulary of movement, which means considering character, motivation, confidence, timing. We look for externalizations of her independence, her exhibitionism, her particular way of getting overwhelmed, her way of trying to pull herself together, her diva mannerisms. She is open and proud, so her chest and back don’t collapse—or if they do, it’s in a very deliberate way. She’s in control of herself, so her arms are never pinned to her sides. She reacts fluidly to situations, so her body is never rigid. She is protective of her body, so she takes physical cues from others but isn’t completely influenced by them. She leads, quite literally, from the heart.

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Cunégonde

I’m delighted to announce that I will sing Cunégonde in Leonard Bernstein’s Candide in Banff (British Columbia, Canada) in July 2018. This production and other performances are presented as part of an intensive residency titled Opera in the 21st Century at the Banff Centre for the Arts and Creativity, led by members of Against the Grain Theatre. More details forthcoming.

Raves for Konstanze in Avignon

I’ve just wrapped up my second stint of Konstanzes in Avignon, and the reviews are in:

“Katharine Dain, soprano américaine au lyrisme clair et pur, passe des tons les plus chauds aux notes les plus aigües avec une belle aisance, elle offre au personnage de Konstance toute la sincérité du rôle.” (“Katharine Dain, an American soprano of clear and pure lyricism, moves from the warmest tones to the highest notes with beautiful ease. She brings to the character of Konstanze all the sincerity the role requires.”) –Paroles d’Opéra

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Live broadcast of Schoenberg 2nd string quartet

My performance in Amsterdam’s first String Quartet Biennale festival of Schoenberg’s second string quartet with Cuarteto Quiroga (on a concert also featuring Cappella Amsterdam in a world premiere of José Maria Sánchez-Verdu) will be broadcast live on NPO Radio 4. On February 1st at 8:15 pm Netherlands time, tune in to hear a live stream of the concert.

Update: if you missed it, you can listen back here. The Schoenberg starts at 1:38:30.

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First reviews of Entführung

My first Konstanze in Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail (in January in Clermont-Ferrand, and touring afterwards to Avignon, Rouen, Massy, and Reims) is garnering excellent reviews. Forum Opera says: “hyper technicienne et flamboyante de passion vécue pour un ‘Martern alle Arten’ de haute volée. Cette autre lauréate du 25e Concours de Chant déploie une projection radieuse, qu’elle sublime dans un ‘Ach, ich liebte’ aux fins aigus vertigineux d’une noblesse désespérée qui n’a d’égal que l’admirable puissance dramatique du ‘Welcher Wechsel.'” (“An extreme technician, blazing with passion in a first-rate ‘Martern aller Arten.’ This laureate of the 25th International Competition projects a radiant presence, sublimated from the slimmest vertiginous heights of ‘Ach, ich liebte’ to a desperate nobility which nothing can equal but the admirable dramatic power of ‘Welcher Wechsel.'”)READ MORE

Entführung diaries: Voice

In Kyoto, / hearing the cuckoo, / I long for Kyoto. —Basho

I’ve been using my current production of Entführung as a lens for some musings on identity: how a character can change us, and then about some of the challenges of physicalizing such a piece of music. I’ve known there was a third post I needed to write, the most personal one (strange when the others were about love and body image!), and it’s taken some time for it to come. Now that it’s all out, I realize that it is 1. the longest (sorry!) and 2. the most importantthat is, it’s the most specific to my own experience; it’s the story that only I can tell. We open tomorrow night, and I’m glad to have verbalized these thoughts at last. It’s a rather vulnerable look at the intersection of identity and the voice itself.READ MORE

buzz for Entführung

Several French publications are excited about my upcoming Entführung. Diapason lists this production in its top three performances not to miss in January, calling my performance at the Clermont-Ferrand competition a “revelation.” La Montagne did a nice preview article with an interview, and Zap Magazine published a very different, very fun interview about some of my extra-Mozartean musical interests. All three clippings can be seen here.

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Entführung diaries: Body

“You have a good mind, a pretty face, a disciplined body that does what you tell it to. You have everything it takes to be a lovely woman except the one essential: an understanding heart. And without that you might just as well be made of bronze.” –The Philadelphia Story

Previously, in Katharine’s Epically Long Musings on Identity And Her First Entführung: some thoughts about the character of Konstanze and how she relates to (and is changing) my own identity. Today, I want to write about bodies.

The body can be a vehicle for music, for illness, for slight inebriation on delicious French wine, for pulses of the blood and hormones, for fatigue. The body can be a magnet for desire, for criticism, for violence, for love. As a singer, my body is my instrument: I can’t escape this identification of my body with my work, my self, my value, my effectiveness. Being a singer (or any kind of performer) has a lot in common with being an athlete–no matter what your gifts, you’re only as strong and stable as your body is, and this is complicated. This part of my identity has been both affirmed and challenged mightily in the last few weeks.READ MORE

Entführung diaries: Character

Since I arrived in Clermont-Ferrand to begin rehearsals on my first Konstanze (in Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail) in the second week of December, so much—in myself, in my singing, in my thinking—has shifted, or begun to shift. I couldn’t have asked for a more focused, attenuated, ambitious work process to bridge this change in the year and point the way forward. A lot of this focus has come from working on such a rich and challenging role, of course. Konstanze is changing me as much as I’m trying to shape her in rehearsal, and I feel so lucky to be here doing this piece in particular, and with this team. But this hasn’t been the only thing working on me.READ MORE

merde

Gentle reader, if you’re laboring under the misconception that my job is glamorous and high-brow, let me set the record straight.

That picture up above? It’s me (already in concert makeup) and an internationally renowned pianist crawling around under a resoundingly mediocre rented grand piano an hour before our recital together, trying to identify the source of an annoying pedal-related squeak and WD-40 it out of existence. We only kind of managed, but in the meantime, the presenter, laughing uproariously, snapped this picture and declared he was going to use it in next year’s season brochure.

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CD release of Jan van de Putte’s Pessoa Cyclus

On December 3rd, my first commercial recording as a soloist will be released on the Etcetera label: a live recording of the world premiere in Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw of Insonia, one huge movement from Dutch composer Jan van de Putte’s monumental Pessoa-Cyclus. The CD, which also features sopranos Barbara Hannigan and Keren Motseri, mezzo-soprano Barbara Kozelj, Cappella Amsterdam, and Asko|Schönberg under the direction of Reinbert de Leeuw, will be available for purchase here in a few weeks.READ MORE

Aldeburgh wisdom

I’m back in gorgeous Aldeburgh for a Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme course on Strauss songs and arias. It’s a pretty wonderful way to spend a week–sleeping in absolute silence, waking up to sounds of gulls, working all day on subtleties of music and German with immensely skilled and generous people, making a quiet dinner, walking on a rocky beach, going to sleep. Yesterday, on our day off, we toured Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears’ beautiful brick house and studio and gardens and archive; standing in Britten’s composition studio, looking out at his apple trees which were his view when writing some of his late pieces, was very special.READ MORE