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Deborah Voigt’s spring/summer 2010

Deborah Voigt, one of America’s top voices, is about to take on a role virtually made for her: Puccini’s Minnie, a quintessential New World heroine.  This summer, the soprano returns to San Francisco Opera to make her title role debut as the pistol-packing, poker-playing barmaid in the composer’s Gold Rush extravaganza, La fanciulla del West (The Girl of the Golden West).  Running from June 9 to July 2, the new San Francisco production is the first North American staging to celebrate the opera’s centenary.  Voigt will also embody Minnie for the centennial run of La fanciulla from December 6 to January 8 at New York’s Metropolitan Opera (where Arturo Toscanini premiered the work 100 years ago to the week), as well as for the January-February 2011 production at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Puccini described the original play of The Girl of the Golden West by San Francisco native David Belasco as “a drama of love against a dark and vast background of primitive characters and untrammeled nature.”  The story inspired the composer to write for one of his favorite female characters, the archetypal street-savvy girl with a heart of gold – an American heroine he found “very refreshing.”  With Minnie involved in a love triangle, Voigt plays alongside tenor Salvatore Licitra as the bandit Dick Johnson and baritone Roberto Frontali as sheriff Jack Rance.  The San Francisco staging of La fanciulla del West is a co-production with Palermo’s Teatro Massimo, with San Francisco Opera music director Nicola Luisotti conducting.

Deborah Voigt comments:

“Minnie is probably exciting me more than many of the characters I take on because I’m finding so much of myself in her – of who I am as well as what kind of person I try to be.  Maybe I’m giving myself more of a pat on the shoulder than I should, but she’s really a good girl!  She’s got a really good heart.  She had fabulous parents and recognized the uniqueness of their relationship and is keeping herself for just that.  Despite all this, she’s also the kind of woman that can work with men, carry and shoot a gun, ride a horse, stoke a fire, run a bar, and mix a drink, and all the while she gets come on to by guys bringing her this color ribbon because it matches her eyes.  By the way, her eyes happen to be blue, and her hair is blonde – I’ve at least got those things going for me!

“So she keeps all the guys at a distance because she really knows what she wants in her romantic life.  Of course, when she finally meets the supposed right guy, it turns out that he has bad intentions.  But through her love and example she’s able to reform him.  Imagine that – a Puccini opera with a happy ending.  There aren’t too many of those!”

As for the strenuous demands of the role and its reputation as a voice killer, Voigt thinks that she may benefit from coming to it after performing such taxing roles as Wagner’s Isolde and Senta and Strauss’s Chrysothemis.

Recently, on her home stage at the Metropolitan Opera, Voigt stole the show in her house debut in the psychologically and vocally intense role of Senta in Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman).  In the New York Times, Anthony Tommasini praised the “brightness, clarity, and unforced, soaring power” of Voigt’s voice, as well as her “musical vitality and vocal charisma.”  An Associated Press review agreed, stating that Voigt “transformed what had been a routine opening night into a memorable revival… . Her low notes were strong throughout, her diction excellent, and her passion powered the evening.”  The reviewer summed up: “Voigt commanded the stage.”

Earlier this season, Voigt sang her signature role of Chrysothemis in the Met Opera’s December run of Richard Strauss’s Elektra, and, besides Puccini, the coming summer brings more Strauss.  Since her first staged performances of Salome at Lyric Opera of Chicago in 2006, Voigt has become an exemplar of the title role.  In July, she sings Salome under Valery Gergiev in her debut at Switzerland’s Verbier Festival, and she performs in a production of Salome in Japan’s Saito Kinen Festival in August; as the New York Times says, the Strauss roles Voigt touches “turn to gold.”

Deborah Voigt: from strength to strength

Voigt’s 2009-10 season has seen her go from strength to strength on both sides of the Atlantic.  She sang her first Isolde in Barcelona, with the Gran Teatre del Liceu production of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde.  It was her way with this iconic, ultra-demanding role that once led to a 20-minute ovation at the Vienna State Opera, an event reported on CNN.  Voigt also made her Zurich Opera debut this season, singing the title role of Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos.  Illustrating another side of her art, the soprano also performed a recital in Zurich, singing material by Verdi, Strauss, and Respighi plus American songs by Leonard Bernstein, Amy Beach, and Ben Moore.  She opened Lyric Opera of Chicago’s season as Puccini’s Tosca under Andrew Davis and sang in a concert broadcast of Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and conductor Mariss Jansons.

This season also saw Voigt making special appearances at WNYC’s annual fund-raising gala, a gala concert for the Dallas Opera’s new home of Winspear Opera House, and the fifth annual Opera News Awards.  The soprano has given more than 160 performances in more than a dozen roles, concerts, galas, and surprise appearances at the Metropolitan Opera since 1991.  And this season she reprised her role as host of the Met’s “Live in HD” broadcasts, lending her engaging personality to the international transmission of Offenbach’s Contes d’Hoffmann (Tales of Hoffmann) and, more recently, Rossini’s Armida.  It has been the kind of season that bears out this plaudit from the Wall Street’s Journal: “Voigt is riding high in the opera house and on the recital stage.  Not only has her majestic voice made her fans love her, but so has the soprano’s profound feeling for texts and subtleties of musical style, not to mention her genuine sense of humor.”

Voigt has featured in complete recordings of Tristan und Isolde (Deutsche Grammophon) and Der fliegende Holländer (Sony Classical); Strauss’s Die ägyptische Helena (Telarc), Ariadne auf Naxos (Deutsche Grammophon), Elektra (Deutsche Grammophon), Die Frau ohne Schatten (Teldec), and Friedenstag (Deutsche Grammophon); and Berlioz’s Les Troyens (Decca).  Both Voigt’s solo recordings for Angel/EMI – All My Heart (an all-American album, 2005) and Obsessions (Wagner and Strauss scenes, 2004) – were best sellers on the Billboard classical chart.  She has appeared on Good Morning, America and 60 Minutes, and her honors include being named vocalist of the year by Musical America in 2003, as well as receiving an honorary doctorate from the University of South Carolina in 2009.

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Deborah Voigt: spring/summer 2010

June 9, 12, 15, 18, 24, 27, & 29; July 2
San Francisco, CA
Puccini: La fanciulla del West (Minnie, role debut)
San Francisco Opera / Nicola Luisotti
August 1
Verbier, Switzerland
R. Strauss: Salome (title role)
Verbier Festival / Valery Gergiev
August 22, 25, 28, & 30
Matsumoto, Japan
R. Strauss: Salome (title role)
Saito Kinen Festival

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© 21C Media Group, May 2010

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