Magazine article Opera Canada

Dramatic Development: Brian David Catches Up with Soprano Karina Gauvin as She Adds Glyndebourne to Her Burgeoning Career on the Opera Stage

Magazine article Opera Canada

Dramatic Development: Brian David Catches Up with Soprano Karina Gauvin as She Adds Glyndebourne to Her Burgeoning Career on the Opera Stage

Article excerpt

When I speak to Karina Gauvin, it's a matter of days

before her Glyndebourne Festival debut in Handel's Rinaldo. She has an intermittent but severe-sounding cough, the kind of ailment that would shred the nerves of many a singer. But her calm demeanour and companionability seem unruffled. (Her confidence was well placed--she sang gloriously on the first night.)

From our conversation, it emerges that a certain judicious amount of trusting in a good outcome is ingrained in her personality."When you're a young singer at school," she says,"you shouldn't be saying, 'This is how it will be: because it's putting things into a mould and setting yourself up for disappointment. I'm happy I've had all this concert and recording experience, and then suddenly I'm doing all this opera. It's been a very interesting journey."

That "suddenly" may come as a surprise. Now at the height of her vocal powers, Gauvin has for two decades been lauded for her interpretation of Baroque arias, for her crystalline top notes, the warmth of tone throughout her range, her technical adroitness and stylistic panache. But it's easy to miss the fact that she has been heard far more on record and in the concert hall than on the opera stage.

In the past 12 months that's changed. In the fall of 2013, she sang the title role in Gluck's Amide for De Nationale Opera in Amsterdam ("an intense production and a very intense, poignant role," she says), followed over the winter by Giunone in CavaIli's La Ca/ism at the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich. After Glyndebourne, she goes to Paris to sing Vitellia in Mozart's La ciemenza di Titoat.the Theatre des Champs-Elysees.

Why has it taken so long? "For a lot of singers, it's their goal ftom the beginning to wear a costume and be on that operatic stage," she says. "I think 1 wanted to, but in those early days my singing teacher {Marie Daveluy at the Conservatoire de Musique de Montreal] felt that I needed to develop some strength vocally. She was wary of me dropping too quickly into some sort of young artists' programme. Sometimes those programmes throw you into roles .that are not necessarily suitable for your voice. She was really putting on the brakes. She had my best interest at heart and I had entire confidence in her.

"So basically, I was hired out of school, started doing concert work and developed that way. I started doing a lot of work with Bernard Labaclie and LesViolons du Roy.When I started branching out into Europe, [conductor] Alan Curtis knew of me and decided he wanted to hire me. So I did all these operatic recordings, and one thing led to another"

The focus on 17th -and 18th -century music caine right from those early days with Labadie. "He was doing more Baroque than Classical at the time. I think my voice was suited to that repertoire right from the get-go. I had the agility for it, the sensitivity for it--it was just my cup of tea."

However, a natural affinity for Baroque music is not enough in these ,days of historical performance practice. "When we as singers come to a Handel role, for instance, we will want to revise, we will want to do it correctly: It's quite a challenge. Of course, different conductors have different ideas about style, ornamentation and so forth. Some are very hands-on about how ornamentation should be done. Some leave you more to your own devices. Certainly Ottavio [Dantone, her conductor at Glyndebourne] is very hands-on.. Alan Curtis also, in a different way, though he also likes the exchange of ideas with the singers. …

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