Meet Paula Rivera-Dantagnan, DVOC's "Baba" in THE MEDIUM, opening July 8, 2017.
Is this the first time you have played Baba?
Yes, this is the first time I have sung this role.
What did you do to prepare for her emotional arc? What are the most difficult parts about Baba’s mental journey?
I find Baba a very challenging role both musically and dramatically. This is what drew me to her but I confess that there were moments at the beginning when I wondered if I was going to be able to do this. I found it hard to invite this woman into my psyche and my emotions. As an artist I always try to find things in myself that relate to the character, even if they are feelings I would never act on. Baba takes you into a dark place! I think at the beginning I could only stand practicing for about 25 min before I had to close the score and go and do something to lift my spirits! She is definitely hard to live with but I finally got to a point where I was able to pity her. Her aria, where she tries so hard to fight her fear and prays to God to forgive her is what gave me this connection. She may have done horrible things in her life but nobody deserves to live with that fear.
How does the music guide your dramatic choices?
I think Menotti's score is absolutely amazing and it is what makes this opera so completely terrifying and heartbreaking. For a singer, it makes things easier because literally all you have to do is let yourself be guided by it. All her inner torment, her rage, her fear are laid bare for everyone to experience. It really gets under your skin and you don't have to wonder what to do for the music is telling you.
Have you ever experienced a supernatural event?
No. I have never attended a seance or anything of that sort. Most of me is really skeptical about such things but there is part of myself that believes that anything is possible so I can't say that I dismiss it completely. I have a friendly concept of death and like to think that I am still connected to beloved people that I have lost. So maybe, who knows....
Interview by Elizabeth Oliver
The Medium, "Johnny" Schicchi and Black Horses will be performed on July 8, 12 and 16 at Venice Island Performing Arts and Recreation Center, Manayunk, Philadelphia, PA.
Tickets: $25 Non-Members, $20 for Members, Students w/ ID, and Seniors.
Interview with DVOC's Thad Shirey
Tonight, I had the pleasure of interviewing baritone, Thad Shirey, who is singing the role of Giorgio Germont, in the DVOC's production of Verdi's famous opera, "La Traviata." during our Summer 2017 Festival.
Hi Thad! Thanks for letting me interview you!
What drew you to audition for the roll of Giorgio Germont in "La Traviata"?
Well, I've done the character before...about 12-13 times! But, I wanted to do it again. I like singing it. I had not sung this part with DVOC before. It was my opportunity to do that.
How long have you been singing with the Delaware Valley Opera Company?
I think I sang the first time with them about 1986. (Wow!)
What was your first roll with DVOC?
I played Lescaut, Manon's cousin from the opera “Manon” by Massenet. I did that with Sandy Day (the co-founder and president of DVOC), she was the lead female. I've done quite a few shows with her back in the day.
Have you always known you wanted to be a singer, or did the passion develop over time?
No, I think I've always known it. I was singing and performing as a child. I've been singing forever!
Are you involved in other musical/performance endeavors currently?
I teach voice theater at the Community Music School in Collegeville, PA. And there is possibility that I may do the opera, "The Tales of Hoffman" in the fall.
What do you do when you are not singing opera?
Resting. (Big laugh) I'm usually teaching. I do a lot of teaching here. (Side note: Our interview is happening over the phone while Thad is on an intermission from a concert at Community Music School.)
Tell us something about yourself that no one would ever guess.
Hmmmmm. I'm really a vampire! Hah!
Ummm, I don't know. I have met some very interesting people. I met Ernest Hemingway when I was a little boy. How did you meet? What did he say to you? I was walking down the beach in one of the keys in Florida, maybe Key West or Key Largo. I don't know which, I was about 5 years old. He was surf fishing on the beach and he showed me how to surf fish. I had wandered off and my mom came to find me. When she found me she was kind of stunned and didn't know what to say. He was just an old man fishing as far as I was concerned.
I was always meeting authors. I met Anne Rice because she really liked my singing. It was on QE2 (Queen Elizabeth) cruise ship on its last cruise. She was on there signing books and I was one of the entertainers on the cruise.
I also met Truman Capote and Andy Warhol at a book signing in NY. What was Andy Warhol wearing? Some kind of dark black outfit. I don't really remember.
What is your favorite opera roll that you have played and why?
I think this one. Germont in "La Traviata" is my favorite roll to sing. I think that's why I wanted to do it again.
Why are you excited about La Traviata? And why do you think people should come see the show?
Well it's a familiar opera, with some familiar tunes in it that people will recognize. The story is good. The music's beautiful. Not a bad note in the score...for anybody. You don't have to be an expert on opera to enjoy it.
Thanks for giving us a peek into your life! I look forward to seeing you perform this Sunday!
Come hear Thad Shirey and the Delaware Valley Opera Company, in their last performance of "La Traviata," on Sunday, June 18th, 2017 at 3pm at the Venice Island Performing Arts Center in Manayunk, Philadelphia, PA. Buy your tickets here or at the door!