Monday, October 29, 2007

Angela Niederloh talks about her upcoming Cinderella

Angela Niederloh, one of Portland's own divas, is featured in the title role in the Portland Opera's production of Rossini's La Cenerentola, which opens this weekend. Niederloh emerged from the opera program at Portland State University to become a terrific mezzo-soprano who has recently sung principal roles with Houston Grand Opera and with Portland Opera. I exchanged email with her to ask her a few questions about her upcoming performance.

How are rehearsals going?

Niederloh: Rehearsals are going very well. It always makes for a smooth, yet fun production process when there is a good repartee among the cast members. Not only is everyone incredibly talented, but also they are good people to boot.

Oddly enough, this is the first La Cenerentola for most of the cast; including myself. I think this makes for an interesting experience for all of us. Potentially when you have a cast that has performed in several of the same production, it can be hindering to the creative process. Meaning, it is difficult to look at something with fresh eyes and ears when you have performed it for the umpteenth time. With that said, for those that have had the pleasure of being involved with La Cenerentola before, they too bring a unique insight into the show -- (that is) traditions that have been handed down from generation to generation, potential pitfalls, helpful hints and creative cuts (to the music).

Have you done this opera before? If so, where and when?

Niederloh: I have not performed Angelina (Cinderella) in her entirety. However, I have done many scenes from the show for concerts and recitals. It is interesting to me having had the pleasure now of being acquainted with this character’s journey. Before I would have snap shot views into her as a character, but now diving into the whole role, it makes such a difference. For instance, I have sung Angelina’s final aria, Non piu mesta for many years now. In the aria she sings about being born into sadness, singing to herself by the fireside. But like a lightning bolt, her life changed. I feel like I sing it completely differently now. Having the advantage of experiencing the role in it’s entirely gives you the big picture experience, the whole journey , not just the cliff notes.

How do you learn a foreign language like Italian?

Niederloh: Probably the best way to learn a language is to completely immerse yourself into it, try to assimilate and absorb all that the culture has to offer. I, on the other hand, did not completely go this route. I studied languages in college and later in my young artist programs. Both experiences put a lot of emphasis on conversing. Instructors would tweak our sentence structure, but for the most part, they wanted us to be uninhibited in the act of communicating. Were all of my conjugations completely up to par? No, but I was communicating and that is ultimately what we as performers are trained to do from the stage; communicate.

What is one of the trickiest things you have to do for this opera (for example, sing while lying flat on your back or while dancing, or…)?

Niederloh: Well, I don’t have to participate in a lot of tricky stage shenanigans, thank goodness. The obstacle for me is to spit all of the words. Rossini is known for his lightening speed, coloratura musical lines and rapid fire, albeit, clever word patter. I guess I owe a hardy “Thanks” to Chris Mattaliano, the stage director, for taking pity on me and not having me participate in an elaborate gymnast routine, when I have enough trouble as it is to stick the landing!

How long have you been working on this opera?

Niederloh: I have been working on Cinderella for about a year now. Not all of that time was spent strictly on music. A lot of time is devoted to, what I refer to as, “kitchen table” work. This is were you spend a lot of time translating the piece and speaking through it so that it sounds natural, not robotic. Another part of the process is spent doing more “left brained” activities, like learning the notes and rhythms of the work. Memorizing the piece is another aspect to one’s opera prep. The expectation in the opera world is to show up with your part learned and memorized so that we can start staging the piece right away.

I think you mentioned that you were teaching somewhere like Pacific University. Are you teaching at PSU, too?

Niederloh: Yes and yes! I have been teaching private voice and directing the annual music production at Pacific since the fall of 2005. I just started teaching private voice instruction at PSU. I love having the balance of teaching voice and performing. I think my students benefit too from having a teacher who is trying to practice what she preaches.

What other gigs do you have lined up for the near future?

Niederloh: I have mostly concert work coming up because of my busy teaching schedule. I am performing the grand Beethoven 9th and Missa Solemnis and Mozart’s Requiem.

Thanks Angela and best wishes for Friday night!

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