Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Daphne Alderson Performs at Summerfest 2016 Credit Patti Brahim

As part of Summerfest 2016, chanteuse Daphne Alderson is slated to perform as iconic French songstress  Edith Piaff in a concert ironically scheduled for  Bastille Day, Thursday, July 14 at the Winchester Thurston School, 555 Morewood Avenue in Shadyside. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. and tickets may be reserved by phoning 412-326-9687or online at

Ryan McKelvey, Opera Theatre of Pittsburgh's Summerfest media manager,conducted a Q & A with Pittsburgh songstress Daphne Alderson prior to her recital that replicates Edith Piaff's 1956 concert at Carnegie Hall in New York. Below is the entire script lifted from their enlightening conversation.

Beloved Pittsburgh chanteuse Daphne Alderson envisions bringing cabaret to people everywhere. Critically acclaimed as an artist of 'dignified passion' by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, her warm, contralto voice has moved and delighted audiences of all ages. Her debut recording A Matinee at the Love Cafe has been called, 'An enchanting and mesmerizing' collection of American, French, and Latin song standards. For SummerFest 2016, Alderson takes on the daunting artistic challenge of recreating French icon Edith Piaf’s legendary 1956 recital at Carnegie Hall to mark Bastille Day. Piaf was stunned to receive an emotional seven-minute standing ovation that evening in ‘56, and we’re certain Alderson will experience a similar reception sixty years later.

Q: What have you been up since SummerFest 2015?
A: SummerFest 2015 was such a challenging, incredibly moving time; A New Kind of Fallout was such an innovative work, a great composition by Gilda Lyons and Tammy Ryan, so beautifully directed by Jonathan Eaton. I have to say it was a turning point for me, realizing how much I love opera and theater and fleshing out a character. I took a break immediately after Fallout and then began working on new material for St. Michel Chamber Band. Developing repertoire, touring, and moving into more and more original stuff for the four of us has been a big project. I’ve done a tiny bit of commercial work and also directed two operas at Seton Hill, where I currently teach as an adjunct professor.

Q: How did you initially come to the work of Edith Piaf?
A: I’ve been extremely fortunate in having some amazing teachers. In high school, Sister Grace asked me to sing something French at the French Dinner (a fundraiser for French Club). I found a song in a book belonging to my mother, who is a beautiful soprano, plunked it out and loved it. I am certain that I sang it very badly, but my biggest recollection is the science teacher being the chef, little Catholic girls dancing a Can Can and me, the Chief Nerd of the whole bunch, croaking out “La Vie en rose”. I was a young artist at Opera Music Theater International (OMTI); Judy Berson used Piaf and Yves Montand recordings as French diction teaching tools, and they both fascinated me. Over time, Piaf began to resonate more, largely due to her depth of material and her amazing capacity to communicate. I had never seen the style of a chanteuse (she is really cut from the mold of the 1920’s-‘30’s Frehel and others who created this genre in France). Later, I saw Barbara Cook at the Carlyle Hotel in New York, and I realized that these women were all cut from a similar cloth, and their purpose is solely to connect the material to the soul and give that to the audience—each song is a scene unto itself, theatrical, poetic and very personal. I think that Piaf really paved the way, and it was a rough road at times. Of course, to be a singer is a great gift in life but sacrifices must be made, and it’s a vocation more than a career. Every singer NEEDS to sing; she embodied that desire.

Q: Recreating her 1956 recital at Carnegie Hall will be a beautiful tribute. What inspires you to share this type of music/sound with Pittsburgh?
A: First of all, I love Pittsburgh so sharing this music in a city that you love is pretty amazing. This particular project has been in my mind for a few years, and now in the 60th anniversary of the event, it feels like the right time. The Carnegie Hall concerts were incredible events for her; she had finally found her place in the world; she was actually married in New York, just prior to this period. Being the Mid- 1950’s, elements of rock and roll, and some darker, edgier songs were abundant in these shows. It’s such an iconic era for Edith Piaf. She was trying to be a wife, stay sober and continue to grow and develop her work and find happiness. Her desire for that is heartbreaking. To be honest, I feel that I owe so much to her; it was through her repertoire that I finally figured out how to sing and feel at home in my own skin/voice. Moreover, Opera Theater and Mrs. Posvar gave me my very first job (a non-singing role as a gorilla!). It’s a gift to this company, and I want to give it with passion and gratitude.

Q: Any other work or roles you’d love to perform in the future?
A: So many. It’d be great to do a comedy again. Still, I loved Older Alice [from A New Kind of Fallout] and would love to sing her once more. The most interesting roles may have yet to be written; I love contemporary opera. One of my heroes is Julie Wilson, the great cabaret singer; somebody should write a show/opera about her, and I’d love to play her. She was a mentor and I admired her so much, actually more than any other singer I know. She was true blue. No one seems to write operas enough about women with great gumption…Like Mrs. Miniver!

Q: Where/what will you move onto after SummerFest 2016?
A: Vacation! I’m writing a new work, and it’s a passion project that I hope to finish this fall, not an opera but a theater piece. And, I go into rehearsals with Norma Meyer, a pianist from Philadelphia whom I’ve been working with for the past two years. We are reprising our Anne Frank concert for the Carnegie here in town and, hopefully, to Europe at some point in the near future. St. Michel Chamber Band is developing a concert series for the holidays and we are growing our organization, long overdue.

Q: Daphne, besides music and opera, what some other things are you passionate about?
A: God, the people I love, my husband, care for the elderly, making sure that an honorable public servant is elected President of the United States, STRICTER GUN LAWS, theater and film (especially classic film), time at the seashore, The Straits of Mackinac, memories of my Dad, swimming, running, long walks, food, Page’s ice cream (still food), my cats T-Bone and Viola and FINDING MORE TIME WITH THE PEOPLE I LOVE

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