Thursday, July 21, 2016

Summerfest in Final Week

Returning SummerFest stars (l-r, above) Julia Fox, Dimitrie Lazich, and Jeremy Galyon, all back for the third production in Summerfest's  cycle of works by 20th century master Richard Strauss. 

As the Opera Theater of Pittsburgh's Summerfest winds down, it fills this weekend with two brilliant works - Strauss' "The Silent Woman" at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, July 22 and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, July 24 and Handel's Julius Caesar" at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 23 at the Falk Auditorium, Winchester Thurston School in Pittsburgh's Shadyside neighborhood. For tickets, phone 412-326-9687 or visit website

In The Silent Woman, an old curmudgeon gets what he deserves: a diva with glass-shattering high C's! Richard Strauss serves up an opera-within-an opera with some of the most glorious music ever written, to a libretto by Stefan Zweig, who provided the inspiration for the hit film The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014). Based on a play by Ben Jonson, The Silent Woman follows Summerfest's  acclaimed productions of Adriane on Naxos (2014) and Capriccio (2015). 

About Julia Fox

Known for delivering an “excellent performance” (Gramophone) “with dazzling effect” (Pittsburgh Stage Review), soprano Julia Fox shines in opera, concert, chamber, and new music. This season Ms. Fox returns to Opera Theater Pittsburgh as the title character in The Silent Woman after performing in the SummerFest productions of Damn Yankees and Capriccio last season. Below, Fox conducts a Q & A with Summerfest's Hanna Shea. marketing intern

Q: How do you identify with your role(s) this season?
A: I feel many points of commonality with Aminta. Personality-wise, I feel we share some traits: she is very earnest, sincerely wanting what is right and what is best, above her own desires; she is genuinely modest and good-hearted, but also clever and capable; and she has deep capacity for warmth and affection. Situationally, I can also relate: she is part of an opera troupe, and I have just finished a 5-month tour with one; she is a capable actress, willing and able to play the part as needed, even if it feels far from her true or best nature. We are separated in many ways—the period and place Stefan Zweig used for the setting is quite different from 21st-century Texas, being married and tricking someone into ‘marrying’ are both things I’ve never experienced, and she is, after all, fictional while I am real—yet I feel a strong partnership with Aminta, her outlook, her reactions, and her experiences. I’m looking forward to learning much from this amazing woman throughout the opera production process!

Q: What has been your favorite role that you’ve gotten to perform and why?
A: This is always a tricky one for me—I’m almost always in love with whatever role I’m working on, which also means I can look back at all of the roles I’ve done and remember why I loved them deeply. So, I usually pick one arbitrarily and then explain part of why I loved it… One favorite role was my recent portrayal of Amore in Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice. General reasons to love: historical significance of the piece in how western classical music unfolded, the powerful nature of playing a goddess. But this particular production gave me additional reasons to love: the director’s vision required me to confront one of my deepest fears—heights/falling—and make my entrance being rolled out atop a fourteen-foot pedestal on wheels, sans railing, singing and gesturing dramatically while remaining balanced and poised with a twenty-pound wing-pack saddled to my back. I learned about teamwork, trust, the goals and demands of high art. But most importantly I learned to dig deep. And it was amazing! #worthit.

Q: Do you have any dream roles? What are they and why would you like to perform them?
A: I dream of getting to sing a juicy bel canto role, perhaps Amina or Lucia…

A: You performed in SummerFest’s Capriccio production last season and will appear as Aminta in Strauss' The Silent Woman this season as well - do you find that it’s been easy or difficult to connect with Strauss characters, more so than other roles?
A: Strauss gives you so much to work with because he really develops the emotional life of the character via the musical material. This, however, does not make it particularly ‘easy’ or automatic, because his rich musical material demands the devotion to discover and unlock and incorporate said emotional content, which is a process. But, as we are wont to say these days, #worthit.

Q: What are you most excited for this SummerFest season?
A: What am I not excited for this season? The line-up of repertoire is exciting, the new venue is exciting, the role I’m singing is exciting, being in the amazing Pittsburgh is exciting, working with this company that I love is exciting! But, most of all, I must say I am excited for the people. Opera connects people, SummerFest especially—hosts, colleagues, administrators, Pittsburghers, directors, carpenters, choreographers, out-of-towners, volunteers, stage managers, conductors, board members, artists, roommates. You never know who you are going to meet or how meaningfully you might connect, but there is a genuine sense of camaraderie and family that I look forward to experiencing.

Q: What is the strangest thing you’ve ever had to do for a role?
A: You never know what a director has in mind or what a character will get to do! Once as Cinderella in a modern opera I had to “slip” on a rigged sponge and “fall” into the splits while singing a high C#... Stuffing my face with a huge slice of chocolate cake and a whole bottle of “wine” (colored water) as Italian Singer in Capriccio last summer was also strange (how am I going to be able to sing??) but fun!

Q:What got you interested in opera?
A: An initial interest in “operatic” expression was nurtured in me through a cassette tape of Phantom of the Opera in my kindergarten class’s listening station. (I know...) I didn’t experience real opera until I was 15 and got to see Laura Claycomb perform Gilda (Rigoletto) at Houston Grand Opera. She floated a glorious pianissimo high E at the end of “Caro nome”, and it blew me away that the human voice could contain such beauty and heartache. I was hooked.

Q: What was your first opera experience like? (in the audience and on stage)
A: My first opera experience in the audience was painful: Thwarted by my over-eager excitement, I rushed to the school bus for our middle school field trip to see Madame Butterfly, but I tripped and fell flat on my face and had to spend the day getting x-rays and recuperating—my dad rented a video of the Puccini for me to watch instead, but it wasn’t the same.

My first stage experience in opera was traumatic: As a forest animal and gingerbread kid in Hänsel und Gretel at the Shepherd School of Music, we children were watching from the wings when there was an accident and the Witch got injured onstage, but then we had to go on singing the finale even while lights and sirens from the ambulance were going at the stage door! The Witch was okay, but I got an early lesson in the concept that “the show must go on”!

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