Soprano Leah Partridge is no stranger to an operatic mad scene. This week, in her On Site Opera debut, she adds another crazy character to her repertoire: Miss Havisham, literature’s most famous jilted bride. We chatted with Leah about her approach to operatic madness and what makes Miss Havisham a little different.
LP: I was 21 and in college at Mercer University. I went to see the Atlanta Opera production of Der Rosenkavalier.
•OSO: Who is your favorite Diva/Divo?
LP: Joyce DiDonato for her 21st century approach to this career and Nina Stemme for vocal power.
• OSO: What’s your dream role?
LP: Right now it’s Tosca. Ask me next week and it may be something else!
• OSO: What role would you like to perform that isn’t in your fach?
LP: Carmen or Rigoletto
• OSO: What is your favorite cocktail?
LP: Gin martini straight up three olives
•OSO: What is your favorite restaurant/hideaway spot in NYC?
LP: My best friend’s apartment on the UWS.
• OSO: What do you find most interesting about Miss Havisham?
LP: She’s a calculated woman and attempted to use another person (Estella) as a weapon. She’s quite fascinating as a character because she can have these developed ideas and plans but still remain a recluse and locked in her ‘self torture.’ Usually someone with such madness to remain in the same wedding dress for decades doesn’t also have the lucidity to comment on it. Here in this version of the story, she comments on her madness and situation. Her madness is clearly a choice.
• OSO: Miss Havisham is “quite mad”, as she says in this monodrama, and you recently portrayed another famous mad woman of opera, Lucia. What is it like to play a character who is mad?
LP: I love finding the different levels of emotion in mad characters. I approach the psychology as being like a child so that something so small can be fascinating or devastating.
• OSO: Have you ever performed in a site-specific or immersive performance? What excites you the most about performing at The Harmonie Club?
LP: This is my first experience with site specific opera although I have worked at Mill City Summer Opera in Minneapolis which performs at the Mill City Museum. They took an old dilapidated mill, supported the structure, and have a museum there. It’s partially outdoors and makes for a very interesting setting for opera along the Mississippi River. I’m excited to be at the Harmonie Club. I am very excited to be singing Miss Havisham with actual wedding guests and look forward to having the audience serve as part of her delusion.
• OSO: What is the greatest music-related advice you’ve ever been given?
LP: Composer Jake Heggie said to me once, “Music without opinion is boring.” I have an opinion about every phrase now so that the audience can see my own choices reflected through the character.
• OSO: Besides On Site’s Double Bill, what projects are coming up next for you?
LP: I am singing my first Mimi in La Boheme with Opera Omaha and am making my stage debut in the American Premiere of L’arbore di Diana with Minnesota Opera by the composer Martín y Soler with libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte. I also am a professor at Kennesaw State University in Atlanta. I teach voice and yoga to performers which keeps me quite busy!
Photos of Leah Partridge as Miss Havisham by David White
Soprano Leah Partridge (Miss Havisham) has received consistent praise worldwide for her intelligent and compelling interpretations of opera’s most beloved heroines. Opera Magazine praised her for her “clarity, accuracy, and poise,” and the Detroit Free Press has hailed her for her “lovely presence and shining voice.” Since making her debut in 2003 as Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor, Ms. Partridge has had a career full of remarkable milestones. She has performed over 40 leading roles in her short career. Her Metropolitan Opera debut came in 2008 as the First Niece in Peter Grimes followed by several return engagements. She has performed in some of the world’s greatest opera houses such as; Deutche Oper Berlin, Vlaamse Oper Antwerp Belgium, Teatro Colon Buenos Aires, Palau de les Artes Valencia Spain, Opera Philadelphia, Maggio Musicale Florence Italy, Teatro Carlo Felice di Genova Italy, Washington National Opera, Seattle Opera, The Atlanta Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Opera Omaha, and Dresden Semper Oper, among many others. She has been seen in concert with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Boston Baroque Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, and San Diego Symphony. In the 2016-17 season Ms. Partridge will be in performance with the new and contemporary opera company, On Site Opera in New York City with performances of Dominick Argento’s acclaimed one woman tour de force Miss Havisham’s Wedding Night. Ms. Partridge will make her stage debut of Puccini’s beloved Mimi in La Bohème with Opera Omaha and return for their Opera Outdoors concert series. She will make her company debut as Diana with The Minnesota Opera in the Da Ponte opera L’arbore di Diana, a rare Mozart like comedy by composer Martín y Soler in January 2017. More information about Ms. Partridge’s schedule, recordings, and previous performances can be found at www.leahpartridge.com and detailed commentary can be followed on her Facebook Fan page and Twitter @leahoperabird.