Catching up with Cherubino: Melissa Wimbish, soprano
We are thrilled to welcome soprano Melissa Wimbish back to On Site Opera! Last seen as the mischievous Baby Mouse in our 2012 inaugural production, Melissa now returns as the naughty pageboy Cherubino in Marcos Portugal’s The Marriage of Figaro. We talked with Melissa about her favorite operatic moments and what she’s been up too since Baby Mouse. Don’t forget to check out the playlist to hear some of the music Melissa mentions!
• OSO: What is your first memory of opera?
MW: Listening to a recording of Jessye Norman that my voice teacher gave me in high school.
• OSO: Aria that most commonly gets stuck in your head?
MW: “I can smell the sea air” from A Streetcar Named Desire
•OSO: Is the above aria your favorite or least favorite to sing?
MW: Probably my favorite.
•OSO: What’s your favorite Love duet?
MW: “N’est ce plus ma main” from Manon
MW: Renée Fleming … because she wasn’t content with being just an incredible performer. She continues to advocate for opera and uses her fame to propel the art form and classical singing into the faces of the masses.
• OSO: What’s your dream role?
MW: Juliette in Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette
• OSO: Favorite cocktail?
MW: Manhattan served up
• OSO: Last book you read?
MW: Anna Karenina
•OSO: Is this your first time performing Marcos Portugal?
MW: Yes. Very charming!
• OSO: Have you performed in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro? If so, what are the differences you note between the Mozart and Portugal Figaro?
MW: I sang the role of Barbarina a few years ago in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. The plot and pacing are essentially the same, but the musical language reminds me more of late Baroque/early Classical composers like Handel and Gluck. One pretty big difference is that Cherubino is written for a high soprano in this version … so I get to sing a pants role! Kind of a rarity for my voice type. I think playing a boy is going to be a piece of cake though, because I have a little brother and I remember his adolescence WELL.
• OSO: Have you ever performed in a site-specific or immersive performance before? What excites you most about performing at 632 on Hudson?
MW: I performed in On Site’s first production at The Bronx Zoo, so am very much looking forward to another site-specific experience. The audience interaction and improvisation is what I’m most excited to see play out on Hudson Street.
• OSO: The actual title of Portugal’s opera is La pazza giornata, ovvero Il matrimonio di Figaro (The Crazy Day, or The Marriage of Figaro) — what’s the craziest day you’ve ever experienced? OR What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you in a performance?
MW: Yesterday, I was biking through my old neighborhood and ran into my cat that I haven’t seen in 2 years … twice. That was crazy.
• OSO: What is the greatest music-related advice you’ve ever been given?
MW: “Wrong note: Your problem. Wrong rhythm: Everybody’s problem.”
• OSO: Besides On Site’s Figaro, what projects are coming up next for you?
MW: In July, my duo partner, Ta-Wei Tsai, and I are giving an incredible recital for the NATS National Conference in Chicago which features works by Poulenc, Hahn, Chaminade, Chausson, Previn, Laitman, Heggie and Duke Ellington. After that, I’m performing in a couple of cabarets presented by Urban Arias of DC which will include Heggie’s At the Statue of Venus — a piece I have been dying to sing for a long time. Then in October, Ta-Wei and I will be making our Carnegie Hall debut in a recital featuring music by NYC composers.
Check out the playlist below to hear some the music mentioned in Melissa’s interview!
Soprano Melissa Wimbish was the recent Grand Prize Winner of the 2014 NATSAA Competition along with the Franco-American Award for best interpretation of French repertoire. Praised by The New York Times for her “stylish singing” and by The Boulder Daily Camera as “simply incredible…the highlight of the entire evening,” she is consistently recognized for her artistry, technical prowess, and captivating stage presence. Recently appearing as Barbarina in Le nozze di Figaro with Lyric Opera Baltimore, the young soprano did not go unnoticed with Opera News noting her “promising soprano” while The Baltimore Sun praised her “bright voice” and “knack for animating phrases.” During the 2015/16 season, Ms. Wimbish will perform Ligeti’s Mysteries of the Macabre with Concert Artists of Baltimore followed by her portrayal of Josephine Baker in Tom Cipullo’s new, one-woman opera Josephine which was named one of Anne Midgette’s (Washington Post) top picks to see this spring. At the Kennedy Center, she will make her debut with Washington Ballet as the soprano soloist in Carmina Burana. After performing the title role in their inaugural production, The Tale of the Silly Baby Mouse, Ms. Wimbish is pleased to return to On Site Opera as Cherubino in the North American premiere of Marcos Portugal’s The Marriage of Figaro this summer. Her Carnegie Hall recital debut in October 2016 will present works by living composers Tom Cipullo, Jake Heggie, Jessica Meyer, and Gregory Spears. Melissa fronts the indie chamber rock band Outcalls and lives in Baltimore with her blind dog, Scarlett and her mute cat, Billy. Learn more about her at www.melissawimbish.com.