A Conversation with Bruce Duffie
To say that Andrea Gruber has had her ups and downs would be a huge
understatement. Personal problems of various kinds have plagued
her, but when she is on top of her game, she's a terrific singer and a
thoughtful interpreter. This interview from 2007 will deal mainly
with that positive side of her career.
She was in Chicago for one of her signature roles -
Turandot. The performances were spread over early and late
parts of the season (including Opening Night), and during the weeks
when she returned, I had the
chance to chat with this strong woman. She was up-front about her
own capabilities and foibles, and even
shared some self-analysis.
Here is that conversation . . . . .
Bruce Duffie: Is it an
added pressure or is it a good thing to
have electronic devices around, now, in the opera world? We
know it's good for the business world, but is it good for the opera
Andrea Gruber: I'm not
terribly technological so I have the
minimum. I use my computer for
email and shopping. [Chuckles]
BD: I see. I just
wondered if that had
any impact on your artistic life at all.
AG: No. None at
BD: Sometimes new things
have changed lives . . . Anyway,
you've been in Chicago to sing both opera and concert. Aside
from the obvious, what are the major
differences between singing a staged opera and singing a concert with
AG: You're a little bit
more naked in front of the audience in a concert,
and [bursts out laughing] I was a lot
younger! But aside from that, I don't really
think that there is much of a difference. I think that the
more I sing, the more I try to
make my operatic experience more like a
concert in terms of the way that I sing.
BD: Really? Less
AG: No, not less
dramatic, but more personal.
BD: Personal for
yourself, or personal in relating to each member
of the audience?
AG: Personal in terms of
expression towards the audience, and less general - more specific in
thought, more specific
in gesture, more specific in intention.
BD: Are all of these
things pre-planned, or is there
anything extemporaneous about anything?
AG: I think that it just
has to do with my general ideas
about music-making. It doesn't have to do with
planning, it just has to do with the way that I think
about my interest in the way that I
like to make music. Granted, I'm not a
Lieder singer in the sense that I haven't given those kinds of
recitals, but in the sense of standing
up in front of an audience and having something to
say, despite the difference, obviously, in the size of the
orchestra, versus a piano, or a string quartet. You know you're
telling a story and you're not wearing a big wig or a huge costume or a
stage makeup that puts a barrier in between you, and
hides [gestures to her body] this or masks this from the
from that, I think that it has to do with the
honesty and simplicity with which you say what you have to say no
matter how big or loud or intricate it is.
BD: Does it change your
vocal technique at all to have the
orchestra behind you instead of in front of you?
BD: Do you change your
vocal technique at all when you're
singing in a smaller house or a larger house?
BD: So you just sing the
way you sing!
BD: Obviously the size of
voice and what you're able to do with it dictates how you select your
repertoire, but within that, how
do you decide which roles you'll accept, and which roles you'll turn
AG: Largely has to do
with what you feel comfortable
with. Unfortunately the only way you can tell that is
by getting up and doing it. You may be able to sing
something in a room, but you get up with an orchestra and your
and an audience full of people, and that's the only way you
can have the experience. Simply put, there's no other way to
tell, there's absolutely no other way to
tell - not even in rehearsal. You just don't know. You may
have an idea and you may be almost
sure, and you may make a wise decision based on all the
information you're given; or you may just play it safe. For
example, I've made a decision not to sing something here in Chicago
that I'd decided to sing,
and thought, "You know what, it's too soon." It's
something I will absolutely sing, but it was something that I
decided I don't want to sing it yet. To say yes or no is usually
based on, "This is for me," or "This isn't for me." Obviously I'm
Despina, but for a Despina to say, "I
shouldn't sing Brünnhilde," or something obvious like that,
a question of whether it's vocally accessible or
whether it's just artistically wrong. We can have a conversation
about people who have no business singing the roles they do, or whether
I have any business either. That's a personal decision that
audience members may or
may not agree with, but that's a whole 'nother
BD: Once you're doing it,
do you find, as you get more and more
into the role,
that you have more to say about it?
BD: Then let me turn the
question around: Are there roles
find, perhaps you've plumbed all the
depths and there's nothing more to get out of it?
AG: There are things that
I'm not really interested
in singing anymore.
BD: So you just leave
those roles alone after you've fulfilled
AG: Yeah. Some of
them the music is so beautiful, but I find [voice trails off in volume
and energy] that I really have not much interest in singing anymore.
rhetorically] You mean you have
to be interested in a role before you sing it?
AG: [With understated
yeah! [Introspectively] Life is too
BD: [Chuckles] Are
you looking to expand your repertoire
quite a bit?
AG: Oh, yeah. I
wanna sing Elektra of Strauss; that's my
dream role. Also Isolde, the Brünnhildes and Salome.
BD: Is there something
special about singing a title character?
AG: [Thinks for a
moment] Not necessarily. Yes, in
the sense that that's who the opera is written
about, but Aïda could be
Amneris or it could be Radamès. The story
around the three of them. Most tenors walk around with that score
and it says Radamès on
front. [Both laugh] So singing a title character just for
ego's sake, no,
but to be a principal part of the story?
Sure! That's exciting, and that's terrific!
BD: Does it change the
way you look at it
because it's Aïda rather than
Trio on the Nile?
AG: No! No!
That goes into
the whole conversation of yourself as a human
being who loves to sing, or yourself as a human being who's aware of
all the bullshit that goes
on out in the world, and the person on the street who says, [excitedly]
singing Aïda at the
Met? Who do you sing?"
"Aïda." [Excitedly] "Ooh, you're Aïda?" I'm not
that. But for any other reasons? No.
BD: When you get up on
the stage, are you portraying
that character or do you actually become that character?
AG: Ohh, you know, I
really know. I like to play, so I leave that up
to the moment... [Pauses] I don't really know.
BD: I just wonder how
you get into the character, and is it more when you're actually
doing it or during the whole run of it - even on the days off?
AG: Oh, God, I don't walk
around as Aïda. I'm not a nut job. I've got a
not. No, it's when
I'm up there.
You mean you wanna be a real person???
AG: I am a real
person! [With understated conviction]
Oh, yeah! No, it's
when I'm up there. When I'm up there, I'm completely
immersed in what I'm doing.
BD: About how long does
it take you to get immersed?
AG: The second I walk out
stage. Before that I can be hammin' it up with the stagehands.
BD: In costume and makeup?
BD: Then when you're out
there on the
stage and you've become this character, are you
distracted by the conductor waving the stick, or maybe a stagehand or
AG: Sometimes. I
can have moments. For
example, I remember being in San Francisco singing Santuzza (Cavalleria Rusticana) in the old
Zeffirelli production where you're on the
stage from the second the curtain goes up when the first note is played
until the second the curtain
goes down. It was during the World Series and the Yankees were
playing, and I used to surreptitiously check the score out of the
corner of my eye. That's a very emotional role and I
was playing it pregnant, and I was real
wrapped up in what I was doing, but I had to know what was goin' on
Yankees! I was I very involved in what I was
doing, but I did have enough of my little brain left over to check out
the scores. There is a part of me that's a nutso
artist, but I can't afford to be all-consumed and walk around like one
those crazies who are so self-absorbed that they're almost an
unpleasant caricature and they live in a world apart. I'm sorry,
but if that's great
art I'd rather sell cosmetics at Bloomingdales. I
just don't have the emotional time for it. I find that to be an
illness and I just can't participate.
BD: It sounds like a
psychosis of some kind.
AG: It is a psychosis to
behave like that. So my point is I
do get involved. When I was a kid, I did a little bit too
much and went a little overboard
once in a while, but not recently - not
often, at least. I still
love to play up there and I certainly get very involved in
what I'm doing.
BD: I think you need to
go a little bit too far in order to
know where that limit is.
AG: I've gone
waaaayyy too far and paid a very dear price
for it. You have
to. [Chuckles] I'm lucky to still be here at 41, considering how
far I went!
BD: Lucky mentally or
lucky vocally, or both?
AG: Both. Both,
BD: How much care and
feeding does it take to preserve the voice?
AG: [In a matter-of-fact
tone of voice] Common sense.
BD: That's all?
Just "common sense"?
AG: Yeah. I'm
I'm not very delicate, I'm really not.
BD: Does it take someone
who's robust to be an opera singer?
AG: There are people who
I see who are very delicate and I would
mind if I were like that. If I had to live the way I see some of
my colleagues living, I would shoot myself in the
head. Seriously. I couldn't live like that. I don't
get sick. I spent a lotta time
sick, for many, many years, but now I'm very
healthy vocally. I've
had a lot of health issues in terms of my back and my
spine, but I don't get colds or infections. My throat is very
eat what I want, I can drink a gallon of milk and go out and sing,
I can drink coffee, I can eat yogurt and ice cream; I can
eat hot things and spicy things and salt, but I don't. That's not
me. I don't have those
BD: It sounds like if you
were going to eat
all of that you'd wind up looking like Falstaff.
AG: Yeah, but I had
surgery five years ago. I was the first person [chuckles] to
do it a long time ago. Yeah.
BD: Is it better for your
vocal health to look more like these
AG: It's better for me,
and therefore it's better for
everything in my life.
BD: So, then, the
"Capriccio" question: how much is the
music, and how much is the drama?
AG: For me, it's
AG: Absolutely. I
hate to say that because
inside I will always be the fat girl and I will defend the fat
girl until I die. Seriously! But I am happier like this and
I am more
comfortable like this. If I could've been happy at 320 pounds for
the rest of my life I would've stayed there gladly, and I
will defend somebody's right to do that till I die.
Unfortunately, I couldn't live like that. I would have if I
could and it kills me to watch people struggle because I will always
know what that is. It was a terrible struggle for me. It
was extremely painful and I was ridiculed, and I had directors say
horrible things to me. I was fired by famous people in famous
places from new productions for my weight. It was just a
nightmare. It was a nightmare and [pauses for a moment] I will
that. Now I'm glamorous and now people love to
dress me and it's just wonderful, and I will never forget
it as long as I live.
BD: Without mentioning
names, do you not work
with directors who were mean to you before?
AG: It's not so much the
certain intendants in certain theaters.
BD: So you don't go back!
BD: I hope we've made you
feel welcome here in Chicago!
AG: I never had a problem
in Chicago, and I was fat
here! I made my debut here singing Odabella (Attila)
when I was fat and I never had a problem. They brought me
back. I wasn't at my
heaviest, but I was quite fat.
BD: It sounded fine
to me, so I was happy. If there
was a Falstaff-type character that you were going to portray these
days, would you put on the
padded suit and everything?
hesitation] Sure! Mm-hmm!
BD: You seem to have a
special affinity for Verdi and
Puccini. Does their music touch your heart in a special way?
AG: [In a low, sincere
tone of voice]
Yeahhh. When I was 21, before I came to the Met,
I was in an Opera-Music Theater Institute Program with Jerry Hines in
New Jersey. The first year that he
had the program I was with him and his wife, Lucia Evangelista. I
was a complete Wagner freak and
Jerry and Lucia turned me on to Verdi and Puccini, but
primarily Verdi at that point. They're
the entire reason that I discovered Verdi.
I never would've sung it; I never would've been interested in it.
They're the reason that I went to the Young Artists program at the Met
in 1989, because the only thing I sang for Jim Levine was "Pace, pace
mio Dio!" from Verdi's La
forza del destino. He didn't even hear any of my
Wagner. They introduced me to that whole world and I fell in love
it. I will never forget what they did
for me and what they shared with me, the love of that
music and that culture. I spend a lot of time
in Italy; I love the culture, I love the country, I
love the music, I love the people. I just love the Italian
repertoire. I love everything about it, so it's very near
and dear to my heart in a lot of ways.
BD: It's one thing to
sing "Pace, pace" but was it especially
gratifying, then, to sing the whole role?
AG: I actually sang the
except for the first scene, when I was 21 years
old with Alfredo Silipigni, who was my first
conductor. Though I sang "Pace, pace," and "Du bist der Lenz,"
from Die Walküre, which
was truly the slowest "Du bist der lenz" anywhere
because Silipigni had probably never heard it in his life. But
Henry Lewis conducted for me, and we did Forza scenes. We did
the entire role of Leonora except for the first aria and the
first little scene. So at 21 years old, I sang almost all of
Forza! I'd never sung an
opera or an aria or
anything, except for "Pace, Pace" and "Du bist der lenz." That
was because of Jerry and Lucia. So that was my
first opera, and that ended up being the
first opera I ever sang, because then Jim sent me off to the
Scottish Opera when I was 24 to sing Forza
in 1990, which was my
first opera, and I sang eleven performances of it. So Forza has a
dear place in
my heart. It's an amazing piece of work.
BD: Did you grow up
liking opera, or was this something new for
AG: My parents were very
musical; they loved opera. I'm a native New Yorker
and I grew up going to the Met. I remember being at times
very fascinated and at times very bored by it. But I was very
musical. I played the flute and the recorder from the time I was
very young. Music was a huge part of my life.
BD: So you're not just a
singer, then. You're a musician.
AG: [With understated
conviction] Oh, yeah. I grew up
musician. I was a flautist, and the fact was that I was very
I hated to practice, so by the time I was twelve my gift
was up here [makes a hand gesture indicating a high degree], and my
willingness to work was about down here [makes an equivalent hand
gesture, this time way down low]. I was at a conservatory
in the summer at one of the
state colleges playing the flute and I auditioned for the
singing stuff. The woman who ran the vocal department said,
"You're incredibly gifted; you should study." So
I went back to the boarding school in Putney, Vermont, and I started to
study. I auditioned for two
conservatories: Manhattan School of Music and SUNY
Purchase. I got into Manhattan and went there for
four years. I took master classes with Birgit Nilsson my
year, and then I went to Jerry Hines's program and I went right to the
Met! It's funny; I'm going to give a master class at the
Manhattan School of
Music twenty years, almost to the day, that I took my master class
with Birgit. I'm going to give one this spring when I'm at
BD: Do you still hear her
voice in your ear and feel her hand on
AG: Absolutely, in many
ways. I stayed in touch with
her. I had a feeling that she was very ill because I'd lost touch
with her about a year before she died, and that wasn't like her.
A couple times a year I'd get a card from her, or
something and I stopped hearing from her, which let me know that
she was, perhaps, in failing health,
BD: Aside from Nilsson,
do you feel that you're part of a lineage
AG: I don't think I've
earned that. I've had too much
inconsistency. I think that that
has, unfortunately, passed me by. I don't know
whether I can earn that back. We'll see.
BD: Why not? If you
do consistently good work
AG: [Clicks tongue]
If I continue to sing for
another fifteen, twenty years, possibly, I could. I don't
know. We'll see.
BD: Is that what you're
looking for, to sing for another 15
or 20 years?
AG: I have no idea.
BD: I assume you're
three or four or even five years in advance.
AG: Yeah, I am, but the
that I can't answer that.
BD: Does it give you a
secure feeling to know that you've
got engagements next year and the year after and the year after?
hesitation] Yes, but it can change in a
minute. It can change in a minute. People can cancel
things on you. The world is not secure. The world of opera
is not a secure place and you cannot
take it personally. It is very difficult. [Chuckles
BD: Let me ask another
balance question about opera: how
much is art and how much is entertainment?
AG: [Thinks for a moment,
then snickers] I really can't
answer that, because I am the person who's always trying to bring it to
have never seen it before. I don't
mean that by bringing it in a way by changing it and bringing
it, but I mean by bringing it in a real way, in an
accessible way. I bring people who
never, ever would think that they could come to the
Metropolitan Opera, showing them what it's really like.
I show them the costume department and a rehearsal and what it's really
like, and that real
people work here, all kinds of people. I show them that it's not
a rich white folk sport, that there are
black people who work at the Opera. I have black
friends who never thought that they would step foot at the
Met. If it weren't for me,
they would never know what an opera was!
BD: Even though there's a
tradition of Leontyne Price and Shirley
They have no idea who Leontyne Price
is. That has nothing
to do with their lives.
BD: They did in the '60s
AG: Yeah, but not the
generation of black people that
I'm talking about. Not my peers. Leontyne is a
great woman, but I'm talking about a
culture of kids who need to know that somebody understands
them. Not somebody who's grand and wants to
bring them into their world, but somebody who wants to go to their
and say, "Lemme show you a little bit o' my world and I'm coming
to your world to tell you about it. Then I'm gonna bring you
to my world, but I'm gonna talk to you 'cause I know who you
are and I'm gonna show you where I live because it's a scary
BD: So this is not just a
black thing, this is
an all-pervasive thing.
BD: OK, then, one of my
favorite questions: how do we
get more and younger audience into the theater?
AG: How we do that is
people like me who
don't frighten people and who listen to hip-hop and rap
and all that stuff in my dressing room, and who don't
mind having people in my dressing room when I'm getting ready for a
show, who enjoy having people around, and who take a
great deal of pride in what we do and love sharing it. I have
people come and watch what I do and show them the
joy in the experience of the theater and introduce them to the costume
people and the wig people
and the makeup people, and show them that there's a whole life of
theater - not just the singers and the stars. They see that
there's a chorus and there's an orchestra and
there's technical work to be done, and there's a whole world of
theater out there.
BD: I was going to say
there's stagehands, and guys who swing
a hammer, and everything!
AG: Absolutely! All
those people are my
friends and family. So that's my mission
and that's what I've been involved with in any way that I can
be. That's something that's been very important to me.
BD: Do you feel opera is
AG: Not for everyone, but
it should be accessible in some
way. Of course it's not for everyone. I don't necessarily
love the opera, I really don't!
BD: So you're not good
AG: Not always.
There are things that I love to see, but
fundamentally I don't
just go to the opera because I love opera. There are things that
love to see and to hear; there are people that I love to hear. I
don't just love beautiful singing; it doesn't interest me. I
wanna see a great performance. I want, I need to be
moved. Just to sit around and listen to somebody
pretty, you're gonna lose me after half an hour. Seriously!
BD: [Chuckles] I
AG: Not gonna do it for
BD: So you don't go to
symphony concerts, then.
AG: That's not
true. Live music I
love. I love a great symphony orchestra, yes, if it's played with
great passion. I'm interested in
somebody like Simon Rattle.
BD: So you're looking for
AG: Yeah! I wanna
be moved. I wanna have an
experience. I don't wanna be finessed. I don't wanna be
techniqued to death.
BD: So you infuse that
excitement into all of your performances,
AG: Yeah. Sometimes
I do a better job of it
than others! [Chuckles] I mean, I understand that there's a
certain standard and sometimes I have fallen beneath it. That's
not acceptable and I need to do a better job. You're
only as good as your last performance and I understand that. I
suffered for that.
BD: But you go out there
every night assuming
that you will do the best you can.
AG: It depends on
your emotional state. There are
times when I'm not in the
best form and maybe I'm emotionally not at my best, so perhaps I'm not
in condition to live up to my end of the
BD: If someone would come
to all the performances in a
run, would that person know which nights you went onstage and were kind
of pissed off at someone or something?
AG: No, it's not a matter
pissed. It never has anything to do with that. It's never
about being pissed off at someone. It has to do with where I am
with myself. It's never about anybody else.
BD: So then you're using
opera as psychoanalysis!
AG: No. It's not
about opera, it's just about
me. [Chuckles] It's just about me being okay and
having to find a way to sing. It's just that unfortunately your
vocal cords are a living thing; you can't just get up
and turn it off and then get up and sing. Some
people do it better than I do. I know plenty of people
who can be a complete mess, and they
can get up and do it anyway. Unfortunately I don't do as well as
others at separating where I am with how I'm singing.
BD: Do you ever wish that
the voice in the throat was more
like a flute - you know, take it apart into three pieces and put it in
the case at night?
AG: I don't really think
about it 'cause
it's not an issue. You know, why bother?
BD: Perhaps you could
replace the head joint once in a
while? [Both chuckle at this thought]
AG: Yeah, clean it out
and toss it in the closet. I
sometimes wish I could change my embouchure, but I can't do it.
BD: Let me ask the big
the purpose of music?
AG: [Thinks for a moment,
then speaks in a comically refined tone
of voice] To soothe the savage beast. [Chuckles slightly]
BD: [With mock
impudence] That phrase has already been used.
AG: It's a very
personal question! I have no idea; for everybody it's different.
BD: [Gently] What
is it for you, then?
AG: [Thinks for a moment,
clicks tongue, then thinks some
more] It brings peace, it brings comfort, it invokes feelings,
it takes you away, it brings you
here. It does all kinds of
things. I'll never
forget, I sang a performance of Lohengrin
in Seattle when I was probably about
24, the only Lohengrins I
ever sang. I was backstage when a young man
came up to me and he was obviously dying of AIDS. People
around me were very strange; they looked like they were trying to
keep him away from me, and I couldn't figure out why. Maybe he
had a little bit of
dementia and they were worried that he would
make me uncomfortable, which was ridiculous. I told the stage
people to let me
alone and we just went into a corner and talked. He was crying,
and he was
messy, and I was crying and I was messy! I was in a really bad
place in my life at
that point, and he says, "I just wanted to
thank you because you gave me three hours of peace." That man
didn't look like
he had had a minute of peace in quite some time, and my life was a
fuckin' mess at that point, so the idea that I coulda given anybody
any kinda peace was pretty extraordinary.
BD: Was it you that
gave him peace, or was it the Wagner?
AG: The point is that for
whatever reason, I was put in a
where I happened to be singing the music that gave him the
peace. He put it in those words - I gave him the
peace. So my being a part of the
music that touched him, he chose to
express it to me, and for whatever reason, it was at a time when
I needed somebody to let me know that I was part of
something that mattered. That meant a lot to me. I
never heard from him again, never saw him
again, don't know how much longer he lasted, but I'll never forget that
because it wasn't one those grand old moments, it was very sloppy and
it wasn't pretty, and it wasn't like, [in an excessively
blissed-out, breathy tone of voice] "Oh, you gave me three hours of
peace." Music does a lotta things!
Music is great to [gradually
lapses into the caricatured voice of an overeager bubblegum-chewing
teenaged girl] get ready to go out to, and, you know, put on
your makeup and smoke some cigarettes and get ready to go out and, you
know, drink a glass o' Coke and, you know, dance
around the house, and [back to her normal voice] listen to
really loud 50 Cent . . . It has so many places in the
world. You have memories that you put a
song on, or you
can smell something and you think of a song. It's an
incredible thing. Music is everywhere, it's
part of everybody's life. I can't
think of anybody who doesn't like music. There can be a million
different kinds of music,
but everybody has some kind of music in their life.
BD: Is it a good thing
that it is so all-pervasive?
You can't get away from it - in corridors, in elevators, in book
shops, in restaurants!
AG: Yes! I think
it's terrific! I hate
Muzak. Sure! I can't stand it, but what I'm saying is that
think about anything else in the world... [Pauses for a
moment] Even food, there's anorexia and there's bulimia.
People have turned something wonderful like food that everybody needs
to live, into something that is horrible. Granted there is Satan
rock and white power music, but my point is just
that everybody has some kinda music in their life and there's some
kinda music for everybody. That's a pretty incredible thing in a
so divisive and divided.
BD: When you're out on
stage, are you conscious of the audience?
AG: Oh, absolutely!
I'm there. [Chuckles] When people get up and leave, I
know they're goin'!
BD: I hope that doesn't
happen very often!
AG: Oh, it does! It
happens a lot after Liù's death. There are lotsa places
when we do the Alfano ending where people get up
and leave. Here in Chicago this time around, they're not leaving.
BD: Hmm! I guess I
imagine leaving a satisfying performance, but then I sit up in the top
balcony, and we don't
AG: 'Cause you guys
really know your stuff. It's the main floor, where people have
[with mock weariness] their diamonds getting heavy. [Both chuckle]
BD: But if music is to be
for everybody, then
it's got to be for these diamond-heavy people, too.
They should come and listen. Look, I'd
rather they get up and leave than stay and boo. I have a very
strong feeling about that.
BD: Really? There
are directors who would rather they would
stay and boo their controversial creations.
AG: Yeah, well bully for
BD: [Laughs] Are
you at the point in your career that you
want to be right now?
AG: [In a breathy
half-chuckle, accompanied by a wave of the
hand, as if such a thing were out of the question] No! But
that's my own thing. I don't mean my career in
terms of, "I wanna be more famous," or make more money, it's not
BD: Now, in terms of your
vocal health and your repertoire and all of that.
AG: Yes. My vocal
health? Absolutely. I'm singing very well,
absolutely. My repertoire, I'm not sure. That's always a
question. Don't know.
BD: Are you heading into
AG: I'm holdin'
out! Like I
said, I'm 41, so I'm holding out. I'm waiting.
BD: Can you know when
it's the right moment?
AG: [Thinks for a
moment] I hope so.
BD: Will you know when
it's right, or
will those other ears that you trust out in the
audience know and tell you?
AG: The combination of us
will know when it's right. The thing is, it's not a matter of
it's right, it's a decision that I have to make, that I'm going
to be ready to give up some of the
things that I do now. It's a matter of time and it's a
matter of being willing to schedule things. The way I see
things, once you schedule a lot of that, you have to give up a lot of
the other. I'm not gonna be able to sing 50 Turandots a
year if I'm singing Ring
Cycles. I'm just not. I like
singing 50 Turandots a
year [shown at left in the Met
production.]. Believe it or
not, it's been wonderful for me and it hasn't
hurt my vocal health! For me it's been a
wonderful thing! I sing a lot of coloratura in Attila and Nabucco. I sing a big
sustained high D in Nabucco
and there's absolutely no reason,
technically, that I can't keep doing it. But when you sing a lot,
a lot, a lot
of music that sits a little bit lower, the voice shifts, and I won't
know exactly what will happen until I do
it! But once you do it and ya find
out, [chuckles] then you can't go back if the answer is it
takes it away! So those are decisions that I have to make and be
willing to have the consequences. Right now I don't wanna
know! [Chuckles] So that's why I'm not making the
BD: You want to keep what
BD: Is it hard at all to
keep each night of Turandot
AG: I don't know. I
love it and I've got a very active
imagination, so I've got all kinds
of things goin' on.
BD: At some point would
you want people to be able to see
what's in your mind?
AG: Naaah. It's
nobody's business. [Chuckles] It's my own private
BD: One last
question: I assume singing is fun?
AG: [In a very
understated, relaxed, low tone of voice, almost a
whisper] It's pretty fun. It's wonderful. I
wouldn't do it if it weren't fun.
BD: Good! I'm glad
you've been here in Chicago and I hope you will return!
AG: I hope so!
BD: Thanks so much for
AG: Thank you. It
was very interesting for me, thank you.
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© 2007 Bruce Duffie
This interview was recorded in the office-suite of Lyric Opera
of Chicago on January 25, 2007. This transcription was made and
posted on this
website in 2008.
broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago
from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of
2001. His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and
journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM,
as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.
To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been
transcribed and posted on this website, click here.
You are invited to visit his website
for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of
other interviews, plus a full list of his guests. He would also
to call your attention to the photos and information about his
grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a
century ago. You may also send him E-Mail
with comments, questions and suggestions.