“Every character is relatable in some way…” she said off the cuff, but that simple sentiment churned into the central thesis of my charming interview with Mezzo-soprano, Hilary Ginther, on Friday April 15. Ginther was more-than-kind to take a break from the daunting tech week leading up to Friday April 22nd and the Opera Omaha premiere of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s, Eugene Onegin. Three minutes into our conversation I was already a little bit intimidated as an artist.
Ginther is a class act. Her articulation for discourse over expressive media, abstract theatrical concepts, and emotional tropes are all unparalleled. Many of even the most exquisite creative minds, struggle to represent the intangibles of good art or music in writing, or in conversation. Ginther, was a veritable talking guide book about…. You name it. What makes Tchaikovsky great? She has a poetic answer. What are the challenges in preparing opera in Russian? She was practically ready to tutor me herself. How do you prepare for a role? Well, just listen to what she said: “I like to do my homework and start with the source material. I got several different versions of the novel, listened to audio books…just dug myself into whatever out there had been produced or told about the story. Then I knew the next thing I had to do was go straight to the Russian text. …get on zoom with my Russian coaches in different parts of the world. …Let’s make this to where I sound authentic. That’s what’s important to me. I definitely make myself a schedule of where I need to be in my process -in how many weeks or months before I arrive at a gig. I want to arrive at that gig and hardly have to crack the score. Now I can enjoy getting to know why I ended up caring about Olga so much and see so much of myself in her sometimes.” That exegesis was electric. As a teacher, if I could fit it all on a poster, I’d put it up behind my studio piano.
Not to boast with too much bias for Ginther, but it seems like a guarantee that her performance of Olga in this weekend’s Onegin will be sublime. She knows this character better than some of us know ourselves. If you take her clarity and illustrative expression as an indicator of her taste, she also raved about her cast mates. This cast and material are making a lot of promises to Omaha that a fabulous show is in the works. After an already triumphant season, I think we can count on Onegin, being the icing on the company’s 2022 cake.
Audiences will find Onegin instantly relatable. This is not an austere love story. Ginther aptly summarized the deeply human tale: “It’s such a romantic story. It’s so much about the pain of not getting what you want in the end.” She also elaborated that director Rosetta Cucchi has striven to give these characters, beyond-the-typical, depth and perspective, “We all see that [these characters] -in ourselves. We all want to be happy all the time, but sometimes you feel the pang of jealousy. That’s very human, and it’s made me able to step into the character and not really have to stretch too far to understand the things she does and why she says the things she says.”
This fabulous source material, the Alexander Pushkin novel of the same name, created any easy landscape for the composer, Tchaikovsky, to organize his own libretto, which was not exactly the norm for 19th century composers.
By the end of our half hour on the phone I was buzzing with anticipation for the show.
Ginther was also very affectionate about her time in Omaha. She’s spent some lovely moments at La Buvette downtown. She even remarked that the Orpheum is an “embarrassment of riches” noting that both architecturally and acoustically it’s a joy to sing in the space.
We are so blessed to have such a production, performed by such high caliber humans as Hilary Ginther. I can’t wait to see you all there!
I grew up in church music and musical theatre. From my collegiate career and beyond I've traveled through opera, the symphony, the theatre and worship as a student, a performer, an entrepreneur, and a journalistic correspondent. I'm thrilled to have an opportunity to share with you some of the incredible and fascinating endeavors I continue to undertake in music and the arts. I don't need you to see the world the way I do, but I'll do everything I can to help you enjoy it as much as I have.