5 Questions with Jamie Barton

Instant Encore: Classical Music Buzz
October 2014

After a wildly successful role debut of Adalgisa at the Metropolitan Opera in the fall of 2013, Jamie Barton returns to the role this fall in our season opening production of Norma. Her San Francisco Opera debut has been similarly successful leaving critics raving that her performance was "a magnificent Company debut with gleaming vocal tone and emotional urgency" (San Francisco Chronicle). All successes aside, Barton's charming personality shined in a brief interview excerpted below. Enjoy!

Photo credit: Cory Weaver

Photo credit: Cory Weaver

You return to the role of Adalgisa, having recently sung the role with critical acclaim at The Metropolitan Opera. What is it that draws you to bel-canto, and to the role of Adalgisa?
Well to be honest, I haven't had that much experience singing bel canto! Adalgisa at the Met last year was only my second time doing a bel canto role of any size (the one before that was, funnily enough, another Bellini -- Agnese in Beatrice Di Tenda at Carnegie Hall a year previous.) Despite my lack of experience with this particular kind of singing, I really enjoy it. Neither of my bel canto roles have been easy to sing... in fact, they've been some of the hardest music I've ever done. But, the challenge is welcome! Coming back to Adalgisa a year after having learned it has taught me that once the work has been put in, the role is in. It's just a lot easier this time, and I get to focus on the character (rather than worrying that this role will kill me!)

What was it like representing the United States and winning not only one, but two trophies (the main prize and the song prize) last year at the BBC Cardiff Singers of the World Competition?
It was mind blowing. I had been interested in that particular competition for a long time, and had auditioned on previous years to compete. This particular year of the competition was a bit like the stars aligning... I was more secure in being able to sing some real show stoppers that I couldn't really do justice a few years before that. It still hasn't completely sunk in that I won both prizes...it's too overwhelming even still! But I am so grateful for it, as it has opened a lot of doors that were previously shut to me. 
It's wonderful having you here at the San Francisco Opera for the first time. What are you enjoying most about the city thus far?
I am LOVING San Francisco! It's stunningly beautiful (I've particularly enjoyed the Presidio and Muir Woods), the food is incredible (favorites thus far are Gracias Madre in the Mission, Siam Lotus in Haight Ashbury, and [don't laugh...] Super Duper Burger!), and each neighborhood has such a distinct feel. I love how eclectic this city is, and how it just embraces people being themselves and living their lives. 

Where will you travel after Norma and what engagements are next on your busy schedule? Which are you most looking forward to?
I've got a busy travel schedule this year... operas in Chicago, Houston, and Cincinnati, and concerts in Atlanta, Washington DC, Frankfurt, New York, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh! I do have to say that I think the most exciting one of these dates is shared between the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Carnegie Hall, where I will be debuting a piece by none other than San Francisco favorite, Jake Heggie! I love working with living composers, especially ones I really believe in and whose music moves me as a performer and a listener. Jake's music is some of my favorite...that he's writing something for me to sing is such a gift. 
Are there any particular operas or roles that you hope to have the opportunity to perform or add to your repertoire in the near future?
Oh, there are many! I am still young for my voice type, so I have a lot of dream roles I've yet to do. A few include some of the big Verdi mezzo roles (Eboli in Don Carlos, Azucena in Il Trovatore, and Amneris inAida), and a few more Wagner roles (I would love to do a Brangäne in Tristan), but the role I would really love to do is Leonore in La Favorite. Someone do this show! hint, hint, nudge, wink!