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Interview with … Kathryn Lewek

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Kathryn Lewek‘s stunning performance as Ginevra in Haendel’s Ariodante has been widely acclaimed this summer at the Salzburg Festival. In 2013, she was a double prize winner at the Operalia World Opera Competition, with her amazing interpretation of « Regnava nel silenzio » (Lucia di Lammermoor). Since then, the American soprano has been performing the Queen of the Night in major Opera houses all around the world. 

Photos : kathrynlewek.com

Can you tell us about what decided you to sing and about your debut ?

I actually began my musical studies at a very young age as a pianist, even though I was always singing as a child. It didn’t occur to me until I was in high school that I could put my love of theater, singing and classical music all together at once and make a career out of it. When I discovered this it was like a revelation to me. I’ve been dedicated to the art form ever since with every fiber of my being.

You won the 3rd prize in 2013 Operalia competition, can you tell us about this experience ?

Operalia was my first experience being part of something that had global exposure. I had barely begun my professional career on the opera stage and no one knew who I was yet, so it was a long shot when I applied. I was overjoyed even to be chosen to go to Verona to compete in person, so when I won a prize I was thrilled- but actually I was even more honored to be chosen for the audience prize. That was the real win for me that day. That, and also that I met my husband backstage for the first time-fellow 3rd place winner American tenor, Zach Borichevsky ! We bonded by making each other laugh to try to calm our nerves. We just got married this summer in July in between my two production periods of Ariodante here in Salzburg.

You are currently singing in Ariodante in Salzburg, can you tell us how you feel about this experience ?

My experience singing in this production of Ariodante at the Salzburg Festival has been like a dream. I know that sounds cliche, but seriously, I have never been so proud to be a part of a production in my life. The cast is so talented and hard working, easy and fun to be with for hours upon hours a day during the rehearsal process, and each artist has brought something special to this production. Christof Loy’s imagination and connection to the human spirit is unending, and it shows in the connective tissue of this production. There has been a hum of excitement from the very beginning of our time working on this show. We all adore it.

How is it to work with Cecilia Bartoli ?

I was nervous to work with such a big name, but Cecilia is so down to earth and such a special person, it was easy to settle into our working routine together. I loved using our rehearsal time together as a learning experience – she’s an amazing artist and she works so intelligently.

But it’s the sweet personal things I will remember the most, like the very thoughtful wedding gift she gave to me, and the numerous giggles we shared on and off the stage. I’ll never forget the first time she wore that beard in rehearsal – she lifted her eyebrow and coyly said to me with a wink “I think you look at me differently now, Katie…” She’s not just an immensely talented star – she’s a completely awesome person.

Is it important for you to sing with period instruments, such as in this production of Ariodante ?

I love the sound that the orchestra produces with period instruments when playing baroque pieces. I tend to play with the colors of my voice depending on the orchestration, and I feel like it opens up a whole new palette for me to play with. It transports me to a different time and place, and makes it an even more interesting process to get into character.

Mozart’s Queen of the Night is one of your favorite roles today … 

I call the Queen of the Night my “passport role”. She has taken me to so many glorious cities of the world and given my career wings. I’m grateful to Mozart for writing such challenging and awesome music for her. I’m also grateful that I have so many hours in between arias offstage, which gives me lots of opportunity to learn new music – I’ve been singing so many new roles lately, it’s great to have the built in time to learn them !

What are your main projects today ?

I’ve got a lot of exciting projects coming up, that I can’t quite yet talk about in detail, but I can say that I will soon be tackling all three of the heroines in Tales of Hoffman at a major European house in a near season, singing one of my favorite roles again, Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor, as well as tackling some other “bucket list” roles that are new to me, and an exciting recording project is in the works.

I will also be returning to Berlin where I made my European debut, Barcelona, Aix-en-Provence, Washington National Opera to reprise Cunegonde with the wonderful Francesca Zambello, and making a house debut in Amsterdam next year.  I’m pleased to return to the Metropolitan Opera for my fourth season this year, and I will have my first Met Live in HD performance in movie theaters this October 14th, conducted by James Levine. I am fulfilling the hopes and dreams of many generations of opera lovers in my family by working with him !

Which artists would you like to work with ?

It’s always exciting to work with people who have a reputation for bringing something special to their artistry. James Levine is a legend in the opera world, and is known for being a “singer’s conductor”, meaning he really understands the voice. I don’t really spend all that much time fantasizing about working with specific people that I haven’t worked with. Every production is a different experience and it’s always exciting to work with new people and learn from them.

Apart from music, do you have any hobby ?

Actually, sometimes I feel like I’m leading a double life. I’m a freelance photographer when I’m not on stage. I discovered my love for exploring my surroundings through my camera lens about 3 years ago, and have since taken a course with National Geographic and have spent loads of time out in the field working on my skills. I love having a passion that is completely separate from my musical career pursuits, it gives my brain a break from the inevitable stresses of living a life on the stage.

I’ve spent so much of my life dedicated to one thing, and it’s really nice to feel like I can take pride in something completely different. I also love to cook, drink wine, relax with my new hubby and play with my very well travelled dog, a 13 year old black and white papillon named Renoir. Actually, (I’m not ashamed) his full name is “Mon Petit Monsieur Renoir”.

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