Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Elizabeth Futral's Violetta - 10 Questions

As we've mentioned before, Elizabeth Futral is on the great California Violetta tour with engagements in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego all in the same year.

In between dying of tuberculosis on stage each night, Elizabeth was able to answer a few questions we sent over to her in our occasional series called "10 Questions With..."

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San Diego Opera (SDO): First, welcome back to San Diego. We last saw you as Nedda in Pagliacci in 2008. Is there anything new in your life that you would like to share with us?

Elizabeth Futral (E.F.): I very much look forward to coming back to San Diego Opera! Since I was there for I Pagliacci last season I have been busy. Two highlights were singing my first staged performances of Thais (Massenet) in Athens, Greece, and singing a world premiere opera, Brief Encounter by Andre Previn, for Houston Grand Opera.

SDO: You sing Violetta for these performances with us. In your own words can you tell us a bit about this character?

E.F.: There is so much to say about the character of Violetta and her journey through this opera. She is multi-faceted and, therefore, very interesting. She is at once incredibly self-sufficient and strong, a real survivor, while at the same time vulnerable of spirit. She has a keen sense of self-awareness which prompts a deep longing for more substance in her life of luxury, excess and pleasure. She risks the only life she has known for a love she believes can (and does) transform her. The loss of that love leaves her alone and longing but somehow more at peace for having loved at all. The return of her love, Alfredo, just before the end of her life allows her the moment to revel in the joy of the love that transformed her and to die at his side.

SDO: Is there a moment in this opera that is a favorite of yours?

E.F.: I have so many favorite moments in this opera! One of them is in the duet scene with Giorgio (Papa) Germont when Violetta agrees to leave Alfredo and asks him to tell his daughter about the woman who sacrificed her love and died so that the daughter could be happily married. ("Dite alla giovine...")

SDO: Tell us about your introduction to opera? When did you first hear it? What made you realize this was the path you wanted to pursue?

E.F.: The first opera I saw was Madama Butterfly in a Community Concerts touring production (probably New York City Opera). I must have been in elementary school. I loved it. I didn't then begin dreaming of being an opera singer but I was definitely enchanted by the art form. Though I sang and played piano as a little girl I didn't begin studying and really learning about opera until college and then began in earnest to pursue it full-force.

SDO: Being a professional opera singer you must spend a lot of time traveling, meeting different people, exploring new locales. What do you like best about this aspect of your job?

E.F.: Yes, being an opera singer takes me all over the place. I love experiencing new cultures and new American cities-- which can sometimes feel like new cultures! Human beings are just interesting creatures to observe and experience. It's always an adventure!

SDO: What do you like the least?

E.F.: I guess the thing that is most tiring about traveling is traveling! I miss the consistencies of being home...seeing friends on a regular basis, being involved in my community, working in my garden!

SDO: We must admit there is more to life than opera. So, do you have any hobbies?

E.F.: My hobbies come and go. When I'm home I really love working in the yard....if I were home more I would grow vegetables and herbs. I do enjoy sewing and try to do projects when I am home. On the road I enjoy hiking when I'm in good places for that (San Diego area works well for me in that regard!), reading, and sometimes doing various types of handcraft projects.

SDO: Is there a book next to your bed? If so, what is it?

E.F.: Yes, there is currently Bill Bryson's "The Lost Continent" at my bedside table.

SDO: What is in your cd player/iPod right now that is not opera related?

E.F.: I don't own an I-pod! And I don't feel compelled to listen to music nonstop. I think, perhaps, because I do music all day long, I enjoy other forms of entertainment (i.e. movies, sports, plays) as alternatives. But my non-operatic favorites include symphonic and classical piano and bluegrass and country.

SDO: If you were not an opera singer, what would you be?

Unemployed! No, just kidding! I think I might have leaned toward social work or perhaps nursing.

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Elizabeth just finished up her Violetta in Los Angeles and sings early next month in San Francisco alternating with Anna Netrebko. San Diego Opera's La traviata opens April 17, 2010.

- Edward

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