This season at the Metropolitan Opera, American soprano Sondra Radvanovsky, who has won acclaim for her performances in classic Italian operas, will become the first singer in the company's history to play all three heroines in Donizetti's "Tudor Queens Trilogy" (including Anne Boleyn; Mary, Queen of Scots; and Elizabeth I) over the course of a single season. She begins performances in "Anna Bolena" on Saturday.
What's it like to be doing this triple feat?
Quite frankly, I try to not think about this too much and just take it one day and one opera at a time. That said, I am quite honored that the Metropolitan Opera has given me this opportunity ... I wake up some days now and just pinch myself and ask, "Well, how am I going to top this?"
How do the roles compare?
Vocally, Anne is really the most interesting to me. It is a very long role that is topped off by a very long and difficult last scene that lasts over 20 minutes ... Playing Elizabeth I is more complex, as you are seeing one of the most famous historic figures that ever lived in the last few days and months of her life. She is a broken and tired woman, and her music also portrays that. ... Mary Stuart, to me, is the least dramatic of the three operas because she never really caused great amounts of scandal, except for her religious causes.
What do you think keeps operagoers interested in these particular operas?
They were living, breathing women in history. ... In a way, they were the olden-day soap opera stars. Who needs reality television when you can read about these women's lives? Plus, the music in these operas is some of the most glorious in the Italian repertoire.
Is playing all three roles in a single season challenging vocally and/or physically?
Absolutely! These are three different roles that are completely different vocally as well as temperamentally. But musically, they are all written by the same composer, so I find myself sometimes, in some of the cadenzas, going to a different opera for a second. ... Physically, I will be portraying three different women at three different stages of their lives. To prepare, I took the whole summer off and was at the gym every day working on my stamina and strength
You've done these operas all over the world. Do New York audiences approach them differently?
Like most Bel Canto operas, they just eat them up. There is also a level of knowledge with New York audiences. They know the singers who have performed these operas in the past; they have seen "Wolf Hall" on Broadway; they have seen the "Elizabeth I" movies; so they can appreciate the history as well as the music in this trilogy.
Movie screenings of operas have become so popular in recent years. How often do you watch the filmed versions of your performances?
Never! I hate watching myself perform almost as much as I hate listening to myself sing.
If you go: "Anna Bolena" begins performances on Saturday at the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center. metopera.org.