Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Abominable Showman, September 21, 2013

(courtesy Audrey Luna)

La Bella Luna
American soprano Audrey Luna embraces her diva status and her hardcore gay fans, on the eve of her L’Opéra de Montréal debut
by Richard Burnett 
(photos by Richard Burnett unless otherwise noted)

“I have always wanted to sing and perform, from when I was three or four years-old,” says American soprano Audrey Luna, who won over audiences and critics when she starred as Ariel in The Tempest at The Metropolitan Opera in 2012.

“[English composer Thomas Adès]’s Ariel is a dazzling creation, and Ms. Luna conquers the role,” The New York Times swooned.

The Opera News says Luna “has power and a blazing coloratura facility that most lyric sopranos can only dream of.” 

But Luna – who will star in the title role in the opera Lakmé that launches L’Opéra de Montréal’s 2013-2014 season – only figured out she wanted to be an opera singer when she was 16. 

Audrey Luna sings the Bell Song from Lakmé

“I was looking into going into musical theatre and my voice teacher said, “No, no, no! This isn’t your voice!’ Then when I heard the repertoires, I got the bug for opera.

At rehearsal
“The first opera I saw was in Portland,” adds Luna, who was born and raised in nearby Salem, Oregon. “Where I’m from it just didn’t do much for me at the time. But then when I was 19, I did a foreign-exchange program and spent a year in Vienna. I got tickets to every opera every night and I saw some operas three or four times each. I thought, ‘This is the real thing, not – with all due respect – what I saw in Portland.’ There was something about the flavour and the public’s obsession for opera in Vienna that was intoxicating. So I fell in love. I was 19 and opera became everything to me then.”

Luna got her undergraduate degree from Portland State University, then her masters at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music in Ohio. She has since gone on to perform on many of the world’s great stages. Montreal audiences will see her for the first time in Lakmé, a pillar of French Opera famous for its ‘Flower Duet’ and ‘Bell Song.’

Luna in Lakmé (photo by Yves Renaud)
Set in India during the British Raj, L’OdeM’s production visually pops onstage like a colourful Bollywood production, and co-stars Canadian tenor John Tessier as the British officer that Lakmé falls in love with, and Turkish bass Burak Bilgili, who portrays Nilakantha, Lakmé’s father, a Brahmin priest and sworn enemy of the English colonizers. 

Not only will Luna dazzle Montrealers with her voice, but she is also a physically striking woman: “You’re talented, you’re young, beautiful and slim,” I tell Audrey. “What do you think of opera’s current obsession with physically beautiful and fit performers?”

With John Tessier (photo Yves Renaud)
“There aren’t just stereotypical fat performers [in opera anymore],” Luna replies. “People tell me all the time, ‘You’re so skinny, you can’t be an opera singer!’ Well, guess what? I am! But I’m hearing those kinds of comments less and less now. I also think [the emphasis on sex appeal and beauty] is a little false. I understand that we need to need to sell tickets, but let’s not overload it with sexual connotations and staging just to bring the audience in. That, I feel, is not being true to the art form. Although I am happy that performers are healthier now.”

The luminescent Luna glows like, well, Cosmo’s moon in Moonstruck. It’s easy to see why gay (and straight) men have fallen hard for this American diva. I tell her I’m sure she has a lot of Gay fans.

“All of them!” Luna replies, smiling. “They’re all Gay!”

Why does Audrey think that is?

“Why do you [Gay guys] love us? How could you not!” Luna laughs big-heartedly. “I don’t really know why – sometimes I just feel like a flame and they are my moths to a flame. I love them right back. I’m surrounded by Gay men, most of my male friends are Gay, and their love for me and my work has been unconditional. I really do feel blessed.”

L’Opéra de Montréal presents Lakmé at Salle Wilfred-Pelletier on Sept 21 - 24 - 26 - 28, nightly at 7:30 pm. Running time: 2 hours, 45 minutes, with two intermissions. 

Click here for tickets and more info, and click here for Audrey Luna’s official website.

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Courtesy Audrey Luna

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