Michelle DeYoung is in town to take part in the return of John Adams' El Niño - a contemporary masterpiece that made its debut here nine years ago with SFS. She was gracious enough to be the subject of the first Beastly Profile. DeYoung has appeared in many of the world's leading opera houses and halls and she is without doubt one of the finest singers currently performing onstage. She's sung on two Grammy-winning recordings, includingMTT and the San Francisco Symphony's Mahler's Third.
I wrote to her with ten questions, and here are her responses:
You're here to sing in John Adams' El Niño, which is at least the second time you've performed it with the composer conducting. Did Adams seek you out for the part?
Michelle DeYoung: I do think that Adams asks for me, although there are a couple of others that also sing this part. It was originally written for the late and amazing Lorraine Hunt Lieberson.
Many people are on tight budgets this year. Why should someone go hear this instead of Handel's Messiah?
MDY: Hard to answer, as I also love to hear the Messiah... but this is a very special piece, and experience. It is semi staged and beautifully done. I find it so very moving and thrilling, I want everyone to experience it as well.
You perform on both sides of the Atlantic- can you tell us a bit about what you miss from one side when you're performing on the other?
MDY: I feel I am so blessed, as I love most of the places that I work. I am always a bit homesick when not home, but I find that wherever I am is a temporary home. I am a bit nomadic, and really like being in different places... .of course there is no place like home!
Though we've had the pleasure of hearing you with the San Francisco Symphony before, you've never performed across the street at the War Memorial Opera House. Is this sad fact going to change soon?
MDY: I hope so... I would love to sing there, just the right situation hasn't shown itself yet!
What role would you like to sing, that you're ready for, that no one knows about?
MDY: I would love to do Carmen and Dalilah...and am anxious to try Marie in Wozzeck.
You were in the remarkable LA Ring cycle, directed by Achim Freyer. If it's ever done again, do you want to be in it?
MDY: It was mostly difficult because of the very steep rake... and I also really enjoy acting and interactions, which this didn't have... but I LOVE LOVE LOVE the roles I got to sing, so if it was the right situation, I would do it again.
Keeping on the Freyer Ring, do know what the deal was with the airplane?
MDY: hahaha.... it was supposed to be Froh in there, painting the rainbow at the end, but he didn't end up going in there.
Was that your first Sieglinde, and how was it performing opposite Placido Domingo in such a seminal role?
MDY: I sang Sieglinde in the Chicago Ring 4 years ago (I think) with Domingo...which was amazing. It's thrilling to sing the role with him... I would do it again in a heart beat.
If you could drink mojitos with anyone, anywhere, who would it be and where would you have them? And please don't say "with my husband"!
MDY: I haven't gone to Hawaii, but I really want to, so I am going to say Hawaii with Dennis Haysbert (Ok, so I didn't say my husband.. haha) or actually, with Meryl Streep on one side and Phillip Seymour Hoffman on the other.
You like pop and rock music and so do I, but many people in the "classical" audience don't get it and vice versa. What would you suggest rock audiences listen to as a bridge to "getting" classical or opera?
MDY: My husband isn't a fan of classical, and LOVES Bluebeard's Castle by Bartok. It's only an hour or so long, and it's exciting and beautiful and has a high C... I also tell people to see Marriage of Figaro...
If you could be the lead singer for any rock and roll band for a night, what band do you want to front and which song do you want to tear it up on in front of 20,000 people?
MDY: I want to sing a duet with Freddie Mercury (we are dreaming, right?) or Sting!!