Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

10 Questions for...Patricia Racette

March 14, 2011

Patricia Racette Photo: Devon Cass

There are few American vocalists as beloved and respected as soprano Patricia Racette. She’s a powerful performer known to audiences around the United States and the world for a wide range of repertory. She’s played a key role in several world premieres of American operas, but more recently is leaving her mark on her touchstone Puccini and Verdi roles. Most notably her Cio-Cio San was preserved on video as part of the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD series in the phenomenal Anthony Minghella production. She again graces the Los Angeles Opera stage this month in a new role for her, the Governess in Britten’s The Turn of the Screw. It’s an exciting performance in a very intense opera and I can tell you from experience that this should be on your must-see list. And what’s more, the always gracious Ms. Racette took time out of her busy rehearsals for The Turn of the Screw to take a shot at the Out West Arts 10 Questions.

1. What role would you most like to perform, but haven’t yet?
I am very interested in taking on Minnie in La Fanciulla del West... always wanted 'to pack' onstage!

2. What role would you never perform, even if you could?
Micaela.. oops, too late! Let's just say that I will never perform it again!

3. You’ll be singing the role of the governess in Britten’s The Turn of the Screw with Los Angeles Opera in March and have been hugely successful as Ellen Orford in Peter Grimes. What draws you to Britten’s works and music?
Britten is for the thinking singer-- not that all singers are not thinkers on some level(!)-- but his music is quite difficult with its angularity and layered harmonics. At the same time, he is also a great storyteller and creator of atmosphere. Stir those ingredients together and you have a theatrical experience, which is what draws me to any role.

Patricia Racette in The Turn of the Screw Photo: Robert Millard/LAO 2011

4. The Turn of the Screw is a ghost story. What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever had to do on the opera stage?
Well, there is scary and there is intense.. and there is intensely scary! My final jump to my death in David Alden's Kat'ya Kabonova for ENO was that moment! To be honest, though, I LOVED it! It was almost the feeling of free fall.. (thank goodness for the mattress below!)

5. American operas and new works have played a big part in your career from Moravec’s The Letter, to Picker’s An American Tragedy and Carlisle Floyd’s Cold Sassy Tree. What part or role would you most like to have composed for you next, and by whom?
What a luxurious thought! I am so drawn to Edith Piaf that I think it would be absolutely amazing to have an opera composed for me that allowed me to offer my take on her wild and crazy life-- and it would also be exhilarating to merge my opera and cabaret lives! Any takers?

6. Which music made you want to sing opera?
Puccini,Puccini, Puccini! Specifically Suor Angelica.. and Renata Scotto!

Patricia Racette in Suor Angelica Photo: Cory Weaver/SFO

7. You’ve had remarkable success as Cio-Cio San in Madama Butterfly, a performance that has been saved on DVD following the Metropolitan Opera’s HD broadcast of Anthony Minghella’s landmark production in 2009. Which other of your performances might you like to save for posterity?
I am very proud of my Il Trittico performances, as doing that trilogy was always my dream. Beyond that, I would like for my take on Tosca to be remembered.

8. Your iPod is destroyed in a tenor’s tantrum. Which lost tracks would you miss most?
Judy Garland's Judy at Carnegie Hall

9. What's your current obsession?
My new home and role of (Madame) General Contractor for the past 18 months!

10. With which of your operatic roles do you have the most in common?
I would have to say Tosca comes to mind-- not that it's a literal fit since no iconic operatic heroines really give a viable look at the modern woman, but at least Floria speaks her mind and is a woman of action-- with those attributes I concur!


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