Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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

10 Questions for...
Kelley O'Connor

May 29, 2012

Kelley O'Connor. Photo: Zachary Maxwell Stertz
Mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor has long been a favorite here in Los Angeles, a sentiment increasingly shared by audiences around the world. She’s made her mark to date singing a number of contemporary works from several high profile composers. She’s particularly well known for her signature performances as Lorca in Golijov’s Ainadamar which she has sung all over the world and will take to Madrid later this summer. Of her many recordings, her performance in this opera under Robert Spano brought her and the company many accolades including a Grammy award. She was hand picked by Peter Lieberson to be the first vocalist to perform his Neruda Songs following the death of his wife Lorraine Hunt Lieberson whom they were originally written for. O’Connor is a frequent guest to the stages of all the major American orchestras in repertoire from Bernstein to Ravel. But even with all this history, she may be stepping into her biggest role here yet when she debuts this Thursday in the title role of John Adams’ new oratorio/opera The Gospel According to the Other Mary with a text compiled by Peter Sellars who will direct staged performances of the work here next season. She and the Los Angeles Philharmonic will again be led by music director Gustavo Dudamel. Despite the challenges of playing Mary Magdalene, Ms. O’Connor kindly found the time to take a crack at 10 Questions for Out West Arts.
  1. What role would you most like to perform but haven't yet?
    My dream role is Hans Sachs, but that will have to wait until I come back as a dramatic baritone, so for now I would love to sing Julius Caesar. This is a very challenging role vocally given all of the coloratura required, but I am drawn to the complexity of the character and the stunning music. There are so many different aspects to this man that I am intrigued to figure him out. Also, I'll take pants over a corset any day of the week!
  2. What role would you never want to perform even if you could?
    Baba the Turk. Does anyone really WANT to be the bearded lady?
Dudamel, Kelley O'Connor and members of the L.A. Philharmonic in 2010 Photo: mine
  1. You’ve already worked with some of the greatest artists in the music world at this point in your career. Whom have you not had a chance to work with yet, that you would most like to?
    You're right, I have been very lucky to work with some of the most amazing composers, conductors and directors in the world!! But one that I haven't had the pleasure to work with is Sir Simon Rattle. I admire his work and vision so much (especially the St. Matthew Passion he recently conceived with Peter Sellars). I feel he has the same goal I do which is to communicate a pure and honest message without any pretense. I think it would just be heavenly to work with him.
  2. You’re particularly well known for your work with contemporary composers including Peter Lieberson, Osvaldo Golijov, and John Adams. What’s the best thing about working with a living composer?
    The freedom! My favorite aspect of new music is that there is no set standard for how everything should sound and you can create your own interpretation. This is very liberating. It's the best part of my job. Actually creating something from nothing is the reason that I do this for a living. So many voices need to be heard and it is our job to sing life into them!
  1. Speaking of your work with John Adams, L.A. audiences will get the pleasure of hearing you return to the Los Angeles Philharmonic this month with Adams’ new work The Gospel According to the Other Mary under Gustavo Dudamel. (An excerpt from Kelley O'Connor's video log while preparing the piece can be seen above.) What can you tell us about your part in this large new oratorio?
    It's a War Horse! I am so thrilled to be part of this new piece. This is the first time that John has written something especially for me, and I am completely honored that he and Peter felt I could perform the role of Mary Magdalene. She is definitely a tormented soul who deals with a lot of doubt. This is something that I feel I can relate to and is really challenging me to bring out deep feelings and portray them to the audience. I cannot wait.
  2. What music most inspired you to become a professional vocalist?
    I have to admit that I am a choral singer at heart. There is nothing like creating music in a group and I think that is why I am always so glad to work with Peter and have such a familial element added to the creative process. I know that it is my experiences in choir throughout my elementary school days and onto my time at USC that gave me the desire to pursue this as a profession. Not only the music but the wonderful musicians and people I met during those times.
  3. Your iPod is destroyed by a tempestuous tenor. Which lost tracks would you miss most?
    Right now...all of my voice memos. I am listening 24/7 to all of my coachings in preparation for the Adams piece. It is the best learning tool I have! Luckily, I have my first meeting with Osvaldo Golijov recorded on tape (that's how long ago it was that I met him!) and that will be preserved for all time no matter what that tenor does!
Kelley O'Connor as Lorca in Golijov's Ainadamar in 2007. Photo: Ken Howard/Santa Fe Opera 2007
  1. You’ve had remarkable success with a number of recordings with a variety of major American orchestras in recent years. Is there a performance in particular you’re pleased has been saved for posterity?
    Of course, Ainadamar. That was my first recording and it was made after our magical summer in Santa Fe recreating the piece with Peter. Robert Spano was also the first conductor I worked with outside of school (in the original Ainadamar production at Tanglewood) and recording with him and the Atlanta Symphony is like performing with my hometown band. They have become like family to me and have really seen me grow as an artist and a person. I was lucky enough to record the Lieberson Neruda Songs with them as well. I have too many life-changing memories with them to name them all!
  2. What’s your current obsession?
    Musically speaking it's Bruckner 9 which I just heard at Disney Hall with the L.A. Philharmonic and Sir Simon Rattle. It blew my mind and luckily Gustavo Dudamel's recording came up on my Spotify so I got to hear two amazing interpretations. In life, it's my Vitamix blender. I'm a big foodie and I am obsessed with researching different food trends. I have tried them all! Right now it's Paleo!
  3. What’s next for Kelley O’Connor?
    I am again lucky to get to spend the summer with the amazing Peter Sellars and my best friend Jessica Rivera performing Golijov's Ainadamar in Madrid!


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?



Opera Reviews '10-'11

Opera Reviews '09-'10

Opera Reviews '06-'09

L.A. Phil Reviews '09/'10

L.A. Phil Reviews '08/'09

L.A. Theater Reviews


Follow Along


Los Angeles

Follow me on Twitter