Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Diva and The Director

Blockbuster talents meet in Sun Valley for ‘Spectacular’ show

Express Staff Writer

Meet the diva at a pre-party Friday, June 29. For a special Diva and Diamonds Party package that includes the pre-party at the home of Janet and Roger DeBard with a red carpet walk, hors d’oeuvres, hosted cocktails and benefits like valet parking on show night, visit Some selections slated for the Saturday, June 30 show include “Overture from The Light Calvary,” a selection from “La Boheme,” “Summertime” from “Porgy and Bess,” Gershwin, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Jerome Kern and Cole Porter. Courtesy photo

When the spotlight falls on center stage this weekend, all eyes will be on the gorgeous "diva" Alyson Cambridge, the sexy chanteuse whose voice has as many facets as the Chopard diamonds she wears.

And the music director leading the American Festival Chorus and Orchestra to accompany her is acclaimed Craig Jessop, academic, musician, singer and former director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Together, they will be the Sun Valley Summer Spectacular, the patriotic, peppy and sultry celebration of the kickoff of summer in the valley on Saturday, June 30, at 8 p.m. at the Sun Valley Pavilion.

"Given the ease with which she crosses over from opera to pop, Alyson Cambridge will be singing a diverse program, from arias to patriotic to favorite popular songs," said Frank Meyer, Sun Valley Opera president, who works with Sun Valley Resort to deliver this annual show. "This winter she sang arias from grand opera in her Europe tour with the famous Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja, and then back in the states, had the lead role in Jerome Kern's 'Show Boat' in Chicago."

Cambridge, a native of Arlington, Va., now based in New York City, has been touring internationally in musical theater circles across the globe. She sent in some details on her accelerated success from the road. Most every sentence ends in an exclamation point, proving she's an emotive powerhouse in any format.

Where are you now?

I've just returned to New York after a week in Denmark and a weekend in Oberlin, Ohio, and Chicago, Ill.

Am I right that you did "La Traviata"?

Yes. I did a wonderful and modern production in Warsaw, Poland, last winter and a more traditional version in Munich last fall. Violetta is one of my favorite roles. She is a beautifully tragic character with some of the most gorgeous music ever written.

What was it like working with Joseph Calleja? Will there be more collaborations?

It was a pleasure working with Joseph. He is a terrific singer and a charismatic and extremely engaging performer. I look forward to singing with him again.

What have you been doing of late? Are you bouncing between time zones?

The early part of the year, I was lucky enough to spend almost three months in one place (a very rare occurrence!)—Chicago. I was there singing with Lyric Opera of Chicago, performing the role of Julie in the acclaimed new production of "Show Boat." That was wonderful. Since then I've been bouncing between New York, Washington, Chicago and overseas to Denmark, and later this summer I'll be in London and Italy!

How do you accommodate your voice to the travel and climate and condition changes you have to do while touring?

I definitely have my travel and airplane rituals—I always wear a scarf, drink lots of water and take my vitamins! When your body is quite literally your instrument, you

really do have to take care of yourself in every way. I work out, eat well, try to get lots of sleep and always give myself at least one extra day to recover from jet lag when going overseas. I really do just try to keep up a healthy routine no matter what city or climate I'm in!

Does singing a variety of styles make you more resilient?

I love singing in different styles! I grew up listening to all different kinds of music and they have all influenced me in my career. Training classically has given me the foundation and technique to sing not only opera, but other styles as well. The different styles and repertoire are all a reflection of who I am as an artist and person. The best part of singing a variety of things is getting to express those different parts of me and sharing it with the audience.

How was doing "Show Boat"? Did you learn anything about yourself?

"Show Boat" was one of the best performance experiences of my career to date. I had the opportunity to work, for the fourth time, with director Francesca Zambello, who is a terrific visionary and really challenges you as an artist to dig deep and break barriers in your performance and in bringing your character to life. I also loved this foray into the musical theater genre. Although produced on a grand opera scale at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, there was an intimacy, a constant variety of nuance and freedom of expression in the music, text and spoken dialogue that I so enjoyed and found to be unique to the musical theater experience. I loved every minute of it.

Does one have to sacrifice physical training for vocal training or should they complement one another?

For me, they go hand in hand and most definitely complement one another. I work out at least five days a week—running and weight training, but am sure to balance it with stretching and try to get massages so as not to get too tight. Physical training is a big stress relief and way to relax for me as well. It's important to stay fit in every way!

What did you study outside of music and have you been able to apply that to your amazing career?

I was a double-degree student at Oberlin. I have a degree in sociology as well as a degree in voice performance and actually strongly considered going to law school. While I may not necessarily have direct applications of my sociology degree to my singing career, I do think that being a well-rounded and intelligent singer has served me well. All those years I spent doing research and writing papers certainly were not wasted and have probably made me that much more of a disciplined and focused artist. I still spend hours doing research for my roles and concerts, studying and memorizing repertoire and love doing it!

In terms of the show that you will be doing in Sun Valley, is there anything special you will do to prepare, and what can we look forward to?

The program in Sun Valley is a wonderfully varied one—opera, classic American standards, spirituals and patriotic songs. There really is something for everyone in this concert! I am looking forward to returning to Sun Valley and performing all this terrific music!


Craig Jessop is a legend in the music world known for his generosity with his knowledge and for his gift for transferring the joy of learning music to a larger audience. He will travel here from Utah, where he is the first dean of the Caine College for the Arts at Utah State. He fielded some questions from his home, and though he used fewer exclamation points, his enthusiasm leapt off the email.

How many years have you been coming to lead this concert in Sun Valley now?

This will be the fourth year that we have brought the American Festival Chorus and Orchestra to the Sun Valley Pavilion. It is always one of the highlights of our year to perform at Sun Valley. Past years have included guest artists Maureen McGovern and Peter Cetera.

What is it that makes this worth it to you to return each year?

Earl and Carol Holding have been an inspiration to me. They have become role models and examples of hard work, integrity, quality and service. As the former music director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, it was my privilege to work with them on some special projects. During the opening season of the new pavilion, they invited the Tabernacle Choir to perform.  

When I assumed my role at Utah State University the following year, the Holdings invited me to bring the newly formed American Festival Chorus and Orchestra to perform at the pavilion, and we've returned each year since. I've performed in all of the major outdoor summer venues in North America and Europe. The Sun Valley Pavilion is truly the finest outdoor venue in the world, as far as I'm concerned. Few can compare to its beauty and acoustical excellence. We are so very fortunate to have this truly world-class concert venue at Sun Valley. It is an honor each and every time we return to perform. Mr. Holding and I are both veterans of the Armed Forces.  Each summer we have come near the Fourth of July holiday and have always celebrated our nation as a part of our annual concert. This year we will do the same. In the words of Mr. Holding, "Anything worth doing is worth overdoing!" I could not agree more!

Have you worked with Ms. Cambridge before?

This will be my first opportunity to work with Ms Cambridge and I'm very honored. We are honored to collaborate in bringing Ms. Cambridge to Sun Valley. She is truly a rising star on the international opera scene. It's a great honor to work with her this year.

Any glimpse into what the audience can expect?

Our concert will be a grand potpourri of music showcasing Ms. Cambridge and her amazing versatility. From some of the most beloved opera arias of all time to popular music from the American Songbook to beloved tunes celebrating our nation, there will be something for every musical taste.

Sun Valley Summer Spectacular

Who: Alyson Cambridge and the American Festival Chorus and Orchestra.

When: Saturday, June 30, 8 p.m.

Where: Sun Valley Pavilion at the Sun Valley Resort.

How: Tickets from $29-$59 by visiting or

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