Wednesday, February 19, 2014

One voice, many uses

2nd annual Winter Festival features versatile soprano

Express Staff Writer

The mesmerizing Suzanne Vinnik will be here for the Sun Valley Opera’s 2nd Annual Winter Festival.
Courtesy photo by Jerry Metellus

   You can be envious of her beauty, her talent, her international lifestyle, but you have to love a girl who cops to spending her rent money on a shih tzu pup to help her beat the single-girl, always-on-the-road, can’t-do-that-cause-it-might-compromise-my-career blues.
    Soprano Suzanne Vinnik started singing opera with the Nevada Opera Theatre at the tender age of 8, inspired by a video of Italian soprano Renata Scotto in the role of Musetta in Puccini’s “La Boheme.”
    Vinnik is part of the Sun Valley Opera’s Winter Festival, which begins tonight, Feb. 19, with a free, fun lecture on Comic Opera by the educated and effervescent R.L. Rowsey at The Community Library in Ketchum, at 6 p.m.
    “Oh Better Far to Sing Real High” is an exploration of the excessive delights of Gilbert and Sullivan with the artistic interpretation from the conservative to bold, contemporary recreations and classic masterpieces. 
    Rowsey brings to the conversation his experience as a director, musical director, conductor, accompanist, coach, singer and pianist for the past 39 years.
    And then, the stunning soprano begins her vocal voyage.
    “Miss Vinnik recently sang in concert opposite famous tenor Marcello Giordanni and has performed the role of Violetta in ‘La Traviata’ with one of America’s leading opera companies, Florida Grand Opera,” said Frank Meyer, Sun Valley Opera’s president. “In the 13 years Sun Valley Opera has presented many fine voices in our community, I have never heard a singer belt out
jazz favorites like Miss Vinnik.”
     She will debut in Sun Valley Resort’s Lodge Dining Room on Thursday, Feb. 20, for the Winter Diva Gala from 5:30-7 p.m.
    The rafters of The Church of the Big Wood in Ketchum will shake when Vinnik—joined by the Gilbert and Sullivan Players perform a set of songs from Broadway and Gilbert and Sullivan classics—at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 21.
    And finally, “The Pirates of Penzance,” a family-friendly opera performed by the Gilbert and Sullivan Players accompanied by the Brigham Young University Chorus and Orchestra, will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, at the Community Campus in Hailey.
    “‘Pirates of Penzance’ is being presented around the world on not only musical theater stages but also opera houses,” Meyer said. “It won the Tony award for best musical revival and the Drama Desk award for outstanding musical. Last year, the New York Times’ music critic praised the Gilbert and Sullivan Players for their excellence in both acting and singing.”
    The plot of ‘Pirates’ centers on the dilemma of young Frederic who, as a child, was mistakenly apprenticed to pirates until his 21st birthday. Since he was born in leap year on Feb. 29, he is honor bound to remain a pirate until the distant date of 1940, despite his moral objection to piracy. Helping Frederic to deal with this unusual predicament are the brash Pirate King, Ruth, the pirate maid-of-all-work, romantic Mabel, and the delightfully stuffy Major General Stanley.
    Vinnik warmed up her pipes for the upcoming weekend by answering a few questions from the Idaho Mountain Express.

IME: You are so amazingly versatile, and absolutely charismatically gifted. Were there/are there other paths calling your name?
Not really—opera is where my heart is. I love to sing jazz but unless you are a star you’ll probably perform in tiny clubs. I love opera because it is a total, all-encompassing art form. It puts my love of theater, culture, language, literature and music together.

There is an opera singer on this season of ‘The Bachelor.’ She talks of the difficulty of having a social life with her work and her discipline and the sacrifices she has made. Do you find you have had to make many compromises on your journey? Or does being so versatile help that?
Absolutely, having a “normal life” is out of the question if you really want to be a singer. I’ve missed important family functions, weddings, holidays, etc. Most men don’t really want to date me seriously because I have to pick up and leave for a few weeks to months at a time. I can’t go out drinking, eat certain foods, drink coffee or go to loud places if I have to sing! I’m not complaining. I love what I do.

The weekend you are performing here you will perform at the gala, and perform a wide range of styles with the Gilbert and Sullivan Players. Do you like bouncing around like that with your voice, or is it more challenging?
I am, however, singing an array of opera arias, classical musical theater, art songs and some standards. It’s extremely difficult to shift gears like this. I normally don’t do this sort of thing in one evening because it’s very different vocally. If I had to do multiple performances I wouldn’t do it, but one night is not going to kill me.

We’ve tossed away a lot of previous notions about opera—that we can’t follow it for the language, and that it has large singers and sad stories. What do you like to say to encourage people to try opera for the first time, or, again?
It is the greatest art form in the universe. Seriously, we are athletes. The correlation between sports and opera are hand in hand. If we do something great there’s applause, if it’s bad, boos! We don’t use microphones and there is no auto-tune! There is theater, dance, literature, singing, art in the set and costume design.
    If you don’t find at least one thing you liked about a performance, there is probably something wrong with you. I’m not saying you have to love all of it but there is something for everyone to appreciate.

Why is ‘Pirates’ a good launching point for newbies?
I’ve never actually seen it, but it’s a simple story in English meant to make you laugh. Who doesn’t love a good laugh? Audiences will be amazed at how fast the bass can rattle off his text. It’s seriously insane. The aria is like rapping a tongue twister. “Poor Wandering One” is also a very sweet song that will get stuck in your head long after you see the show.

Concerts or costumes—which dresses do you prefer?
    Both! My gowns are gorgeous. I’ve worn some of the most beautiful costumes worth thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars or ugly peasant clothes—it depends on the role.

 Serenades and silliness
- Feb. 19—Comic opera lecture by R.L. Rowsey, at The Community Library, Ketchum. 6 p.m.
- Feb. 20—Winter Diva Gala, featuring Soprano Suzanne Vinnik, at the Sun Valley Lodge Dining Room, 5:30-7 p.m. (Diva tickets: $150-$1,000 for all four nights.)
- Feb. 21, Broadway and Gilbert & Sullivan Classics Concert,  at the Church of the Big Wood, Ketchum. 7:30 p.m. $35. Starring Vinnik and the Gilbert and Sullivan Players.
- Feb. 22, “The Pirates of Penzance,” the Gilbert and Sullivan Players accompanied by the BYU Chorus and Orchestra,  at the Community Campus, Hailey. 7:30 p.m. $40.


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