Andriana Chuchman: the Winnipeg-born soprano makes versatility a career commitment.
Chuchman was accepted to the Merola program--she found out she was moving on to the audition finals during the intermission of La boheme-and attended for two summers while doing small roles with Manitoba Opera and also nannying for Tracy Dahl, her mentor, friend and coach. "It was a great experience as I got to see how a successful singer can manage both a career and a family," she says. "It's the kind of balance I expect I'll have to manage later on." She started studying with Dahl when she was 17 and they are still working together.
"What I knew would change my life and set my singing career on the right path was getting into the Ryan Young Artist Program." This Lyric Opera of Chicago program was at the top of her list, both because of its outstanding reputation and Chicago's relative closeness to Winnipeg. "Ryan was a perfect environment for me. As a young singer, you get to see how a company works, get to use their resources, get the best coaches, get to see star performers at work, get to do small, medium and large roles. A Jot of companies and managers come to see young artists arid hold auditions. All these opportunities are in one place--it's a perfect nest for a singer."
In her second year there, Chuchman sang her first title role, Marie in La fille du regiment. "Oh my goodness, I thought, I am the daughter of the regiment in The Daughter of the Regiment! I tried not to think about this too much. In the event, it was a lot of fun. I had my first high sustained E Flat on stage in "Salut a la France"... Marie does hit high notes and can sometimes be seen as a pipsqueak coloratura, but it's really lyrical, there are a lot of middle and lyrical qualities. "II faux partir" is really a beautiful lyric aria."
Chuchman acquired her current manager during the last year of the Ryan program. Chicago Opera Theater noticed her at the final audition for the Ryan, which led to her first Handel role, Dorinda in Orlando at COT. Another opera house where she is now a frequent guest is Michigan Opera Theater. She sang there in the double bill of Menotti's The Medium and a staged Carl Orff Carmina Burana with acrobats and dancers. "I sang "Dulcissime" hanging up in a hoop 10 feet up in the air," she laughs. Last fall at MOT, she was Susanna, a more down-to-earth role.
Judging by the range of roles she is performing to acclaim, Chuchman is equally at ease in opera, operetta and musical. "Before I even started at University of Manitoba, I really loved pop music and wanted to be a pop-folk singer. I listened to jazz and musical theatre and I grew up on The Sound of Music, Annie, Mary Poppins.
"I feel it comes naturally to me, this ease to cross musical boundaries. Maybe it has to do with my personality. I like comedy, I like serious and I like the melding of the two. I also have a dance background, which helps in operetta. As Valencienne in Chicago, I was in a can-can number with the girls, doing jump splits. I did cartwheels in one of Marie's arias in Regiment.I have some guitar background, so in the coming Showboat at Washington National Opera, It get to accompany myself on stage. I never like to limit myself. I'll always try something first--you often surprise yourself. Just go for it?'
A pure Each is also seen as something of a limitation by Chuchrnan, who has attributes of more than one soprano voice type."I sometimes ask Tracy, my teacher of 13 years, 'So now, what am I?' She answers: '... Soprano?''' It is always a challenge for the singer to choose for auditions the five arias that cover her range. "I don't want to do soubrette rep only, and I don't want to do lyric coloratura only, but both and more. That's why I answer 'soprano' whenever I'm asked about my Fach. I try not to pigeon-hole myself as I do have a lot of versatility, vocally and as an actress."
As Olympia in Canadian Opera Company's recent Les contes d'Hoffmann, she danced a frantic waltz with Hoffmann. Does her dance training influence her operatic interpretation? "I have people tell me after seeing me on stage,'I can tell you've danced? I think it helps a lot. I was trained from a really young age at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet for 7 years, but at one point had to decide between singing and dance. My heart was with singing, but I now often get asked to dance in operas, and I love it. It's what makes me me as an opera singer. Dance is another form of expression, of being present in the music." And does she ever get the urge to dance when she detects dance rhythms in the music she's singing? "It depends on the staging. With Dorinda, I was chopping carrots to the beat in one of my arias so that soup kept me busy. And there are other times when you put certain restraints aside. [Characters like Despina, Susanna] and certainly Marie are very earthy girls, almost tomboyish.You almost feel more raw in your movements and not as graceful. You can strip your grace away and just be boyish in a sense.And that's also a fun challenge."
After Olympia, Chuchman returned to Toronto in June for Mahler's Eighth with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. The end of June was reserved for Bard SummerScape Festival in upper New York state, which will have Saint-Saens as its theme this year. In Le roi malgre dui, the opera by Saint-Saens' contemporary Emmanuel Chabrier, she will sing Minka. This being a co-production with Wexford Festival Opera in Ireland, it looked as if she would make her European debut there as Minka, but the Met obligations took precedence. That European debut, however, although not quite ready for public announcement, "is on the horizon."
In mid-October, Churchman returns to Michigan for a major baroque role, Cleopatra in Handel's Giulio Cesare in Egitto, with David Daniels in the title role. She will be back in Winnipeg for a couple of Messiahs, followed by the second half of the Elisir run at the Met until early Feb. 2013. After that, Magnolia calls at Washington, in the Francesca Zambello-directed Showboat.
"My heart was with singing, but I now often get asked to dance in operas, and I love it."
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|Title Annotation:||New Productions New Roles|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2012|
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