Kate Lindsey at Glyndebourne

With a voice that has been described as full-throated and vibrant, Lindsey has
assumed Mozart and Offenbach travesti roles in her career thus far. The trouser role in Ariadne will mark both Lindsey’s Glyndebourne
and role debuts, not to mention her first Strauss opera, when the production
opens on 18 May 2013.

When we met up at Glyndebourne, I asked if she had plans for future Strauss
roles (Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier and Zdenka in Arabella
spring to mind). She said she hoped so, a measured and careful response from a
young singer who clearly takes an admirably considered and well-paced view of
her career, rather than rushing into new roles. At the moment, she is simply
concentrating on the Composer, she explained. She feels it is important to get
this iconic role debut right, pointing out that you only get to do a role debut
once and that she wants to enjoy every moment. She has been preparing for the
role for over a month, pacing herself and studying, wanting to feel secure.

Lindsey has found an exciting freshness and vitality to the character of
which she is trying to take advantage. She points out that once you have done a
role, you always carry what you’ve done with you, and that there is a certain
beauty in having a blank canvas. She is relishing Strauss’ music as she gets
to know the role.

Her preparation has included reading the history behind the opera, notably
the relationship between Richard Strauss and his librettist Hugo von
Hoffmanstal. Lindsey finds that understanding the lives of the creators informs
the spirit of the character she is playing.

In fact, when Strauss and Hoffmanstal talked about expanding Ariadne auf
and writing the prologue, Strauss said that he did not want the
character of the Composer to be based on himself. The character was written so
that it was closer to Mozart, which made Strauss more comfortable. But Lindsey
feels, having read the letters between Strauss and Hoffmanstal, that the
character of the Composer is rather like Hoffmanstal. He could become inflamed
about things, whereas Strauss was a calmer, more grounded character.

Asked whether she found it frustrating not to be in the second part of
Ariadne auf Naxos, the opera proper, she said she found it so
rewarding to do the prologue that there was no use fretting about not being in
the second part. Also, in the new Glyndebourne production (which is directed by
Katharina Thoma and conducted by Vladimir Jurowski), her character has been
staged into the second part—though she does not provide details. This, of
course, entails extra rehearsals, but this is the sort of work that Lindsey
loves: simply being in the room during the production process.

Glyndebourne Opera, with its location on a country estate far from London
and with long rehearsal periods, is a very particular experience and one that
is also new to Lindsey. She has found Glyndebourne gorgeous, commenting that
from the moment she arrived, everyone was smiling and learning her name; it
made a big difference that there were friendly faces and a family atmosphere.
Her three-month stay at Glyndebourne will be the longest she has been in one
place in several years.

Lindsey has worked at Santa Fe and Saint Louis, both of whose opera
festivals were founded on the Glyndebourne model. Lindsey has found it
fascinating to see the original. Having read a history of Glyndebourne, she
finds John Christie’s founding of the festival in the middle of the
countryside in the 1930s simply inconceivable.

For the duration of her stay at Glyndebourne, Lindsey is living in a cottage
nearby, close to the South Downs. She has been taking advantage of the location
to take lots of walks, relishing the English countryside and in its network of
marked footpaths.

After Glyndebourne, Lindsey will be taking some time off. Then she has new
roles to study. In autumn, she will appear in Berlioz’s La Damnation de
and has a busy concert schedule. After Christmas, she will be
returning to the role Niklausse in Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann in
Munich and has a tour with Thomas Hengelbrock in what she describes as a
“Handel pasticcio,” a semi-staged production created from the
composer’s arias.

Lindsey would like to do more baroque opera. Give that she is comfortable in
travesti roles, she would be successful in such repertoire. But
Lindsey points out that there is a lot less baroque opera in the United States
than there is in Europe. She attributes this partly to the size of the
theatres, that the right voices for the repertoire do not always fit the

There is also the dramatic challenge, particularly in the da capo
arias. One needs the right artist to perform them, but also someone ready to
dig deep into the work. For Lindsey, such music requires a firm grasp of the
subtexts necessary to give the music life. She finds it a challenge to breathe
life into music, to build new ideas whilst still respecting tradition.

The future will bring several new roles while reprising existing ones such
as Niklausse. Lindsey finds it helpful to hold onto roles she knows. At the
moment she does not find that she gets bored or frustrated with repeating
roles. She points out that she is still young, yet adds that she never wants to
feel that she could not repeat a role.

For her, each experience is creative — different performances may push you
in different directions. You may not always connect with a director, but even
in difficult moments you find something that you have not accessed before.
Also, she does not stop when she leaves the rehearsal room, spending time
mulling over things, going over the interactions with other characters. She
will still be thinking hours later. Quoting Billy Joel, she found his comments
about his career not being 9 to 5 very helpful. Even once they have passed
opening night for Ariadne auf Naxos she will continue to think about
her character and find ways forward.

Lindsey finds it helpful to listen to recordings, adding that it is
fascinating to hear how other people have approached passages—that it can be
a voice lesson. She also appreciates being able to watch and observe
performances on DVD. With a role like the Composer, which has been assumed by
both mezzo-sopranos and sopranos, there is the added interest of hearing how
the different voice types navigate the music. In places, the vocal line goes
high; when learning the role Lindsey was curious to hear how someone with a
much thicker voice made it work.

For her, the Composer is such a physically intense character that it is a
challenge to find the relaxation necessary to float some beautiful lines. She
also points out that nowadays, it is harder for singers to experiment with
roles because performances can quickly find their way onto the internet after
people film with their phones. This creates an interesting pressure, Lindsey
says, feels there is no opportunity to try things out in the way singers in the
past were able to.

As a singer you now have to be your own protector, she continues, which is
no easy task for the young. You have to learn to say no. But the results of
saying no, of knowing yourself, can lead to wonderful opportunities and
hopefully people will respect you.

Mozart has featured very strongly in her career so far. She has performed
the Second Lady in Die Zauberflˆte, Idamante in Idomeneo,
Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Cherubino in La Nozze di Figaro, and
Annio in La Clemenza di Tito, with plans for Sesto next year. Lindsey
feels connected to Mozart’s music and that his roles are a challenge to sing
with their inherent humanity; they offer dramatic life, and that is where she
likes to start. Lindsey finds that when she goes back to Mozart, the music
tells you where the balance is in your voice. Mozart’s music is like medicine
for the voice.

Lindsey is a graduate of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist
Development Program, a program which she found very helpful indeed. It was an
intense three years of study, but working with and observing some of the top
singers in the world; taking small roles in productions; and sharing the
rehearsal space with major singers allowed her to learn what opera really was
all about. There was glamour at some level, but also an intense process, which
was very educational and helped her to define some of her artistic priorities.
Her time on the Met program also included working with James Levine, enabling
her to delve into the music in all its intensity. She found the period a
goldmine, and is forever grateful for the opportunities it gave her.

Lindsey admits to having no grand plan. There are roles that she aspires to
sing, projects she wishes to create and people she would like to work with
creatively, adding that working in a creative environment is the most important
thing. Fixed goals are not Lindsey’s style; she says that there is grace in
allowing things to unfold. She doesn’t consider it just her manager’s job
to get her work but her job to do the best work possible. The only thing she
can control is the present. Her goal for now is to give everything to the
current project. After that, other things will come.

Ariadne auf Naxos runs from 18 May to 11 July as part of
Glyndebourne Festival. For more information visit www.glyndebourne.com or call 01273 813813.

Robert Hugill

image_description=Kate Lindsey [Photo by Dario Acosta]
product_title=Kate Lindsey at Glyndebourne
product_by=An interview by Robert Hugill
product_id=Above: Kate Lindsey [Photo by Dario Acosta]