Maestro Bruce Hangen and the Orchestra of Indian Hill commemorate Black History Month, the 150th anniversary of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and the birthday of President Abraham Lincoln in musical terms on Sunday, February 21.
The program will feature works by two African-American composers — William Grant Still, and Hale Smith, whose Four Spirituals will be sung by lyric coloratura soprano Kristin Renee Young.
Lauded for her “effervescent” performances, Ms. Young sang in the premiere of Cries and Whispers by João MacDowell with International Brazilian Opera Company in spring 2015. Recent and upcoming performances include Norina (Don Pasquale) and Zerlina (Don Giovanni) with Opera Company of Brooklyn. As a soloist, Ms. Young has performed in Handel’s Messiah, Orff’s Carmina Burana, and Mozart’s Requiem.
Take a minute to learn more about Ms. Young, her inspirations, and finding strength in the music.
What have been your favorite roles?
My favorite role tends to be whatever I am studying at any given moment, most likely because I become so wrapped up in the character, constantly humming the melody and reciting the text in my head. However, the roles that I’ve most enjoyed singing are Tytania from A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Benjamin Britten and Cleopatra from Giulio Cesare by George Frederic Handel. Both roles demonstrate the boundlessness of a woman’s strength and her ability to love.
You are performing a mix of Mozart, traditional spirituals, and a contemporary Previn piece with lyrics by the legendary Toni Morrison. How do you approach these pieces as an interpreter of the music?
Again, the word strength comes to mind. In each piece, the subject/protagonist’s strength is challenged when faced with the possibility of loss, whether this loss takes the shape of lost love in Pamina’s aria, lost life or pride in “Take My Mother Home,” or lost faith in the spirituals. And in each piece, strength wins. In fact, accepting the possibility of loss actually becomes a bastion of strength. At the thought of losing love, Pamina resolves that in death she will find peace. In Previn’s piece, death, too, offers solace to the song’s subject, who wants her family members to be free from the tortures of slavery. Similarly, the spirituals remind the subjects that their experiences can be made less painful by humbly praying to God. This recurring theme reminds me that human beings can access inner strength even in the most trying of times.
What inspired you toward opera?
You might be surprised to hear that Richard Gere and Julia Roberts inspired me to consider opera. In Pretty Woman, the actors’ characters attend a performance of La Traviata at the San Francisco Opera House. While the appearance of La Traviata in the film is quite clever, seeing as Roberts’ character closely parallels Violetta’s in the opera, I was less conscious of the story line than I was of the quick, high, and challenging coloratura passages being sung on stage. I immediately wanted to find out if I was up to the challenge of singing them myself!
CONCERT TICKETS: $20-35-50; all seating is reserved. Call 978-486-9524 x116 or order tickets online. There is a pre-concert talk at 2:00 pm with Maestro Hangen, plus a post-concert Stage Talk with Bruce and guests. This concert is sponsored by Deluxe Corporation Foundation. Season Media Sponsor is GateHouse Media New England.