A few weeks ago, the very intriguing and very busy Elizabeth Futral
took some time in between Dolores Claiborne
rehearsals to answer some questions for us. Now onstage, the San Jose Mercury News
raved that her performance as Vera Donovan in this exciting world premiere opera, "generates out-sized power." We think that assessment is pretty spot on!
You’ve originated quite a few roles during your career. What is the most rewarding and challenging aspect of that?
Working on originating roles is such an intensely creative process. I love discovering a character through the eyes of a composer and librettist and to be the one who does that for the first time. I've always enjoyed the discovery process, even with standard repertoire roles. But working on a brand new piece with the composer around makes the process even more organic and stimulating, especially if the composer is interested (which I find most are) in making the piece work as well as possible for the singer (and orchestra, chorus and stage director!). It is truly exciting and rewarding to see a piece come to life for the first time and to watch the changes as they happen, to see how the drama can be intensified with the insertion of new music or deletion of some phrases and with the change of a note in one register of the voice to another register. It can be challenging, too, when asked to make a change at the last minute. It requires a lot of focus and determination to be on one's game musically and dramatically.
Futral as Vera Donovan.
How did you prepare for the role of Vera? Did you read Stephen King’s novel?
In preparing for the role of Vera Donovan I did read Stephen King's novel, Dolores Claiborne. It is an essential starting point for the opera and, thus, makes for a logical point of departure in understanding the opera. The book is really well written and completely engaging because Stephen King has given Dolores (who tells the whole story in first person) a really colorful, funny and poignant voice. So the character of Vera comes to life through Dolores' eyes. And it is their relationship that is so interesting to me. I haven't seen the movie...I'll do that after we are done with this run of performances! I was more interested in creating my role without the influence of seeing her as the movie character.
With Patricia Racette (as Dolores Claiborne).
Now that you are rehearsing, can you give us any insight to the look and feel of the set design? Was it what you were expecting?
The set design is wonderful and so completely atmospheric, with various still and moving photographs creating many of the backdrops. One can't help but be drawn into the story. The depiction of the "present day" of the story and the flashback portions are made very clear by the use of different levels on the stage. I think it is going to be most engaging!
What led you to become an opera singer?
I guess I became an opera singer because I love to sing and I love to communicate through my singing. The acting portion of opera singing is as important to me as the singing part. I love that my world is constantly changing with each new piece of music I am rehearsing, learning or performing. There's really never a dull moment and for that I am really grateful!
With Susannah Biller (as Selena St. George) and Racette.
Who are your absolute favorite opera characters and why?
I have lots of favorite opera characters. I love Blanche Dubois (have never sung her but think she is such a beautiful, vulnerable and complex character—both musically and dramatically). I love Violetta Valery from La Traviata. Again, her complexity and her particular dramatic journey make her endlessly intriguing to me. I have always loved Susanna from The Marriage of Figaro because she is so smart and charming and desperate and brave and because it's MOZART!!! There are so many other great ones I love but I have to go rehearse...