“The Inspector”, opening at The Wolf Trap this week, is an “out of the box” opera for typical operagoers, but has a story line that Washingtonians and politicos will find especially resonant.
With an English libretto written by Mark Campbell, the opera is based on The Government Inspector by Nikolai Gogol. Soprano Anne-Carolyn Bird plays Beatrice, the rebel daughter of a corrupt mayor in a fictitious town in Sicily about to be turned upside down by the visit of an inspector from Mussolini’s regime.
Arts Post caught up with Bird between rehearsals.
AP: As you’ve gotten to know Beatrice, how have you related to her?
Bird: She’s the liberal, hippie daughter of conservative parents. My parents don’t like me or the choices I’m making. I think anyone who has ever disagreed with their parents politically will relate to her and the story. I admire her social conscience. My parents are different, but since I have a child of my own, it gives me greater perspective about parent-child relationships.
AP: Tell us what it’s like before you go on stage.
Bird: I try not to be too tied down to a routine in terms of preparation. I always have a good meal with protein-that’s key. My favorite time to relax and prepare is the twenty minutes I spend in hair and makeup. It’s a time for centering and getting in the right mental frame.
AP: Opera Singers have to portray a character like an actor, but some may not consider what you do acting. Your thoughts?c
Bird: I think that’s a bad stereotype that we’re not really acting. Certainly in the golden age of opera, the focus was on the voice, and the singers of that time did not consider themselves actors, but now people expect us to look and play the part. A five minute aria can be much more difficult than a ninety second monologue, but needs just as much, if not more, emotion. I just try to leave it all out there, and sometimes I’m still reeling from the emotion I’ve had to conjure when it’s time for my curtain call.
AP: How is an English libretto different for you as a performer? How do traditional opera fans respond to it?
Bird: It’s actually harder for me because you can’t hide behind a foreign language. People are more aware of the quality of your voice when you are singing in their own language. Other English operas have been well received. I think people who love opera just want a good story and good music. This is temporary, but it’s got the traditional arias, and some of the most famous operas in history have been comedies, after all. This is a fun story that is very accessible.