Surviving Classical Music

Kristine Opolais

June 12, 2020 Kristine Opolais Episode 49
Surviving Classical Music
Kristine Opolais
Chapters
Surviving Classical Music
Kristine Opolais
Jun 12, 2020 Episode 49
Kristine Opolais

Today Andrew and Grace speak with Latvian opera artist & soprano Kristine Opolais about her time under lockdown, as well as share a few stories.

Kristine's Website:
https://kristineopolais.com/

Contact Us
survivingclassicalmusic@gmail.com

Our Social Media Pages:
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Show Notes Transcript

Today Andrew and Grace speak with Latvian opera artist & soprano Kristine Opolais about her time under lockdown, as well as share a few stories.

Kristine's Website:
https://kristineopolais.com/

Contact Us
survivingclassicalmusic@gmail.com

Our Social Media Pages:
Instagram
https://www.instagram.com/surviving.classicalmusic/
Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/survivingclassicalmusic/

Andrew Burn :

Hello and welcome to surviving classical music. I'm Andrew Burn.

Grace Newcombe :

I'm Grace Newcombe

Andrew Burn :

and today we're speaking with Latvian opera artist, soprano Christina Opolais. Thank you very much for speaking with us today.

Kristine Opolais :

Thanks for having me.

Andrew Burn :

Christina, how were you affected by the pandemic?

Kristine Opolais :

Well, I didn't know not affected negatively. I finally have a vacation and I do a lot of good things and I'm finally spending time with my daughter. And, and I'm just taking care of my body. I find that I have time to have exercises with my physiotherapist. And, and I just I just, I'm relaxing and I'm listening music I have to study so I'm very relaxed. So it said, of course, it said in terms that we're not traveling anymore. And we're not performing and of course as any many others of my colleagues, I lost a lot of projects. And it's it's not it's not nice but I really am really happy to to stop for a little you know, and just have time for myself or my spirit and just become a little bit and not be worrying about flights. Yeah, at least to stay. I really feel very happy right now.

Grace Newcombe :

At this time of year. How much would you usually be traveling what's the difference for you now?

Kristine Opolais :

Well, I'm not traveling at all, but because I didn't I travel non stop all the time saying, okay, non stop. So it's like maximum I'm at home was one week to 10 days. Well, yeah. And, and so it's kind of it was funny, first four weeks but I think I was just stressed about a boat virus you know about not to get sick and I was worrying about my mother and my child. So I wasn't there was only about that but I was really upset that I I stopped to travel because I'm tired of that for sure. And I never had a vacation. I'm not an I'm not this type of artist who is making vacations, which is very bad for me. But I never have time because when I'm free, I tried to just spend time at home with my daughter. And I cannot imagine the time, maybe two or three days in between concerts or performance to say I'm going somewhere but it's not a big it's not a big strategy for me. Just to stop that, because I also I'm really tired from traveling. So

Grace Newcombe :

yeah. Do you think now that you've realized that you really needed a break, you really needed a break from travel? And now that you've had that, do you think you will try to prioritize that in the future? Will you try to give yourself a vacation? When things go back to normal? How will you force yourself to take a break? Sometimes?

Kristine Opolais :

I am I'm not sure. I'm not sure that we can learn something. Artists, artists never learned anything in terms of debt. And that's why always if there is any cancellation or you know, some concert which is coming, usually coming funny like suddenly and with offering a very high fee. For example, we always think like, Huh, it's strange offer. Let's see, so we're not, we're not hoping when it's constantly then I think like okay, so it's not a big deal. I just need to stop and rest. There's a lot of funny moments in our, you know, our normal life, you know, career when you feel like something is wrong and usually these projects just disappearing. Not Not that not often, but sometimes, and only then I take some time to rest. But usually it's, as I said, One week, maximum 10 days and then I know that I have to go to New York anyway because there is my teacher. So I cannot sit more than because I cannot sing at home. I just cannot not because I'm lazy. It's just I don't have motivation, and I don't have instruments here to to sync. And I never seen at home. So it's, it's funny. So for me, I need to travel and be outside to be able to work. You know, so yes, that was my voice.

Grace Newcombe :

Does that mean that during the virus, you've had much less practice time? Could you go to your practice space at all now?

Kristine Opolais :

No, not at all. I just I just I was just doing Nothing for four weeks. I was resting my voice and then I just started step by step like like, two, three days in a week, little exercises. And I just started last week zoom lessons with my teacher from New York. And tomorrow we will have another one. So because I, I need to study new role which is not studied, but I need to remember a new role, which I didn't seem for, I think 12 years, and which is coming back to me. So it's time step by step to be

Andrew Burn :

Do you see this situation for you like this, this sort of, period of like you say, you know, no singing and then coming back sort of thing. Do you see this really is some something that's temporary and that you've had, you're going to have this period of pause or break and bring yourself back, but then are you going to just go straight back into the way you were before?

Kristine Opolais :

I think so I mean I don't feel any problems to start immediately you know, because I'm, I think I think I'm just not sure that everything will start fast again, I think we all will need Time and all theatres will need Time and all concert halls will need time to do to be back for a usual usual situation. Also box offices you know and everything I think it will be it will be not that easy. But in terms of just to be ready to go and sing I'm ready to go tomorrow so you will be not a problem for me. Because adrenaline, adrenaline, and when you have a motivation, it brings you back your form. Very quick. At least I know it above myself. So I just need I just need 15 minutes and to understand that oh, okay to travel Yeah. will be not not a problem in in this case, but I'm not sure that everything will be so, so fast that you know, perhaps our life. Yeah.

Grace Newcombe :

I have my first concert again next month and well actually knows that this month is that. Yeah, it's in June already. end of the month. Oh, my goodness. And I'm already feeling a bit like what is this a concert you know? What do I do again? So I think it'll be good for me if I can start slowly as well.

Kristine Opolais :

Yeah, it's fine, isn't it? You know what I also noticed? The first month, I will say even first two months was going very slow. Mm hmm. I was like, I was getting crazy and I started to call in and I started to do things I never did before and enjoy them. But as soon as I found my place in this kind of boring life, the time stopped Just yeah running yeah like you know, I talked to a nanny of also to have my daughter and with my mom I said Don't you think is like in the morning you're waking up and then you you're realizing is already night and they said like yes yeah crazy and now I understand I don't have time enough to do what I wanted to do in the summer in general anyway without knowing that we will have a trouble so it's very funny I don't know how you feel about that but I feel that time is running now and I don't understand where is where is running for very funny times, isn't it? Very Yeah, spiritually and is authentically somehow I feel something is going on. But we have we have no idea what exactly but i think is changing.

Grace Newcombe :

I always thought well, I never thought much about the summers you know, the summer holiday or the summertime is always a time when there's a lot of stuff activity and you'll meet with friends a lot quite, quite casually. And before this year, I didn't really, I don't think I really appreciated that as much as I will from now on. Because it makes me feel like I'm 30 now and every summer that goes by, I really start to appreciate the seasons now, you know, you feel like oh, it's this is, I remember thinking last summer, this is the last summer of my 20s I have to really enjoy it and this kind of thing. And now I feel like we've nearly lost a whole year of that that kind of social bonding over the summer. We might lose this summer in terms of our our friendships, you know, our social life. And this is I think this is really gonna stick with me. I think next year, I'm going to do as much as I possibly can not just work but I'm really going to try to take a holiday try to see my friends try to have a school reunion, isn't it?

Kristine Opolais :

Yeah. Yeah.

Grace Newcombe :

You feel like you've lost You've lost half the year.

Kristine Opolais :

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I agree. It's very funny. Yeah. I also feel like I lost almost one year. Yes. I also in terms of it, for example, we, you know, what is funny? Also notice that I'm much slower than usual. Uh huh. Yeah. I'd like and it's like no stress of thinking, you know, making plans. Like, everything is slower. Yeah. Usually the things I was nervous about, like, the things what I was thinking with a fast brain before about before now, I'm thinking with the slow thinking.

Grace Newcombe :

It makes me wonder if, if we went back, you know, 50 years or something, would we if we all lived in village life, and we didn't travel as much and we didn't have such crazy careers. Would we think more like this? You know, would we just generally have a slower pace was Everyone like this before? 56 Yes,

Kristine Opolais :

I think you know what I think? Really many many, many, many years ago people was Yes, I think it was life was more like we have now. A hello world Yeah, calm you know, yeah

Andrew Burn :

with my, my my next concert which is at the beginning of August I have it will be the next it will be the first time that I play a new program and three only three instruments so a lot of and I'm the kind of soloist so it's a you know, there's a lot to learn. But I'm looking at the calendar and I'm going you know, I could practice one piece a week. so much time to prepare.

Kristine Opolais :

Right? Nothing is bothering you. And this concentrate only to this thing. It's Yeah, it's also good. I actually feel the same way. Nothing is bothering me. I am not nervous anymore about my problems you know, because sometimes when you when I have concerts like, like two concerts or three concerts in in two months and I change program and I am worrying about text and need to learn some new Aria and then I have to learn also also some role for the for the for the opera and now I just know that I just learned my one role is which is upcoming in October November and other one I know when I feel so relaxed, so much fun.

Grace Newcombe :

But it's your motivation the same when you don't when you don't have a time pressure. Oh, yeah. You're still very motivated. You still want to get just get on and learn it.

Kristine Opolais :

Oh, I'm very bad with it. I never learned I never learned anything on time. I'm, I'm always I'm learning last if we're speaking about opera, I'm learning last act. In the last few days, because especially when a longer time I have for preparation as more lazy as my, my brain, you know? And when I think like, Oh my god, it's only two months before the neural always like, oh my god is only four and when he's only four weeks and I know it then everything goes so quick and it is working. It's really funny. It's been all my life like that. Yeah and I even I remember when I started in Riga National Opera, I had a little bit of reputation that last act is coming in the last day. And then in the opera house, I always had to score with me, even for for for for orchestra rehearsals with the costumes and I was just using that and always people was worrying about that and I always was telling them, don't worry. After Tomorrow, I will be perfect. I I just need I just need to be kicked in. Oh, I just need this. You need danger and yeah, I just like to feel this adrenalin and then and then I remember much faster I cannot learn all six months which would be absolutely better because then also for voices you know, your voice you used to have to sing the same lines and words never worked well for me. It's very funny.

Grace Newcombe :

When you found your way you found your path.

Kristine Opolais :

Yeah, that's all my life this this is only the way it's very funny. I didn't change. I went to Coronavirus to change me

Grace Newcombe :

maybe Yeah, maybe I always do 80% of the work very early and then I say to myself, I've done 80% Now I can relax. And then I relax and the last 20% happens in the last minute absolute last minute you

Kristine Opolais :

You see, still. I'm a little bit the same. so probably it's a women thing.

Grace Newcombe :

Maybe, Andrew?

Andrew Burn :

No, No For me, it's always the most virtuosic stuff, the the most the cadenza, or some kind of big embellishment, da capo or whatever it is that always comes the last day.

Grace Newcombe :

Oh really, I thought you were gonna say that you do that first

Kristine Opolais :

It's the artist's way.

Grace Newcombe :

Okay, then it will be particularly inspired and spontaneous on stage, right?

Andrew Burn :

Yes. Because you can then justify it like with those with that argument, because then you can say, Oh, yes, but but then I'm in the moment, even though I prepared it only 24 hours, right?

Grace Newcombe :

Even though I got it all completely wrong. At least it was authentic.

Kristine Opolais :

Exactly.

Andrew Burn :

Exactly. Yeah. So long as the adrenaline doesn't show in your body as if you're shaking. You know. It looks exciting, but not that you're so nervous that you're shaking.

Kristine Opolais :

right.

Grace Newcombe :

That's true. That's definitely a skill we all have to learn. I've had to do concerts where I step in Last minute for somebody and you just have to look you just have to pretend that you're prepared. You know you just have to go out on stage and pretend I think we're all so used to this we you know, this is part of our training anyway. If we're the last minute with something

Kristine Opolais :

Yeah, absolutely. You just need it you cannot show that you afraid No, no. No. It's so funny when sometimes when I watch myself and knowing that they even do know what is next slide, you know. I mean, I also had one crazy moment at the Met when I was flipping in for HD performance. And I noticed that they're all I needed to sing in the Met. It was it was the it was next morning called from Peter Delta. Basically after I finished the butterfly Madame Butterfly so and I was there for butterfly and then they needed me for laboy M and Mimi got sick and he got this call in the morning at 730. And I went to sleep five in the morning. So they were like, oh god, no, because when I picked up the phone, it was like, you know, Christina, it's Peter here. And I was like, excuse me. So and then he asked me to do a roll, which I sang like last my last time I sang this Mimi roll was in one year ago. And I, and it was early. I couldn't understand that. I need to do that in Martini because it's HD. For cinemas, it's for you know, the direct. And I was like, no, it's crazy. I cannot remember all till evening, you know, I don't have time. He says like, Oh, no, no, we started 1230. You know,

Grace Newcombe :

Oh, my God.

Unknown Speaker :

Oh, my gosh, I said, I said no, it's there's no way I said it's impossible. So I just say butterfly, you know, this night and, and then and then he says he's sorry. Well, he wanted to, you know, to give me this HD because I was a young artist at the MET. And so, and then when we finish the conversation, I thought like, wait a minute, what happened? Why as I said, No, it's Crazy, I just need to make a risk in that time. So I called back and we did it. And it was a run I remember what it would be with Aria came to me and I needed to sing this famous Aria. And I saw these cameras started to fly around me. I never saw before because it was my first interview ever. I forgot the very famous first the second line basically, I was like see Miami and all malucci and then I was like, what's next? And I saw these cameras and I was like, looking at the camera who's where they were flying, like, like moving to my face and it was like and I remember the panel who was sitting next to me I mean, even tenors knows the Aria, you know. And we Vittorio Griogolo who was like sitting next to me. I saw him and he was like, looking at me with such a crazy eye. Like, what is gonna be now beginning of the opera you know, and then I will Like, Kristine, just smile and I was like something

Kristine Opolais :

that's why this aria isn't on Yoututbe because there's no...

Unknown Speaker :

then afterwards, like, you just come, you know, bring it you know, just come back to yourself, come back to yourself. And then I made not one mistake in doing the whole opera, the rest of this first line of super famous Aria, everybody knows I just it was like white, white paper, you know, like, page white page. I couldn't remember. I was smiling and then you think like whatever.

Andrew Burn :

Yeah, I think it's important for us to sometimes to look at a concert as if it's almost like as you say, you look at the opera almost as if it's a sports game. That the so you say I made a mistake at the beginning, but I'm going to go until the end now without any more mistake. And right and you can see that sometimes, especially in The concert setting for me Of course we have to haves and so on. Yeah. And sometimes you could have a, you could have a, you know that a disaster, it's possible that you could lose this game by 100 points, you know, right, right. But somehow someone shows some energy or some leadership and carries the team with with them. So the orchestra plays better or the soloist has an amazing cadenza the in the concert but always screwed it up in the rehearsal, whatever it is, and everything suddenly you get this momentum to carry out Yeah, right. And you just need those moments like you say, just in this in in that, okay, this, I screwed that line up, whatever, but I'm not going to make a mistake anymore. And that gives you enough energy to go all the way to the end.

Unknown Speaker :

Right, decide you're very right.

Grace Newcombe :

Sometimes I find that when I'm stepping in last minute when I know that I'm unprepared, but it's not my fault. You know, it's I just have to deal with it. That gives me more confidence to just get on And do it. I you know, I think this is a challenge now and I want to rise to it. I want to do a really good concert, despite the circumstances. Yeah. And sometimes when I'm really really prepared I'll still be completely nervous. You know, it's just seems so bizarre,

Kristine Opolais :

isn't it? That's funny. That's funny. That's absolutely right. It's like this is our destiny. This is destiny. And we cannot be completely relaxed. You know, it's like I used to say another phrase. My favorite is you know, the artists cannot be relaxed and cannot be well I say different things but you know, you have to go on stage hungry This is if you play some role, of course, I say the artist cannot be, you know, to come on stage after a great dinner or lunch. You need to have this little suffer feeling all the time with you to create something probably special, you know, like edge your mop more clean or something With your brain. So it's very funny just probably my just very private feeling. But, but is the same? Yeah, we, you kind of always nervous, isn't it?

Grace Newcombe :

I'm always nervous.

Kristine Opolais :

I'm always nervous too.

Grace Newcombe :

Sometimes I, I've learned to I mean, I've talked about nerves on the podcast before, but I've learned to enjoy that in some circumstances to feel like you're part of a team and you're all in it together and you can go do a good job. But sometimes it's really I feel like the nervesare really detrimental.

Kristine Opolais :

Absolutetly, Like you don't control. When you cannot control it in yourself. Yeah. isn't it the best performances? This is the best performances, maybe usually, usually is the best performances and especially when we think it's so bad, it's so bad. Because when when we make mistakes, actually any kind of mistakes. We have any real at that moment. Mm hmm. And honest, we're like naked, and we understand we make mistake. We are very we're like a Kids who is like, okay, that it's happened and, and I think when we are very nervous, we are very naive and our soul is more open to the audience and spiritually, they're catching much more from us than when we are sure. And we're coming like, Hey, I can bring all all this whole Come with me, you know? No, we will. I don't know. Let me tell you more, you know, so I don't know. But I just I just think that in terms of to make something very special when we are helpless kind of really nervous. We're very sensitive then and then we really go straight to the hearts of the audience. Mm hmm.

Andrew Burn :

Yeah, I certainly have this feeling in my best performances. I've always been in situations where there's a certain element of, I guess you could say desperation. Either either in the way that you say like that you for some reason you feel exposed, or in the fact that the actual circumstances of the performance put your body under so much stress so for example, you had a flight in the morning, you Yeah, to take a car across the city, you had a rehearsal, which was never going to end and they drive you to a radio station. And you play and and then at that point you say, Actually, I have no The only energy I have left is to play. And then after that, I can't give any more energy lapse. And at that point, you actually give up the reserves you you don't reserve yourself and therefore you have to give everything yeah, you just lost and because of that, somehow it comes out in a in a better expressive way. Somehow. Yeah, aggression is improved.

Kristine Opolais :

Yeah, oh, yes. Oh, yes. Now I start to count the best performances. And it was exactly this feeling. What do you what do you just explain about very similar to that,

Grace Newcombe :

a lesson to everyone from this podcast is go in underprepared. You'll get the best performance of your life.

Andrew Burn :

Don't go don't arrive until the day of the concert and then everything. Don't learn any of you. Turn up late for the train. A bit of panic, you know. Don't listen to us, everybody.

Grace Newcombe :

Don't Do it.

Andrew Burn :

This is the expert advice.

Kristine Opolais :

Yeah. It's not the best advisors we are giving now to the young artists, to the beginners. I used to say also, excuse me.

Andrew Burn :

Go ahead. Go ahead, please.

Unknown Speaker :

Yeah, I just wanted to say that I used to say when advisors What, what, what, which kind of advice you would give to any young artists and singers, opera singers. And I'm always saying don't listen to advice, follow your instincts.

Grace Newcombe :

That's good. Advice.

Kristine Opolais :

Yeah, that's what I did.

Andrew Burn :

Kristine Opolais,

Kristine Opolais :

right!

Andrew Burn :

thank you very much for speaking to us today!

Grace Newcombe :

Yes. Thanks, Kristine.

Kristine Opolais :

Thanks for having me. I had a great time with you.

Andrew Burn :

So that's it from us today.

Grace Newcombe :

If you like this podcast, and if you haven't already, then please hit the subscribe or follow button on your podcasting app and give us a rating. Andrew and I would greatly appreciate that. Thanks.

Andrew Burn :

Yes, we would. And if you'd like to get in touch with us, you can do so by emailing surviving classical music@gmail.com. You can send a message on Facebook to surviving classical music, and Instagram surviving . classical music. We read everything that you send, and no, we're not going to publish anything without your permission. Thanks very much for listening and have a great week. Bye bye Transcribed by https://otter.ai