Soprano Deborah Voigt has risen to the top of the opera world by singing the parts of the demanding, dramatic heroines in the operas of Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss.
So is taking on the title role in Alceste, a baroque work by Christoph Willibald Gluck that will be performed by The Collegiate Chorale on May 26, a true departure for her?
“That would be absolutely correct!” the Upper West Side resident laughs in response. “I learned this role nearly 20 years ago when I understudied for Jessye Norman at The Lyric Opera of Chicago. She seemed to be sick every day, but she never got quite ill enough to cancel, so I never sang the part.”
Making her role debut in Alceste came about because Voigt was asked what opera she would be interested in singing with the Collegiate Chorale, and she didn’t hesitate to mention this Gluck work.
“And it has a lot of choral parts, which fits the Chorale perfectly, so it works for everybody,” she said. “It’s quite a dramatic role for me: even though it’s not like the Wagner or Strauss roles I usually do, it’s a vocal challenge and I enjoy singing it. Temperamentally, Alceste is similar to those other heroines I play. She’s sacrificing her life for her husband—it doesn’t get much more dramatic than that.”
When asked whether she prefers the original Italian version or the French revision that Gluck prepared in 1776 (which is what she will be performing on May 26), the singer responded, “It makes absolutely no difference because I’ve had to relearn the whole thing! But my French teacher tells me I’m très bon, which helps.”
Usually, when Voigt sings operas in New York, it’s on the Metropolitan Opera stage, where she’s been a regular for several years. And next season, she returns there to sing operas by—whom else?—Strauss (Elektra) and Wagner (The Flying Dutchman).
“I was the first one who sang Chrysothemis in the current Met production of Elektra, so that will be a nice trip down memory lane,” Voigt said. “I’ve also recorded it with Maestro Levine and his band. However, doing Dutchman will be a first for me there, and Senta is a role I’ve not sung a lot, so it will be interesting to finally do that at the Met.”
The Chicago-born soprano wants to be known for more than the heavy-duty roles that have made her famous.
“I thought that at this point in my career, I’d be on autopilot and singing my same five roles around the world,” she joked. “No, really I would like to do more cabaret and American Songbook-type concerts,” she added, referring to the Lincoln Center song series in which she performed last season. “The luxury of having that microphone to croon into is always a wonderful thing, but it’s hard to balance all of this music—to be a Wagner and Strauss soprano takes up a lot of my time and my voice.”
But a girl can continue to dream: “I’m hoping to finally put out my Voigt Where Prohibited CD of cabaret songs,” she says. “Someday!”
May 26, 8 p.m.
Jazz at Lincoln Center
For tickets ($25 to $120), visit www.collegiatechorale.org
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