BWW Interview: Angela Meade Returns to her Native Land for 'Il Trovatore'
Washington state is justifiably proud to call Angela Meade a native. The star soprano has been a prizewinner in more than 50 top competitions, including the Met Opera National Council Auditions and the Montreal International Musical Competition, and has won two of the opera world's most prestigious honors: the Richard Tucker Award and the Beverly Sills Artist Award.
Meade has performed in opera houses worldwide, and recently appeared as Margherita in the Met's live broadcast of Boito's Mefistofele. In January 2019 she will make her Seattle Opera debut as the beleaguered Leonora in Giuseppe Verdi's passionate crowd pleaser, Il Trovatore. This Verdi work has often been described as needing the four greatest singers in the world. With her astonishing list of accomplishments and experiences, Meade is one soprano who can fulfill the soprano slot in that operatic quartet with ease.
Erica Miner: Angela, welcome home to Washington, and congratulations on your Seattle Opera debut! How do you feel about starting off here with one of the most iconic roles in the repertoire?
Angela Meade: I always love coming back to Leonora. I have sung her either the most or the second most of all of the roles I've done, with Norma being the other. It's always wonderful to do another production to see what other characteristics and ideas can be explored.
EM: You were born right here in Centralia, in Washington state. When did you first feel a passion for opera? Was there a particular mentor who inspired you to pursue an operatic career?
AM: When I graduated from Centralia High School, I wasn't certain what I wanted to do with my life, so my parents wanted me to attend Centralia Community College first to narrow down my options. I was taking lots of math and science in preparation for what I thought I wanted to be: a doctor.
EM: A doctor! That's about as far as you can get from being an opera singer.
AM: I found, though, that I didn't really have a passion for that. My elective classes were all music related. I knew I had always advanced in music and my choir teacher at community college suggested I take some voice lessons with a friend of hers since she knew I liked to sing. I went to her friend and he gave me a couple of arias and I fell in love. That was when I first felt a passion for it and it just continued to grow. Wayne Bloomingdale was the first person who really made me feel like I could make it in this field.
EM: Making your debut at the Met as Elvira in Ernani in 2008, and subsequently appearing live in HD, must have been exciting. Was it also intimidating or scary?
AM: Both experiences were more exciting than intimidating or scary. When you are in the midst of the HD, you don't even really notice the cameras, and since I had already been in the situation where they filmed the Met National Council Auditions the year I won and made the film "The Audition," I was sort of used to it, so it didn't really bother me to think that the HD was being beamed to thousands of people.
EM: That makes perfect sense. Among the numerous operas on your repertoire list can be found several that are done fairly infrequently: Fidelia in Puccini's Edgar, Lucrezia in Verdi's I Due Foscari and Ermione in Rossini's Ermione come to mind. Do you find a special challenge in performing these unusual works?
AM: I have always been drawn to works that have been somewhat neglected. I'm always curious as to why. I also love a good challenge. Something like Ermione is a neglected work but it's such an exciting piece with a lot of really wonderful music, so I really enjoy being able to bring these roles back to life.
EM: And the opera world is that much better for your efforts. What are some of your favorite roles?
AM: I adore Norma, both the vocalism and the character and it's always fun to come back to her and find something new. I also adore Anna Bolena. I'm a bit of a Tudor era junkie and of course, Anne Boleyn was the center of the intrigue with Henry VIII. Ermione is also a favorite of mine. The coloratura is fantastic and really captures the mental state of Ermione.
EM: So many of us are Tudor junkies. It was such a great era to draw upon for operatic riches. Which roles would you like to sing that you haven't yet done?
AM: Leonora in Forza; Aida in Aida; Gemma di Vergy in Gemma di Vergy; Elena in Marino Faliero (both by Donizetti); Elettra in Idomeneo; Vitellia in Clemenza di Tito; Amelia in Ballo in Maschera.
EM: You performed Mahler's monumental 8th Symphony with respected maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Do you enjoy performing in the concert hall as much as on the opera stage?
AM: I do. I always enjoy when I have concert work.
EM: You have also performed in concert with your husband, tenor John Matthew Myers. What was it like to be married by well-known opera fan, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg?
AM: A really special moment. I met Justice Ginsburg when I was performing in Norma at Washington National Opera in DC and she became a fan. When we got engaged we knew we wanted her to officiate. She couldn't make it to our actual wedding ceremony because she had a prior commitment but we went down two days earlier to DC and got married in her chambers with all our close family and friends in attendance. It was a truly special and memorable day.
EM: What an amazing experience. I'm not surprised that Justice Ginsburg is one of your fans! What's up next for you after Seattle?
AM: I leave for Spain immediately after Seattle; a Semiramide in Bilbao and another Trovatore in Seville and then I'm off to Dallas to revisit Falstaff.
EM: Angela, many thanks, and best of luck for a spectacular Seattle debut!
Seattle Opera's Il Trovatore runs from Jan. 12-26, 2019. https://seattleopera.org/on-stage/il-trovatore/
Photo credits: Fay Fox, Metropolitan Opera