Sondra Radvanovsky | May 1, 2014 | Appel Salon

Tina Srebotnjak: Let me tell you now about the man who’s gonna host this evening, CBC Radio’s Brent Bambury Brent has had a long career at CBC, in fact, many moons ago, we were co-hosts of a show called Mid Day, back in the ’90s when he was six Brent is currently the host of Day Six, the National Canadian Current Affairs show He also writes a column for the National Post Do you really? Brent Bambury: Yeah TS: That is so not like you! Anyway, he writes a column for the National Post, where he collects and shares six of the oddest and most interesting news items for the week Please welcome, my pal, Brent Bambury [applause] BB: How many people here have seen Roberto Devereux already? So, the entire front row on this side? How many people intend to see this opera? I hope that’s everybody else in the audience tonight You need to see this production On a day like today, I think it’s worth reminding all of us that there are aspects of Toronto that just get better and better [applause] BB: The Canadian Opera Company is one of those We’ve had two productions so far in this part of the season, and each one of them has been remarkable, first Hercules and now Roberto Devereux Each one of them is remarkable for very different reasons, and each one of them worth seeing Now, Hercules has closed There are five performances left for Roberto Devereux, and it is a fantastic production, it’s witty, it’s beautiful, it’s exciting William Shakespeare makes an appearance And it’s a fantastic cast It’s a uniformly great cast BB: But, that would mean nothing if the performance of Elizabeth wasn’t spectacular, and the performance in this case, is amazing It’s a performance that people will talk about for years to come And we have with us tonight, as our guest, the singer, the performer of that role She has performed in all of the great houses, now, in North America and Europe And this is not her first appearance at the Canadian Opera Company, but it is definitely one that people will remember for many years to come Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming to the stage, Sondra Radvanovsky Sondra Radvanovsky: Wow Thank you I’m on the far side? BB: On the far side is fine, yes SR: Okay, then Hello Wow That’s quite an intro Man! You mean I have to do well in the next five shows, too now? BB: You can do whatever you want, it’s fine SR: Okay, okay BB: You look so much more glamorous than you do in the curtain call for Roberto Devereux SR: I actually had some of my friends come up to me and say, “That was you?” Yeah, that was me Yeah BB: What is it that you’re wearing on your head during that part of the performance? SR: Well, for the whole show actually, as you all probably know about Queen Elizabeth, she had a very far back hairline And I don’t! So, they put something called a bald cap on my head, and I wear it for the whole show, because I don’t wanna give too much away, but the opera starts with me old, and then I go back to being younger, and then I progress to being old again So, they use something called toupee tape, to attach the wigs to my bald cap, and it’s not It’s slightly treacherous, I mean it’s not a fun thing having your hair pulled out, and yeah BB: But you’re not bald, you still have these sort of wisps of hair coming out of your head, isn’t that how it works? SR: Something like that I try not to look in the mirror, because I say to my husband, “This is gonna be me in 30 years This is what you have to look forward to.” No, it’s just weird, because I’m still me, I’m still young me, and I look in the mirror and go, “Oh, God.” BB: Well, it’s not what they call a hag role SR: No BB: This is a very An intense role, and I wanna talk about it in a moment, but first I wanna go When you were 11 years old, you saw a production of Tosca on public television SR: Yes BB: What do you remember about that day? SR: Plácido Domingo That was the whole thing, Plácido Domingo, who was this person? I was transfixed, I said to my mother, “I wanna do that.” And she said, “Yeah, okay, honey.” I said, “I wanna do that!” I mean, that’s really all I remember was that gut feeling, that feeling of, “Wow, this is

amazing, and how can I get more of that?” It’s like a drug And I was hooked at 11 years old, and I mean, I grew up with music too, with church music, listening to Karen Carpenter, things in the same vein, but this was my first true operatic experience BB: Obviously, since that time, Plácido Domingo has become a champion of you, and a friend of yours Did you ever tell him about what it was like for you to see him? SR: Oh, he hates when I tell this story He says, “Sondra, how old were you?” Yeah He said, “Don’t tell that story anymore I feel old I feel old.” But the funny thing is, it really came around full circle, this last year I was in Los Angeles, and I sang Tosca with Plácido conducting How surreal is that? Yeah, and I told him that story, that was first, I think I got all weepy, I told him that story, actually that night And said, “You know, Plácido, it was you in this opera, that has me standing here right now with you.” And that’s when he said, “I feel old.” [chuckle] BB: It’s great, it shows you how accessible opera can be if people have access to it SR: Absolutely! And it doesn’t, opera doesn’t have to be this snotty, hoity-toity art form Opera, as we were talking about, opera is a visceral response, and even if you know nothing about singing or the orchestra or the play One, I think, gets an automatic response when you hear good singing or bad singing, in that sense But, it does something to you, to your core, and you react to it And that’s my job, is to transport everyone that comes, to move you in one way or another, and have you involved in my story that I’m telling BB: How many times have you sung Tosca? Do you know, off-hand? SR: You know, it sounds like I’ve done it a lot, but it was a role that I waited to sing, because Tosca is a notorious voice wrecker Because, the orchestration’s really loud, and you so you have to sing really loud BB: That’s never really been a problem for you, has it? To sing loud? [chuckle] SR: My mother said I was born with my mouth open, and I’ve never shut it, so yeah [chuckle] BB: I didn’t mean that, I meant SR: No, no, no it’s true, it’s true And I was telling, today I did, actually, a little concert on 96.3 before this, today, and I was telling people how I sang in choir when I was in college, and I was always the one, they said, “You! Shh… ” [chuckle] “Just move your mouth, don’t sing Just move your mouth.” But no Tosca’s a role that I only started when I was 35? Where’s my husband? 35? Yeah, so last year [chuckle] No I’ve been doing it a lot, recently, yeah And I really, really enjoy singing it BB: So, when did you realize that you had the gifts that you needed in order to become a singer? In order to actually go for it? SR: That’s a very good question There’s a point where you realize, I really want to do this, but then there’s a point when you think, I can do this, and I can make a career in that Probably around 16 or 17, when I started winning a lot of competitions My voice developed very early for an opera singer, probably because I started taking voice lessons so early, at 11 years-old And I was criticized highly at 11 years-old, my mother was, especially, because, “Oh, you don’t wanna do that to your daughter, she’s not ready for that.” SR: But I asked for it, and I practised all the time, and it was my passion, and I knew at 11 years old that that was my gift I was given a gift and I knew, in some fashion, I was gonna be in music and it was gonna be involved in my life But at 16, was when I really thought, “Hey, I have a shot at this.” And when I went to college I was a flute major as well I know! And can you believe this? I literally flipped a coin and said, “Will I be a flute major in college? Or will I be a voice major?” Thank God, it was a double-sided coin! BB: Exactly, it was a good coin! SR: Yeah And it just, “Oh, singing Okay, great.” BB: But when you were in university, you were at UCLA, and you were studying theatre as well? SR: As well, yes BB: You knew Was that also an option? Did you think, maybe I’ll just be an actor? SR: I did Because when you’re young, you wanna try, you wanna dabble in everything

And I really loved theatre, and I loved acting, and the whole idea of becoming someone else was very enticing to me as a child, make-believe, pretending, all of that And then, to add the musical aspect to it, I thought “Wow, okay, opera, that’s it!” But it was the best thing I could do, was to learn about acting as well And I had no idea, at that point, how beneficial it would be in the years Not just the acting aspect, but learning about lighting, learning about how to find your light on stage, because we always like to look good in light And learning about period costumes, learning about makeup, how to make yourself look old, how to act like an old person or whatever, and it was such invaluable information BB: And in this production we get to see you go through those stages, as well So, when you were studying voice, what came easily to you, and what did you feel you had to work on? When you were a student, what were the parts that you thought, “Oh, this is something that’s not a problem for me,” and the parts that were more difficult SR: Yeah Well, I started out I don’t know how much all of you are educated in singing and all that I started out as a lower voice type than I am now, I started out as a mezzo-soprano when I was singing, around 14-15, singing Mozart and Cherubino, and And I remember saying to my mom, “I just don’t look like a boy No, not for me.” But, the voice develops naturally, so a certain part of the voice will come in later than other parts of the voice Because it’s how, you know that when boys go through losing their voice or it changes It happens naturally So, I had the bottom of my voice was very strong, so that part, the dramatic part always came very easily to me SR: The part that was always a problem was all these high notes when I was younger, and that really was an issue for me trying to reach those high notes And I remember saying to my voice teacher, “When am I gonna get those high notes?” “It will come It will come.” And now that’s the easy part and going down on the bottom is a little bit more So it’s always a trade-off It’s a balancing act But for me, always, singing these long lines was something that came very easily Singing those sad songs, all those Yeah, I like that Happy: Not for me I’m not a I mean, I’m a happy person, but I don’t do funny I just don’t do funny No BB: When you were in university, you noticed that something was not right with your vocal cords SR: It was a bit, yeah Probably a bit past university Yeah BB: What happened? SR: When I was a child I had I was born with pneumonia, and the doctor seems to think You never know for sure, it might have been other reasons, but When they put, they intubate you and they put the tube down, they think they may have nicked one of my vocal cords So, it developed like a little scar, and the scar got bigger and bigger the more I sang And the more I sang, the more hoarse I got I would lose my voice very easily So we decided Gosh, how old was I? 33? 33 years old, I had vocal surgery And this in my field, vocal surgery is a big big no-no No one talks about it It’s like a ballet dancer saying that they tore their tendon or something and they had surgery and No one talks about it, because they think it’s related to a bad technique, and in many people it actually isn’t It just happened to be the way it was SR: So, midway through my career, I did this very risky surgery, which a lot of people can lose their voice Because they go and they shave something off of your vocal cords which Vocal cords are very very small But the doctor said, “Oh, 99.9% sure you’re gonna be fine”, I said, “What about 0.1%?” Needless to say, I’m here today So, it worked and it made my voice even better BB: But you kept it secret, didn’t you? SR: For many years, because of that BB: Because of the stigma SR: Because of the stigma It’s really, it’s a terrible thing And I think I pride myself in saying I’m one of the first people that came out and said, “I had vocal surgery.” But now, a lot more people have the courage to say, “Hey, I did it too And I did it too” and And you know what? It’s an injury I’m a sports person What I do is very physical My body is my instrument, like any, like a football player If he tears a rotator cuff, “Hey, hey He tore a rotator cuff He’s going to have surgery”

BB: But you have more injuries than anybody Because I have a list of them here [laughter] SR: No, I did not know this was like roast Sondra day [laughter] I am very accident-prone My husband will vouch for that BB: In 2009, you got mugged outside of drug store in San Francisco SR: Yes BB: What happened there? SR: Well, he We won’t say what type of person this was, but it was not in a nice area And he reached for my purse which had my passport in it, and darn it, I was not giving it up I lived in New York at that point and so the New Yorker in me came out, and I pushed him BB: You pushed the mugger? SR: Yeah, I did And he pushed back And I kind of fell and as I fell, I twisted my ankle BB: And you were on stage at that time? You were doing a production, right? SR: Yeah, yeah, yeah I was doing Trovatore And I went to the doctor, and unfortunately I was there all alone, my husband was here in Toronto And I laid on the ground for a good five minutes, and people walked, basically, right over me BB: Oh, my god SR: And you think, “Wow, human nature,” but I understand they didn’t wanna be involved in all of it So I limped home and went to the doctor, and I tore a ligament in my right ankle BB: Did you have a cast? SR: Well, at the moment, no, because I had a show the next day and then the day after that, I had to fly to Chicago But that show the next day, something happened too BB: You were on stage in Trovatore? SR: With my bad right ankle BB: What happened then? SR: The tenner might have fallen on my other foot [laughter] And he’s not small No No, so I kept on telling, “Be careful on my right ankle Be careful on my right ankle.” Boom, and I’m barefoot And the very last moment, I’m dying, I’m dying and he falls to his knees on my left foot, and he breaks my two little toes [laughter] BB: Did you hear them crack? BB: Well, I heard myself scream Yeah And I’m supposed to be dying like And the next day, I had to get on a plane and fly to Chicago with two broken toes on my left foot, a broken torn ligament on my right ankle, and I was in the centre seat of a three seat section, and it was a sold out flight “Please don’t hurt my ankle Please don’t hurt my ankle.” Yeah BB: But, in 2004, in Don Carlo SR: Oh, gosh BB: Didn’t Ferruccio Furlanetto break your arm? SR: He did Oh, he didn’t mean it though I should… [laughter] Well, we were doing Don Carlo and it’s the scene where he discovers that I’m kind of still in love with Don Carlo, and so he throws me And it’s a stage throw, right? It’s supposed to be a stage throw, so it’s kind of Well, his foot might have been on the back of my train, so I fall and you there’s a natural progression There’s an arc in falling, and I was going through it, and then I hit a certain point, and I went boom, onto my arm And, my husband was in the audience, and there was this collective [gasping] ‘Cause you could hear it go Yeah, it was fun, and then after that I was singing… [singing] I was supposed to be crying and Ferruccio said “Oh, that was so moving.” “You broke my arm!” [laughter] SR: Yeah, that was fun BB: Stay away from him because he’s in town now SR: I know I know, and I have to go say hi to him BB: He’s in Toronto for Don Quixote which opens SR: Yeah, and he’s fabulous Go see it Shameless BB: Yeah, it opens a week from tomorrow And But you admire him as an actor, and I wanna talk about this idea of singers as actors now, because a lot of people There’s a tradition that they’re not necessarily great actors He inspires you Why is that? SR: He does Because he’s willing to go that extra 10, 15, 20% He really invests everything Not just vocally, because it’s really one of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever sang with, worked with He’s a wonderful colleague too He’s a wonderful person besides breaking arm, but you know But, he is just You can’t help watching him SR: I mean, there will be 10 other people on stage, and you only see Ferruccio, because he’s so invested in what he does He is there, a 100%, and there’s so few singers, opera singers, that I feel like that about Him, Bryn Terfel, I mean, any opportunity I have to work with either of them, absolutely Because for me, it’s very fulfilling to work with someone like that, because you have someone to play with on stage It’s like a banter back and forth, and it’s a joy for me BB: Let’s talk about Roberto Devereux This is a fantastic production

It’s Your There’s a terrific director Obviously, an amazing Elizabeth This stuff about the virgin queen, that’s all nonsense, right? SR: Yeah Come on Seriously, she’s the queen She could have anybody she wanted You know? She’s just the virgin queen because she didn’t have a child, and she wasn’t married But virgin queen? I don’t think so I don’t play it that way, yeah BB: So, in this production, is there The decision to show Elizabeth at different stages in her life and to try and understand her psychologically, that seems to me to be Give it a level of complexity to a character that might not necessarily have that Does that help you as a performer? SR: Yes, it become a more complete I like roles that are very complete Characters that are very complete That you get to see many sides of them, and there’s not many characters Tosca, for instance, I find very interesting because you see the vulnerable side of her and the girl in love, but then the strong girl who can actually kill Scarpia, and I find with this production especially, with the overture being staged, and that is me in the overture You might not know it, but it is actually me with this lovely wig on But it shows the progression of her life, and that’s why I like doing all three of them in a way because now, I know, this is the third of the Tudor trilogy, the three queens, and BB: There are three Donizetti operas SR: Three Donizetti operas, and I This is now, the third one for me So, I’ve done Anne Boleyn I’ve done Mary Stuart, and now I’ve done Queen Elizabeth, and I feel like I know a little bit more about the characters, because I know the progression of the British history And yeah, she’s a fascinating lady BB: And I think the production invites us to see her as a complex character, right from the beginning The fact that you’ve done now all three of these roles, did you know at some point that this would be offered to you or were you hoping that this would be offered to you? Is it something you set out to do? Because this is unusual that someone gets a chance to do all three of those queens SR: It was actually my coach, my voice coach, who said “You know, Sondra, I think you can do all three of these.” And I said, “I think you’re smoking crack.” Really, I mean, I sing Tosca I do Verdi I don’t do I don’t do all those black notes, all that fast stuff I don’t do that They said “Oh, yes You do, and you’ll do it really well.” SR: And I said “Okay.” I trust my coach I’ve been with him 18, 19 years now, and he know my voice better than I do, which is scary So, he suggested that I look at some of the more dramatic Bel canto roles, the Donizetti, Bellini So, I started out with Lucrezia Borgia who is also a little cuckoo Then proceeded to do Norma, and now I’ve done the Anna Bolena and the Maria Stuarda, and now this BB: Of the three queens, is Elizabeth the most difficult, the most challenging? SR: By far Not just dramatically, but vocally This is a very challenging role, because she’s angry all the time Poor lady I feel bad for her It’s also a challenge doing all three of these because these historically were people that lived, so I can’t make it up We know the story of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII We know the story of Mary, Queen of Scots, and how she died; how Queen Elizabeth and the rivalry We know about Queen Elizabeth and her life, and that she has no option, and that’s really what we try to show in this production is that Queen Elizabeth had no choice She had to become queen Was she gonna say no? SR: And I think, towards the end of her life, I’ve read a lot about her, and she was just tired of it She was tired of the pomp and circumstance and she died, standing up She didn’t eat, she didn’t go to the bathroom, she just stood And that’s how She was done And that’s what we try to show in this production, as the progression of how royalty wore her down BB: And you get that through your acting But the way that this opera’s composed The singing required of the role is enormously demanding at the end of the opera So, you are playing a character who’s losing her strength or who was becoming, was ageing through the process of her office, but you’re singing a role that just takes all of your power It requires all of your power And when I saw you perform which was Tuesday night, it seemed to me like, you were feeding

on that That you were feeling the demand of the production and rising to it SR: I hope so, yeah For me, I love challenges And this is pretty much one of the ultimate challenges that I’ve done because physically, it’s very demanding for me Those of you who haven’t seen it will see that it requires me to hunch over in a corset on a stage that You can’t see it Everybody says to me, “Oh, I didn’t know the stage was rigged.” But it’s quite a steep rig So, I’m leaning over and I At the end of a night, I “Oh, my back is killing me.” [chuckle] SR: I like a challenge And also, it’s one thing to play an old person, but I can’t sing like an old person And to differentiate between the two but then to wed the two is really It took me quite a while with the rehearsal process and I only feel like I got there opening night with the two kind of Well, it’s a trial and error You try one thing and, “Oh, that didn’t work Oh, let’s try this way Or, let’s try that way,” and, yeah BB: And the demands of the singing at the end of the opera When you know that you’re going to be doing that much technical singing at the end of the opera, how do you preserve the energy throughout the opera so that you can meet that demand for To deliver the final scenes? SR: Well, I have to say, in comparison to some of the other operas I sing, like Norma Quite frankly, Norma is twice as long of a sing for me as this So this, singing this, in a way, is a walk in the park BB: If Norma’s a 10, then SR: Norma’s a 10 This is probably about a 6 BB: Really? Oh SR: For length, because it’s not a long night for me Those of you who have seen it, there are many scenes that I’m not in There’s duets with Sara and Nottingham; Sara and Roberto Devereux; and Devereux and Nottingham I just get the last scene BB: Which is, yeah, which is pretty towering SR: It’s pretty fun, yeah But technically, it’s not as long as many other roles Anna Bolena is a very long evening for me, too BB: And you’re performing all three of these operas at the Met next year? SR: ’15, ’16 BB: How far in advance are you booked? If someone wanted to contract you tonight for an opera, what year would it take place in? SR: ’18, ’19? BB: [laughter] So that’s SR: And that’s filling up pretty quickly BB: That’s crazy SR: Yeah, it is crazy But people always say, “Wow, that’s crazy,” but I know when I’m taking my vacations, I know when I’m getting my teeth cleaned, I know when I’m getting my hair done It’s all about what’s normal for a person, and this is normal for me I’ve lived my whole adult life like this So, I love it I really do BB: Let’s talk a bit about Norma because you sang Norma at the Met last fall And the New York Times said that you were ringing and powerful, nuanced, arresting, striking, vigorous That’s a rave, isn’t it, ladies and gentlemen? I would say that that’s SR: I paid him I paid him [laughter] BB: But when you take on a role that’s as challenging as Norma, that’s a 10 SR: Yeah It’s a 15, actually, on a scale of 1 to 10, it’s a 15 and especially BB: You’re doing it at the Met So SR: That makes it a 15, yeah BB: So, you have all of these fantastic performances that came before you All of these Normas, the ghosts of all the Normas standing onstage What do you owe those performances when you take on the role? SR: Well, it’s really difficult because of all the soprano roles in the soprano repertoire that I sing, Norma is always the The golden role and, “Oh, Maria Callas sang it Oh… ” where “Oh, Caballé sang it.” “Oh ” Yeah, but Radvanovsky’s singing it now And then They’re dead! Well, Caballé is not dead, I’m sorry [laughter] SR: Callas is dead And it’s really hard to shake those ghosts, because people always compare you to someone else, especially in that role, “Oh, well, Caballé did the runs better,” or “Callas was more dramatically interesting,” or whatever and I’m just trying to make it through the opera without falling which I did in that one, too, by the way Thank you On the radio broadcast BB: You didn’t break anything, though SR: Well, I was quite black and blue, yeah Yeah, I found But it’s, it gives you impetus to be even better To know that the greats, the greatest greats stood on that stage and sang that role and you’re there now And you either sink or you swim

I will tell you, walk out and to start with Costa Diva I was really shaking in my boots, I gotta tell yeah the first night I haven’t been that nervous in a very long time BB: But then when you get through the first performance, do you I mean your confidence grows with each performance? SR: Yeah, absolutely And it was my first staged Norma I had done it in a concert but never on a stage moving and yeah BB: Do you admire Callas? SR: I do BB: Why is that? What is it about Callas? SR: I would say beauty of voice, but it’s not that because it wasn’t a particularly beautiful voice per se But what she could do with it, and how she could express emotion And that for me is the biggest thing about singing Because, when you have emotion in your voice and when you use that, that is what goes right here to the audience members It touches their soul and that’s what she always did You listen to it and you just go ‘wow’ That is like, for me, a master class in not just singing, but Opera And BB: You said that she was not afraid to sound ugly SR: Ugly, yes And I learned a lot from that because, I, in especially this Devereux you probably heard a few of those moments where, “Yeah, there were some ugly sounds in there,” but it’s because the character calls for it When she’s screaming at Roberto Devereux that “Your gonna die, I hate you, you don’t love me” Your not gonna go, “Oh, here, your gonna die” “In here, I am going to eat you” And yeah, you have to be willing to go for it That’s what I really always admired about her BB: Norma, you told the New York Times that Norma is the perfect role for you Why is that? SR: Yes Acting, temperament, vocally, I really feel like it fits me like a glove, because it requires everything from a singer, and its a real challenge, and I like challenges Every time I walk on stage, I push myself to sing higher and softer or louder on the bottom And, I don’t know, it just feels to me, you know when you, when you just see something or you see a movie and you go “That was nice.” And that’s what I feel like when I sing it, I just feel comfy Comfy singing Norma Slightly crazy, right there BB: We talked about this a little bit earlier, but that was your first Bel Canto at the Met, right? SR: Yes, they had never heard me sing anything even remotely like it BB: Earlier, in your career, you were, you became known as a Interpreter of Verdi? So what You mentioned the role of your instructor, your teacher But what was it that made you believe, this is the shift that I want to try and make now? SR: Well, once again, I say I like these challenges But I think after the surgery that I had on my vocal chord, it allowed me more freedom, vocally It allowed me to be able to play with my voice more because I wasn’t impeded, I didn’t have what I call the speed bump, right in the middle of my vocal chord, really limiting my technique I had to learn how to sing with it, and then I had to learn how to sing without it again And, it really made me work on technique, and it made my technique really solid, and because of that, it allowed me to do things that I could never do before, and I think that’s why Norma was the obvious choice for me to try because it was almost like my true voice now came out Before, I had to manipulate my voice in a way, and then this was, wow, I have a vocal freedom And it was uplifting BB: People love your Verdi recording with Hvorostovsky When you first met him, he thought you hated him What happened? SR: Yes I was singing at the Met, and here is this man who Okay, my husband’s in the back, but he knows about my operatic crushes and my Formula One crushes, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky might have been my operatic crush So, here is this guy with this mane of grey hair, handsome as all could be, and walks up to me and says, “Hi, I’m Dmitri Your performance was really wonderful.” And I looked at him and said “Thank you,” and I walked away [laughter] BB: Because you were nervous? SR: Well, he is Dmitri Hvorostovsky, I mean, come on I was a young, younger, and he thought that I hated him Yeah, so BB: So, how did you correct that? SR: Well, I didn’t, he did I got a phone call, with him inviting me to sing a concert with him in Russia, which another

soprano cancelled at the last minute, Romanian, black hair Don’t need to mention a name And yeah, so she cancelled it at the last minute, and I just happened to be free and I had never been to Russia And he said “Oh by the… ” once I get to Russia, “Oh, by the way, we are making a DVD and a CD of it.” Okay, “Hi, I’m Sondra.” But it was funny, we had this instant chemistry like we had known each other for years and years and years He’s a big goofball and I’m Yeah, I’m a big goofball too So, it was a blast When we weren’t laughing, and we were singing, and then we were laughing, and joking around again It was a lot of fun BB: Didn’t you get up to goofball stuff on stage together, weren’t you doing lots of SR: How do you know all this? [laughter] BB: I asked around SR: Oh yeah Dmitri, as I said he is a big goofball and we and we have sung together a lot We did a lot of trovatores, and one day, in our big duet, the baritone-soprano duet where he’s trying to woo me and take me away, and he’s He, on his eyelids, painted eyes [laughter] SR: And I’m singing away, he’s singing to me and he His eyes were like this I thought, “Why are your eyes like that?” He didn’t say anything, ’cause he can’t say anything And then I’m singing in my And he just does this I start laughing and then he What did he do? He drew a big heart on his chest and he just whipped it out He was facing up stage, so nobody in the audience could see it, but only me and I’m “Come on.” So, when I died, I might have wrote, “I heart Dmitri” on my hand, and just held it up as I’m dying and just went like that… [laughter] We’ve done it We’re bad, we’re so bad Yeah, and he would tickle me and yeah, terrible BB: I heard you say earlier today that after your performance on Tuesday night, you were up until 3:30 AM Is that because you have so much energy after you’ve performed, is there a buzz that continues to go through you? SR: Oh yeah, absolutely And especially, when it’s an exciting show, like Tuesday night was really exciting and we were all, all the cast, we were like, “Yeah, let’s go get it.” And then we went to dinner afterwards and then we have to drive home to Caledon and You get home and you’re like, “Yeah, great”, and then it’s like somebody pulls the plug on you It’s adrenalin drop, but yeah, 3:30, it’s pretty normal It’s a different, it’s just a shift, so today’s singing at 96.3 at 1:00 in the afternoon, oh, that was fun, that was a lot of fun BB: You’re an American who longs to be Canadian SR: Yes BB: Why? BB: I love Canada I really do Go Canada Yay! Yeah, I will always be American, because I was born there, my mother’s there But I married a Canadian gentleman And we flipped a coin again, US, do we live in the US, do we live in Canada? The first year we were married actually, I was in New York and he was here But, every time I came up here I thought, “Wow! It’s so civilized and the people are so nice Why is everyone so nice?” But then I found out it’s just the way Canadians are And, we say sorry all the time I just really fell in love with it and really wanted to make this our home and we are applying for Canadian citizenship now Finally, after 13 years, because I think we found a way to get it Because to become a Canadian citizen you have to be here three years out of a five-year period BB: Right SR: And when we’re home, one or two months out of a year, that’s not gonna happen, but I think we might hopefully have a way to do that BB: So, five more performances of Roberto Devereux, but then you have an engagement with the Toronto Symphony And you’re singing Strauss, doing the four last songs SR: Yes BB: Have you sung Strauss before? SR: Not this Strauss I sang the other Strauss I sang Fledermaus, but not the serious Strauss No, and in fact, I’ve only done a few German roles I only did Freya and Gatruna , the Wagner roles BB: So, is this Are you trying something out here? SR: Yes This is an experiment because a lot of people have hinted that maybe I’d be good at German repertoire BB: People are gasping in the audience, why is that? Do you think that’s a mistake audience? Is that what you’re thinking here, or?

SR: Hands up, who things I should do it BB: Who thinks that Sondra should do German? [background conversation] SR: Yeah, okay Who thinks I shouldn’t? Oh BB: Lots of votes of confidence SR: I know, I know I need them Thank you I’m scared BB: The opera that you have booked through 2018, is any of them, does any of them represent that repertoire? SR: No BB: Okay SR: No, not yet I was offered a German opera, but said, no Not yet I don’t speak German, I speak Italian And German Especially, German operas are so conversation, conversational It’s like, if we were having this conversation and you were speaking in Russian and I was speaking in English, it just, it would be very one sided SR: So, it involves a lot more work for me with the language and working on the language and all of that, but I’m not sure, if it’s a risk that I wanna take or not yet So But the four last songs were gloriously beautiful I mean the music, I live German music, I really do It’s not that I don’t love it, it’s just that it’s a lot more work for me And I’m not sure, the Italian music is so great So, we’ll see BB: Will we see you on stage again at the COC? SR: Yes Can’t say what BB: Fantastic though Great! SR: Good Not German, not German music It’ll be more Italian BB: Before you go on stage, you say a prayer to your father SR: I do Oh, you’re going to get me all teary again BB: Why is that? SR: I found my father dead, when I was 18 years old, and he never got to hear me to sing So, I feel like he’s my little guardian angel, and he protects me except when I fall [laughter] Yeah, so I always say a little prayer, and I don’t ask him for me to sing wonderfully I ask him to allow me to do the best I can do tonight or today or whatever Just allow me to do the best that I can do right now BB: He’s doing a good job SR: You know, I’ve got a pretty good guardian angel I think BB: I would say so SR: Yeah, I’ve got a few others up there too But yeah, I’m pretty lucky BB: Sondra Radvanovsky, thank you for talking with us SR: Oh, you make me cry BB: No, no, no You’re so great, and such a catch! SR: Thank you That was fun! BB: Good You are so great SR: Thank you No, you’re wonderful BB: Thank you for being Now, we’re gonna go to the audience to see if SR: Sure, sure BB: So audience, it’s up to you now Do you have some questions? I’m sure you do We have a microphone for you here, don’t be shy SR: No questions BB: Who will be first? We just have to break the dam, I know that they are SR: Oh, yeah! Somebody wants to ask BB: No one wants to go first, it’s the opening night, you see? SR: I know, I know It’s just very scary, but go on BB: Do you want to go to the microphone, so we can hear you? And I’m just gonna ask you to keep the preambles short so that you can get to the question But, go ahead, yes Speaker 4: I don’t have a Oh it’s loud SR: It’s good S4: I don’t have a question, but I was one of the fortunate people that was there on Friday evening for the opening performance It was magical SR: Thank you S4: And I’ve been going to the opera for seasons, for years and I think it’s I said to somebody that called me today and I said, “It had to have been one of the best evenings we’ve had in years.” Thank you SR: Thank you BB: Thank you [applause] SR: Hi, there Speaker 5: I actually have two questions The first question is, are there any roles still on your bucket list? SR: Yes Are there any roles still on my bucket list? Forza del destino; Pique Dame; Turandot; and then all those angry women, Macbeth, Attila, Nabokov, Fanciulla del West, dying to do that, and Chénier, Andrea Chénier A lot of these I have coming up too, so I’m very lucky I get to sing all the music that I love Number two? S5: How do you feel about directors who try to re-imagine productions in a modern time and [laughter] SR: Oh, if I had a dollar for every time I was asked that question You asked about modern productions and how do I feel about it Well, nowadays it’s pretty much unavoidable Especially in Germany, in places like that I have learnt to ask who the directors are of the new productions that I am doing because I was burned once and Listen, it’s unavoidable like I said, but if it’s relevant to the plot and makes sense, then I will try my best to make it make sense

But, if it doesn’t make sense, then you have to have a discussion with the director and say listen, this is not working for me And the Maria Stuarda I did actually was It was very difficult BB: So what were you able to have changed? SR: At that point nothing, yeah, and I cried actually It made me look ugly! I actually stopped the rehearsal The dresser was like, “I look ugly!” Oh, I did, I looked like something out of the movie, The Aliens Truly The hair was you know, back here and it was all powdered white and Sometimes people criticize us, the singers, for accepting these new productions, but often times, we don’t know anything about it They don’t tell us anything We’re just contracted to do a job and they don’t tell you who the conductor is, or who the director is, or if it’s gonna be this new production We don’t know that, and then we are the ones that are criticized, and it’s not necessarily our fault But I agree with you, I think more traditional productions often make more sense But, modernizing a bit is not bad, but with toilets on stage, come on [laughter] S5: Thank you SR: You’re welcome Thank you for coming Speaker 6: Hi SR: Hi, there S6: Hi, thank you for all the insightful things you said today, because to me as a young vocalist, they were really helpful I was wondering if you could give any advice, in terms of auditioning for colleges SR: Oh, boy You know what, I’m glad that I’m sitting here and I’m not there The Opera world has changed so much in the last 10 years really Advice for auditioning for colleges You know what? Sing what you love, don’t let somebody else tell you, “Oh, you are this type of voice you should sing this.” Sing what you really feel in here and the audience or whoever you are singing for is gonna feel it Because, if I had once again a dollar for every time someone said, “Oh, no, but you should sing Mozart,” yeah, no, not for me I love listening to Mozart I could sing Mozart, but I don’t feel it in here when I sing it So, be true to yourself, don’t let other people sway your opinions and sing what you love Honestly S6: Thank you SR: Good luck S6: Thank you BB: Good luck Hi SR: Hi there Speaker 7: Hello I was also present at that magical evening on Friday And I absolutely agree this was one of the best evenings of many seasons SR: Thank you S7: Thank you for that SR: Thank you S7: My question is today I listened also to you, the 96.3 performance And you sang some Russian songs What is your connection, the Russian connection in your background Your father? SR: Yes, my father he was Czech And his mother they say came from Russia So all of the Russian music just really, as I said to her, touches my soul S7: You grew up with Russian music? SR: Yeah Czech music too I’ve sung Rusalka, and I really loved Dvorak and all of that Remember what I said? The music that came very easily to me was all that sad languid music S7: Rusalka? SR: Love Rusalka, I love singing it S7: The other question is then about your husband, is he Canadian citizen or both of you are becoming Canadian citizen? SR: Yes He is No, he is a Canadian citizen and also British citizen So he’s the reason why I’m here Thank you S7: You’re booked till 2018, but I hope we are around to hear more of you SR: It’ll be before 2018 that I’m back, I promise BB: Hi SR: Hi there Speaker 8: Hi I’m such a big fan of you and I spent a lot of time listening to broadcasts from the Met and Live in HD and things like that, so it’s really exciting and a little bit surreal to be talking to you, but SR: I don’t bite S8: That’s fantastic I’m another aspiring singer as well as aspiring baritone, and I was always wondering to myself, what will make me stand out? And I know it’s different for everybody, but I was wondering, for you personally, what do you think makes you stand out as an individual, as a singer, or as a soprano? SR: You know, that’s a very good question And He asked, what makes me stand out or what can he do to make him stand out? And I had a voice teacher, one of my first voice teachers Marcile Sangara, French, Lyric baritone, and he said to me, “If you’re going to be a soprano, you have to be the very best soprano you can be and you have to find what makes you different than you or you or you and you have to work on that, because there’s 40 gazillion million Sopranos in the world, as there are Baritones.” So you have to find what you do better than any other baritone

And I found, what I did was singing high and soft and all of that floaty stuff SR: And also, that I have a very large instrument that I can pair down to very small and very soft And I’m not gonna say it’s a trick, because I worked very hard to get that, but that really is what I found works for me So you have to go out and find, “Okay, do you sing Mozart better than anyone else, or is your Coloratura better than anyone else, or do you sing those long lines.” Like Dmitri Hvorostovsky, he figured out what he did better than anyone else, he never breaths The guy can sing for five pages and you know, he’s turning a few shades of red, but he can turn those lines and that’s what people will go, “Oh, yes, Dmitri Long lines.” So, you have to find that thing that makes you, you You know? And it’s not easy, trust me And, it takes a while, but keep working at it, because it’s really worth it As long as you love what you’re doing, it’s worth it S8: Great Thank you so much SR: Good luck to you S8: Thank you Speaker 9: Hi, Sondra I was also at Tuesday’s performance of Roberto Devereux, and I just loved your performance, it was just lovely It was actually the second time that I had seen you The first time was two years ago at Roy Thomson Hall with the symphony orchestra SR: Oh yes S9: Yes I was sitting just a few seats away from you on that night, so it was quiet lovely just to hear you SR: Did you see my tonsils when I was singing? S9: Now, I have a question that might be sacrilegious to all the opera purists and it’s this, after having attended opera performances for the last four or five years at the Four Seasons Centre of Performing Arts, I’ve concluded that perhaps opera singers should be mic’d and amplified because I have found that at performances the You’re blessed with a lovely voice, you fill the opera hall S9: Other people have a challenge doing that and they have a challenge singing above the orchestra And I find when you’re listening to a performance, there’s an unevenness in the volume and in the loudness of the performances and some people can fill the hall, others not quite so much, some are faint and so forth I’ve concluded that, I think it would be wonderful for the voices to be amplified and mic’d, and what you do, your simply evening out the loudness level, but you’re still preserving the characteristics of the voice I SR: Next question? [laughter] My publicist taught me, you don’t have to answer all questions S9: I’ve gone to musicals, and I’ve gone BB: When I listen to sports radio, you’re putting an awful lot of pressure and trust in a sound person if you do that SR: Yeah, that’s true BB: You’re taking some power away from the singers then, but Go ahead SR: I will say, listen, opera is opera They didn’t have to be mic’d 100 years ago, why do they have to be mic’d now? S9: Well, the theatres are so much larger SR: Is it because the voices are changing? Are the opera houses bigger? Are the people singing the wrong music? I don’t know That’s It’s a very loaded question and honestly, you’ve had me stumped because this is a Because I don’t need a microphone S9: You definitely don’t No offence SR: Thank God [laughter] So I don’t think it’s fair that if I don’t need one, why would other people need it? You know what I mean? Then and if they do need a microphone then maybe they should go sing musical theatre That would maybe be my answer, but I’m gonna stop there before I perjure myself anymore because I completely, completely disagree with it And if, once you start using microphones than how else are we going to change opera, because opera has always been based on the power and the beauty of the human voice naturally So I [applause] BB: Good answer SR: You know? And where will it go from there, you know? S9: Would you be willing to try it at one time if somebody was offered to you BB: Well, I think we have an answer to that question S9: As an ensemble, not that you would need it But as an ensemble if the director and the production SR: Yeah, no BB: Every time there’s a broadcast, there is some mic-ing of the singing going on, so you were mic’d today when you did your broadcast at 93

SR: Right, but I will tell you, and this is very technical When the voice is not heard live, when it is compressed to be put through, as a radio person, compressed to be put through a microphone and radio waves, it’s not the true voice I’m sorry, it’s And the human voice for me is a visceral feeling It’s not just the sound of it, but it’s the feeling that you get when it hits you here So with a microphone it’s not natural It’s not S9: You’re getting some natural voice, they’re still singing BB: Okay now I think, I think we’ve dealt with your question sir, but thank you very much I wanna tell the audience something, if you want to I think we’re done but thank you, thank you SR: It has been, I will say New York City Opera, because it was made as a ballet theatre, not as an opera theatre They do naturally enhance the voices because BB: What happened to the New York City Opera? SR: And it’s gone BB: It’s gone So SR: Thank you Sorry BB: No, if you want to experience the visceral emotion that we were just talking about that Sondra just explained to us and you haven’t seen Roberto Devereux yet We have an opportunity for you to get tickets at 15% discount, that’s at the table back there And I encourage you, even if you’ve already seen it to see it again because SR: Each show is different, I will say I do, and I purposely do different things every show to see if you’re paying attention BB: We also have a pair of free tickets to give away to a performance right now and I hope you’ve all entered, because these are the ballots and Sondra would you Oh, we have a couple more ballots? You wanna just SR: A few more? Get ’em in, get ’em in, get ’em in BB: Yeah get ’em in Get it all in quickly SR: Yeah, yeah, yeah Okay BB: Thank you, great SR: Okay, I’m not gonna look Put ’em in, put ’em in Few more, few more BB: A few more? Alright SR: Thank you BB: Are we sure people aren’t entering twice? SR: Oh, yeah I would BB: Cooking the books here, are they? The Canadians appear to be polite, but they’re actually devious SR: Oh, is that it? BB: You may want to reconsider that SR: I’m learning more and more BB: Alright, here we have all of the entries now, and Sondra is going to choose a winner SR: Ready? Rhoda Seon Is that right? Speaker 10: Oh, I don’t believe it! SR: You won! BB: Rhoda, congratulations! Oh, that’s so great! [applause] SR: Did I say your name right? Sion? Seon? Did I say your name right? [background conversation] SR: I have to shake her hand [background conversation] S1: Thank you so much SR: Yes, and come back stage and say hello, please if we can put her name on the backstage list BB: Wow, I didn’t know there was a backstage pass included SR: Oh, oh! BB: Great SR: Yeah that’s, you can tell them that I said that, okay? S1: Okay SR: Enjoy it S1: Thank you so much BB: Audience, thank you very much for coming out tonight SR: Thank you! BB: And once again, Sondra Radvanovsky, ladies and gentleman Thank you, you’re so fantastic