Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?
From as early as I can remember, music was a big part of my life, and it was really valued within my family. We didn’t listen to much classical music, but all three of us children took piano lessons and sang in choirs. We would take these long summer road trips to camp in the mountains, and my parents would have us sing in the car to keep us kids from killing each other in the back seat of our hot station wagon! Being the youngest of three, I would watch my brother and sister get to do everything first, and I would sit there itching for the day that I would get to be up there singing and dancing myself. In the meantime, I’d gather my stuffed animals at home and do full on concerts for them! It wasn’t until I started working with my first voice teacher when I was 15 that I realized I could truly be serious about pursuing a career in music. She was the doorway to a whole new world of learning and discovery in classical voice. I was so naïve….thank goodness!!
Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?
Probably the most important influences on my career have been the folks who really took a chance on me when I was young. In university, I was very purposeful about trying to put myself out there and audition for things as well as finding performing and studying opportunities in the summers. Those experiences, in particular, facilitated a lot of the doors that seemed to open in my early 20’s. The conductor, Stephen Lord, really took an interest in me and then Lenore Rosenberg at the Metropolitan Opera brought me into the Lindemann Young Artist Program soon afterwards. Those were huge chances of fate opening before me.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
I think a massive challenge for most singers is finding the balance between work life and personal life. Hopefully, these don’t have to be completely separate, but directly in the years when your career is growing are also the same years when the kids you grew up with are settling down into their ‘adult’ lives! I’ve struggled a lot between the desire for normalcy and routine versus the constant change of life on the road. It’s gotten a lot easier with time and experience, but I do hit a wall when I’ve been away from home for too long. I have learned that I need that home time to re-charge and re-connect to myself — not to mention, it’s so much easier for me to study at home!
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
Oh man! That’s a tough one! I think I’ve felt most proud/fulfilled when I feel I’ve taken on something that really scared me or intimated me. Actually, this recording, Thousands of Miles, being one of those projects! I entered the project knowing that there is no ‘halfway’ here, inhabiting feelings and images that aren’t always beautiful. And in saying that, I find that there’s tremendous beauty in vulnerability, so I am most proud of the moments on stage when I’ve been at my most open and raw emotional place.
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
I’m attracted to depth, to layers and layers within relationships and challenging ideas and concepts. Not to say that I don’t sometimes find it frustrating, but I’m very willing to go there if I can really inhabit the concept. Physical comedy is really refreshing too, but I always think it needs to come from a ‘high stakes’ situation in order to be fair to the situation at hand. Generally, however, I gravitate towards exploring the darker sides of human emotions.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
Frankly, a lot of it comes down to scheduling – what comes in first (usually opera) is already set in the calendar, and then we see how things fit around it. I will sometimes take extra caution if there are a lot of new roles back to back because that can be a recipe for insanity! I mainly look at the project, the company, the people involved and decide from there.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
The Musikverein in Vienna is incredible. Why? The acoustic!! Intimacy, colour, dynamics – you can do anything in that space.
Who are your favourite musicians?
When I’m just chilling out at home, I listen to a lot of folk rock music. I really enjoy musicians who write potent lyrics. Ray LaMontagne, Brandi Carlile and This is the Kit are a among a few of the favourites. It’s funny how Spotify playlists have really changed the way I listen to music over the past couple years. It’s more based on ‘mood’ rather than artist. While it has introduced me to some new singers I wouldn’t have otherwise known, I’m really starting to miss the experience of communing with one album the way I used to – buying the disc, scouring the booklet – I really enjoy that intimacy with the album.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
This is probably more of a favorite ‘staged concert’ experience, but I was lucky enough to sing Dido in ‘Dido and Aeneas’ with a wonderful ensemble, The Balthasar-Neumann Ensemble with Thomas Hengelbrock conducting. We premiered a staged concert of Dido in Salzburg in the Felsenreitschule (yes, the theatre featured in the Sound of Music!). Thomas had the orchestra memorise the final aria, Dido’s Lament, so that the lights in the orchestra went out and cauldrons of fire burned behind me while I sang in very low light. He created this feeling of deep solitude while her life ‘burned away’ around her. It was so beautiful, and that felt like real vulnerability and commitment coming from everyone involved. In darkness we were all entwined in the music together.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Study, listen, watch, and then remember to find yourself in all of that information being thrown at you. We can be good and being good students, but there’s a big leap to working professionally and becoming your own artist. This happens with time, certainly, but I think it’s important – after you’ve heard what everyone else thinks about how you should sing/act/think – that it’s important to have a sense of where your sensibilities stand in that creative process.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Waking up each day with a sense of purpose and gratitude for life.
What is your most treasured possession?
My collection of scores and music books.
What is your present state of mind?
A little heavy — I’m waiting for my morning tea to kick in.
Kate Lindsey’s album Thousands of Miles is released on 19 May 2017