This weekend, I had a little Skype date with the lovely and so so fun Jennifer Rowley who makes her Met debut TODAY as Musetta! She has sung the role before, but never in a traditional, period production, so this will be a fun day for her and the horse that pulls her onto the Met stage. Joining Ms. Rowley for the interview was diva-in-the-making Elizabeth Sharp, age 12, who has been a huge fan and friend of Jennifer’s ever since they worked together in 2007 at Chelsea Opera. Let’s see what the ladies are up to as they get pumped for the debut:
MW: So .. Wednesday. Big day ?
JR: Massive. I will be …. not sleeping. (She laughs) Elizabeth’s parents just came over early and made me this wonderful brunch — Elizabeth: I made it! JR: She made it! It was so nice. Last night I seriously woke up every three hours ready to sing “Quando m’en vo”. It’s at that point where I’m running the staging in my head as I’m sleeping, seeing myself on stage. Whew – it makes it difficult to sleep.
MW: What’s your experience with the role?
JR: My first Musetta was in Oslo in the new Herheim production. That was so incredible. The whole premise was that you meet all the characters in modern time, so Musetta is two characters. Modern Musetta was a nurse in the hospital where Mimi dies — we get the period Musetta because Rodolfo is sort of dragging Mimi to hide her from death into these fantasies and memories. It’s phenomenal. Kind of like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
JR: This upcoming Musetta is the exact opposite but exactly what you would think of when you imagine Boheme. I mean … I come on stage in a carriage drawn by a huge horse!
MW: I’m jealous.
JR: But I don’t get to try it until the day of the debut.
MW: What is the feeling that’s so different about the Met? You know the role, you’re going to be amazing — why are you nervous?
JR: It’s the Met.
MW: (I squeal)
JR: It’s what you dream of when you’re walking to class in college at eight o’ clock in the morning with your coffee and your pajama pants and you’re dragging and you’re like “Oh my god I can’t go to music theory again”. And then you say, “It’s all because I’m going to the Met”. To add another layer of crazy, there’s no time to have an actual rehearsal physically on the stage. With everything that’s going on at the Met all the time, it’s impossible. (insert extended but playful “aaaaaaahhhhh!”)
MW: Elizabeth, are you going to be there?
ES: Of course! JR: She’s going to be in the front row!
MW: How does it feel to have a mentor like Jennifer and to see the kind of lifestyle that’s associated with being a singer?
ES: I guess exciting?
MW: You guess?
ES: Jennifer is also sort of my friend, so I’m excited for her. And glad that it’s not me.
ES: I want to eventually be up there where she is, but for now, I’m happy to watch. What I really love is the after-party. JR: She gets to drink a lot of Coke. We had an after-party after my Carnegie Hall debut and how many Cokes did you have that day?
ES: Ughhhh.. like five.
MW: Singers need their caffeine, right? You’re getting a sense of what it’s like to be in the singer’s hustle.
JR: Elizabeth does a lot. She’s got violin lessons, piano lessons, ballet, and voice. You add performances into that on top of school and she has quite a bit to balance. She manages the time really well.
MW: Not sure if you noticed all the tenor love on Operagasm lately, but we’re in the thick of March Madness here. What is it that you love about the tenor voice?
JR: I love the tenor voice. I love the boys!
MW: I sort of love boys, too!
JR: (Laughs) It’s hard for them. Being a tenor is extremely difficult and I do really feel for them. Their rep is hard and figuring out the mechanism can be very tricky .. but once it’s there, once it clicks, it’s one of the most thrilling sounds.
MW: When did things click for you vocally? Do you have an “Aha!” moment that sticks out in your memory?
JR: Yes, I went through a really big vocal change. I started out as a musical theatre singer, then the voice changed and I was singing coloratura stuff, like Queen of the Night, Zerbinetta and things like that. I was going into Caramoor and working with Will Crutchfield and I went in for a coloratura role. He felt like there was “something else in there” and gave me the Maria di Rohan and said, “I think this is you. This is right.” So I tried it, and … I mean, he really knew. I don’t know how he hears what he hears, but he is a genius.
MW: What’s after Musetta?
JR: My first Tosca.
MW: Who’s your favorite Tosca?
JR: (guttural Ugh like I just asked her to behead a puppy) I literally have six recordings and cannot pick. The first Tosca I saw was Debbie Voigt ten years ago and she was so unbelievably stunning. I am also obsessed with Sondra Radvanovsky’s Tosca. The color of the voice is incredible and she’s such a singing actress. She’s able to dig really deep and it doesn’t affect (she points to her throat).
MW: Last question and most important … what do you watch in your free time?
ES: Grey’s Anatomy and Downton Abbey
JR: Game of Thrones. And don’t judge me… I love Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and Dance Moms.