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Mermaid diva: Jennifer Rowley joins the tropical troupe of opera sopranos in Southwest Florida

Naples Daily News

Soprano Jennifer Rowley won’t pick violets. She likes large blooms — in big gardens.

Next spring she takes on the murderous villain, Scarpia, and then executes a Vin Diesel exit off the city wall of 18th century Rome as the title star in the Puccini potboiler “Tosca.” Those feats are for the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.

Still at the Met, she’ll morph into the flirty Musetta of “La Boheme,” in love with Marcello, but unable to resist recruiting a male entourage with her well-timed sashay. Both roles are just after Rowley defies two kingdoms for love in the title role of “Aida” in Barcelona.

One role owning her mind space now is a June premiere as Queen Elizabeth, caught in a deadly triangle with the man she loves and the woman he loves, for Donizetti’s “Roberto Devereux.” Even the building is larger than life; she’s performing at Australia’s contemporary architectural wonder, the Sydney Opera House.

In between all those roles, and recitals such as the one coming up in Naples on Friday, Nov. 15 (see information box), a girl’s got to get some rest. Rowley and her husband, Ray Diaz, did that by moving from frenetic Manhattan to sunny Fort Myers.

“I call it my happy place,” she said of the city, which puts her close to Florida family. The Cleveland native, a Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory graduate, and her husband had moved from New York to Detroit, where he could finish his studies, but the return to New York was a shock.

“Everything was so gray. And people were sick all the time. My father lived in Bonita for many years and now lives in Cape Coral, and every time we were down here we were so happy.” So they began looking at real estate.

Another thing she waved goodbye to: long commutes to JFK or La Guardia airports. Rowley and Diaz are in a new development just minutes from Southwest Florida International Airport — “Fifteen minutes, if that,” she said, beaming — and it’s a date-night drive to Miami International Airport for direct flights to her European and Pacific destinations.

The couple moved in this summer, and Rowley had just flown back from starring in the summer festival two days before the interview.

“I walked in the door and said, ‘Ahhhh!” she exulted.

Rowley has fair reason for exhaustion from the personae she takes on. But they’re, in essence, her tribe. This 21st century star approaches her art with an immersion in their background, their music and their stories.

“I love each of those women for the women that they are. I mean Musetta — she’s incredible, and in reading the resource material that the opera comes from, you actually find out how intelligent and how wise and how crafty and how manipulative she is. And you fall in love with her. Tosca is the same.”

“But I’m also very attracted to the music. You know, Verdi’s verismo is incredibly beautiful. And Puccini’s bel canto — omigosh, I love everything bel canto.”

The audience at Naples Opera Center will get a feeling for that romance in her voice, describe as “pitch-perfect polish” with “virtuosic breath support” by Opera Wire. Rowley display an “even, radiant tone”  with “effortless chiffony top notes,” said one New York Times critic.

Read the complete article via Naples Daily News

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