Deborah Voigt’s Life Lessons Ain’t Over

Written By ArtBurst Team
November 19, 2015 at 6:43 PM

As a young artist in the Merola Opera Program in San Francisco, Deborah Voigt sang in a master class for the great soprano Leontyne Price. She remembers feeling intimidated by the star as she prepared to perform the Verdi aria Pace, pace mio dio. Price showed the singer where she should pause for breath. Then, Voigt recalls during a phone interview, Price said, “‘Let’s sing it together.’ She held my hand and we sang through the aria together!” But breath marks weren’t the most important part of that lesson. Voigt couldn’t help commenting on the exquisite diamond ring on Price’s finger. The star replied, “Honey, I bought that ring for myself, because if I give it to myself, no one can take it away from me.” “Buy own diamond,” remembers Voigt, more than 20 years later. “Now, that’s a life lesson!” Voigt passes on what she learned from Price to aspiring opera singers today. As an artist-in-residence at the Washington Opera’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program this season, she will give individual coaching sessions, group classes, and lead career roundtable discussions. She also plans to advise female singers on the importance of independence. “I hate to toot my feminist horn,” she warns, “but it’s a lot more difficult for a woman to be married and have children and have a successful career. There are sacrifices to be made. I want to help them pull through some of that.” Voigt more than pulled through, establishing herself as a powerhouse in roles by Strauss and Wagner, having been blessed with a robust dramatic soprano voice. Miami played an important role in her development. It was at the Florida Grand Opera that she first portrayed Ariadne in Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos, a role for which she’s now world famous. FGO also presented her first Lady Macbeth and her first Tosca. Last month, FGO honored Voigt with the company’s first lifetime achievement award. Though German opera has been pivotal in her career, the Chicago-born Voigt identifies herself as an American artist. Her 2005 album All My Heart, with pianist Brian Zeger, is a decadent layer cake of American song by Charles Ives, Leonard Bernstein, Amy Beach, and Charles Tomlinson Griffes. The icing is her rendition of songs by Ben Moore, a living composer Voigt has championed. Sophisticated musical theater, Moore’s songs are so grand, they might better be called ballads. Voigt treats them like beloved possessions, caressing the vocal lines like a mother brushing her daughter’s hair. Voigt returns to Miami for a solo recital this weekend, revisiting works from All My Heart as well as songs by Strauss and Tchaikovsky. But Voigt is not resting on her lifetime achievement. This season, she is collaborating with Tony award-winning playwright Terrence McNally and renowned opera and theater director Francesca Zambello on a 75-minute, one-woman-show, called Voigt Lessons. McNally wrote a libretto based on the singer’s life that strings together a list of her favorite songs, ranging from Brahms and Puccini to Broadway and Karen Carpenter. “It gives the audience a chance to get to know me a little bit better,” Voigt explains, “certainly more than they would if I were carrying a spear and wearing a helmet.” Also this season, Voigt returns to the Met in her first run as Marie in Alban Berg’s Wozzeck. “I’m still learning new repertoire,” Voigt assures, “my lifetime achievement ain’t over.” Deborah Voigt performs on Friday, Nov. 15 at 8:00 p.m. in the Knight Concert Hall at the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. For more information, go to Photo: Luke Ratray

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