To celebrate the national broadcast of our 2017 production Semiramide (airing Nov. 17 on the WFMT Radio Network Opera Series), we caught up with mezzo-soprano ALEKSANDRA ROMANO, who earned rave reviews for her performance of Arsace. (We’re delighted that Romano will return to The Grand’s stage in the role of Sister Helen in Dead Man Walking, part of our 2019 Festival.) Check out our Q&A, then tune in locally on WRTI on Nov. 17 at 1 pm for the special broadcast, hosted by William Berger.
ROMANO: The Grand is truly a gem of a theater. It was perfect for our production, especially in terms of its intimate size. Rossini wrote for European theaters which were significantly smaller than the theaters we’re used to here in the States, and we were able to draw many more colors out of the music than possible when you have to project to a 2,000+ seat house. Even the simple fact of the production’s existence was a small miracle! Although Semiramide is enjoying a bit of a resurgence right now, the piece is still one of Rossini’s more rarely-performed works, and for the low lyric mezzos of the world, it’s just a gift to have a chance to sing these heroic pants roles.
OD: Arsace is a notoriously difficult role, especially the fabulous duets with Semiramide [sung by soprano Lindsay Ohse]. But you and Lindsay nailed it, receiving rave reviews. Tell us about preparing for Arsace and your amazing chemistry with Ohse.
ROMANO: Arsace was one of those amazing roles where, when I cracked the score for the first time, it felt like vocal home. It is definitely one of the longer roles, with two big arias, three duets, and a trio in addition to the typically involved Rossini finales, so stamina is the name of the game. That comes with practice on my own and rehearsal with my colleagues. I feel so lucky to have had Lindsay as my Semiramide for this production. She is an absolute delight of a human, a fabulous musician, and a brilliantly supportive colleague. With guidance from Maestro Barrese, we were able to craft duets that fit our special vocal skills, which is one of the very best things about bel canto music — you’re always hearing the singer in their wheel-house thanks to ornamentation.
ROMANO: I’m so excited to be back in Wilmington! Sister Helen is a dream role of mine — if I can get through it without falling to weeping pieces on stage, it will be a miracle, that’s for sure. She’s exactly the kind of strong woman I want to be when I grow up. :) Being able to do contemporary pieces that address current issues is very important to me as an artist, as I really believe it is our responsibility to serve as visual — and musical — examples of the best of what we have to offer each other as humans.
OD: Aside from the stage at The Grand, what Wilmington haunts are you looking forward to visiting again?
ROMANO: I always make a point to visit Winterthur and Longwood Gardens while I’m in town, especially in the spring as everything starts to bloom. I’m also very excited for my triumphant return to my favorite sandwich dive, Olympic Subs and Sandwiches, and to Chelsea Tavern for a fancier bite (I guess, if I must). And definitely looking forward to exploring the museums and hiking trails again!
WFMT Radio Network Opera Series: OperaDelaware’s Semiramide, hosted by William Berger (airing Nov. 17)
WRTI.ORG: OperaDelaware’s Semiramide, Nov. 17 beginning at 1 pm
OperaDelaware on the radio: A Babylonian queen rules the airwaves (Broad Street Review)
Selected Praise: Semiramide & La Cenerentola (2017 Festival)
2019 Festival: Dead Man Walking | Scalia/Ginsburg & Trial by Jury