How many times have you heard someone brag that someone singing in the church choir should be performing with the opera company? Well, if that person attended First Presbyterian Church in Fort Worth between 1996 and 2004, they would not have been exaggerating. That is when soprano Ava Pine was the soloist. Her operatic career is on a trajectory straight to the top and she may just pick-up a Grammy at the annual awards later this month. The Texas native discusses her red-hot career.
TheaterJones: Congratulations on your recent Grammy nomination. Tell me about the work.
Ava Pine: It is for a recording of Johann Hasse’s opera Antonio e Cleopatra that I did with Ars Lyrica Houston. He was a contemporary of Handel and was quite successful as an opera composer. This was his first work in Italian and it launched a series of commissions by the Neapolitan court.
You play the role of Cleopatra, right? How did you get the role?
Yes, I get to be Cleopatra, one of history’s most fascinating women. I had sung with Ars Lyrica in the past, they knew I loved the Baroque repertoire, so they ask me to sing the role with them.
How did you learn that the recording was nominated for the Grammy?
Well, that came out of the blue. I first heard about it via a late night text message and then I called some of the other cast members. We were all surprised.
Nice surprise. You have stayed in the Dallas/Fort Worth area as your star ascends. Why is that?
I was a late bloomer as far as opera goes. Usually, by the time a soprano is in her 20s, she has built a resume of summer programs and apprenticeships. I was still singing at the church. In 2006, Jonathan Pell (then Artistic Director of the Dallas Opera) wanted to get an apprentice program started here in Dallas and he invited me to join as their first participant. I stayed there for two seasons and it was a wonderful experience. Fort Worth Opera started using me and so I just stayed. I am a Texas native, after all. (She was born in Galveston.)
What is coming up?
I will do the student matinees for the Dallas Opera’s production of Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette. It is fun to be finally doing the role after singing the aria for many years. In April, I will sing Pamina in Mozart’s The Magic Flute with the Michigan Opera Theater. Then, I will be Cleopatra again with the Fort Worth Opera in late May and early June. This time in Handel’s Julius Caesar. 2012 takes me to Opera Colorado to sing the role of Suzanna in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.
You were terrific in the Dallas Symphony’s Christmas Concert. Do you perform orchestral concert music much?
Sure. I have a Brahms “Requiem” performance on the docket. What he wrote in really gorgeous, but you have to sit quietly on stage for a long time in that piece. I also sing some other works, like Barber’s orchestral song “Knoxville, Summer of 1915” and the “Mahler Symphony No. 4.”
So, what are some dreams roles that no one has asked you to sing—yet?
Well, Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata is at the top of that list, but quite a ways off in the future. I would also like to sing Lucia in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor and the Governess in Britten’s spooky opera, The Turn of the Screw.
What about Sophie in Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier?
Oh yeah. I could sing that right now.
This story originally appeared in the February issue of Arts+Culture Magazine, which is a TheaterJones media partner and is on stands throughout North Texas now.