Fort Worth — Soprano Audrey Luna rocketed to international fame recently at the Metropolitan Opera by singing the highest note ever recorded in the company’s 130-year history. This is the highest written note, rather than some stratospheric interpolation. The note is to be found in the actual score of Thomas Adès' new opera The Exterminating Angel. The media blitz was on the occasion of the opera’s American premiere, but Luna set similar records at the opera's world premiere at the Salzburg Festival in 2016, and a subsequent production by the Royal Opera House, London, in 2017.
She will be singing the role of Norina in Donizetti’s comic romp, Don Pasquale, for the Fort Worth Opera Festival, so local audiences have the opportunity to hear her right after her “Believe it or Not” Met moment. Unfortunately, such a note doesn’t exist in the opera she will sing here, but Opera News called her voice a “…blazing coloratura,” and this opera has lots of vocal fireworks in her role for her to display.
This will be her first performance in this role. Don Pasquale is a delightful comedy and Norina is one of the great coloratura roles. Let’s hope she returns soon as she moves into more lyric roles.
In a recent phone interview, Luna shared some details of her life.
TheaterJones: You make your home in Hawaii. How did that come about for an opera singer with an international career?
Audrey Luna: The Hawaii Opera gave me my first job and then hired me back. I made a lot of friends and thought that I wanted to make my home here. My husband is here as well and that makes a big difference [laughs].
This will be your first performance of Norina in Donizetti’s Don Pasquale. You seem to be checking off roles like this.
Actually, I am singing them in the order Donizetti wrote the operas. First, I sang Lucia (in Lucia di Lammermoor) and I just sang Marie (in La fille du regiment) so I am ready for Norina.
Lucia is a serious role but the other two are comedies. How different is that?
I love singing comic roles. The roles in the comedies of Rossini and Donizetti are all similar in a way. They are mischievous and the music moves really fast, like in patter songs. Norina is sassy but in this production she is sultry. It isn’t often that I het to play sexy so I am really looking forward to it.
What else do you sing other than operas?
Half of my time is singing with symphony orchestras. I do a lot of oratorios. I enjoy singing Orff’s Carmina Burana but I also like singing Mozart’s [Great Mass in C Minor] and his Requiem.
How about recitals?
Not so much. I would like to sing more of them. I have one coming up in May.
Do you have a favorite role?
Yes, and it is always the one I just finished singing. I just sang Zerbinetta in Richard Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos. What a fun role that is!
I have to ask about your record-setting high note.
Well, the fuss about it is super silly. It is written in the score so I sang it. I first sang it in Salzburg then in London but when I sang it at the Met there was lots of media attached to it. It was a fun week. I had a bunch of interviews. There are other sopranos who sing very high notes, such as Ima Sumac and Mado Robin, who sang a high C above high C. What made this different is that it is not interpolated but actually written in the score.
You caused a sensation.
The tessitura of my voice lies higher than many other sopranos. The chords are thinner, however the older I get the more my voice is rounding out and I have much more stability. This new roundness is working in my favor and will allow me to expand my repertoire.
Any roles you would like to sing?
Sure, lots of them. Sophie in Strauss’ Rosenkavalier for one. Another is Maria in Bernstein’s West Side Story.
» Don Pasquale opens Saturday night at Bass Performance Hall, and runs through May 12. It runs in repertory with Piazzolla's Maria de Buenos Aires at Bass Hall, and the triptych of short operas, Brief Encounters, at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden.