How Do You Get to the Metropolitan Opera?
by Steve Gladstone
February 6, 2013
A pedestrian on 57th Street in Manhattan once stopped Jascha Heifetz and inquired, "Could you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?" "Yes," said Heifetz. "Practice!" If you asked coloratura Rachele Gilmore how to get to The Metropolitan Opera, she will tell you, “With a four hour notice.”
Obviously you need some big pipes and a lot of practice before you “get the call” to appear at the Met. But a 4-hour notice to play the mechanical doll Olympia in Les contes d’Hoffmann? It may have been like walking on a cloud, certainly more than sleepwalking.
Sleepwalking? Gilmore will be doing just that in Florida Grand Opera’s production of Bellini’s bel canto opera, La sonnambula, which opens this Saturday, February 9, at the Adrian Arsht Center. She will be singing the title role of Amina for the first time in her professional career.
Growing up in Atlanta, Gilmore was interested in musical theater and popular music. She was bitten by the opera bug when she was 18 while attending a recital featuring Renée Fleming. Gilmore was taken by Fleming’s “emotional connection with the audience” and was so moved by her performance that she told herself, “I have to do this with my life.” She received her Bachelor’s of Music from Indiana University and continued with Graduate studies at Boston U.
Gilmore has history with FGO as a Young Artist in residence back in 2004 and her trajectory since then has taken her to international stardom. She has been singing professionally around the globe since 2007. Her first professional gig was singing Zerlina in Don Giovanni. Gilmore’s diverse repertoire includes Cunegonde in Candide, Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Gilda in Rigoletto, Adele in Die Fledermaus, and the title role in the groundbreaking Swiss premiere of Unsuk Chin's Alice in Wonderland. She was chosen as a Zarzuela Winner in Plácido Domingo’s Operalia World Opera Contest in Paris among other awards.
Though Gilmore does not recall ever sleepwalking, she clarified that, “Maybe I have but I just haven’t been told!”
The role of Amina was written for a mezzo soprano and over the years, as different singers, the likes of Maria Callas and Renata Scotto, ornamented the music differently, the role morphed soprano. Gilmore pointed out, “The public really enjoyed those higher cadenzas. Bellini fully expected the singers who sang his operas to ornament to their own specific voice types within his framework.” And ornament she does with aplomb.
For training, along with her scales, Gilmore will often sing cadenzas from her repertoire. She also jogs but not while singing. When it comes to improvising for a stage glitch, Gilmore points out that “it happens with every performance… like when your skirt is falling down as you’re trying to sing an aria.”
Gilmore enjoys mentoring young singers. Her best piece of advice: “Be true to yourself.” She continued, “Art is such a subjective form of expression and everybody has different opinions. Those opinions are what make the world the amazing place that it is. For young singers, because there are so many opinions being thrown at them all the time, sometimes that can be a little overwhelming. You know yourself the best; you know what’s right for you.”
After receiving the call that she was to be on stage in four hours at the Met to cover Olympia, the audience was decisive. The tessitura took Gilmore to an A-flat above high C, boldly going where most sopranos never go. Gilmore was humble about this massive undertaking. “When you step in like that at the last minute – the audience knew it was my debut – they’re really behind you and supporting you,” Gilmore said. See and hear for yourself her stunning debut at the Met singing Olympia’s famous aria, “Les oiseaux dans la charmille,” from The Tales of Hoffmann.
Bel canto, Italian for "beautiful singing," is precisely what Gilmore does. See her live on February 9 through February 17 in La sonnambula (directed by the legendary Renata Scotto!) at the Ziff Ballet Opera House at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Downtown Miami.