Today, a look back at The Ghosts of Versailles, as the spotlight shines on soprano D’Ana Lombard, our Rosina!
Which experience(s) most influenced your decision to become a professional singer? What’s the earliest point in your life that you can identify in pointing you in this direction?
I tell this story a lot but it’s really how it happened. When I was in high school I had bounced around from teacher to teacher and finally found one who not only helped my voice but she encouraged me in many ways. One day she sat me down and said “you need to decide right now (when you are applying for colleges) do you want to be a singer or do you want to be something else? If you want to be a singer you must go to school for it or else you will get distracted by other career options. If you can see yourself being something else then go be something else.” Over that week I talked with my parents about really trying to become a professional singer and going to school for it. As a family we decided that it couldn’t hurt to get a degree in music performance and see where that led me , if I was good enough then I would continue on in my quest to be a singer. Honestly, I’m still on that path that I started on all those years ago. I take it one day at a time and just try my hardest to make it to the next day with success.
Can you tell us an anecdote or story from your training or career so far that will give us insight into what makes you tick as an artist?
Very recently I had a teacher realize very quickly that being tactile and using inventive mental imagery helped me to let go and sing freely. One suggestion they had was to sing while squeezing a stress ball (one of those ones with sand in the middle that can be shaped in all kinds of crazy ways). The point was to get myself to imagine the phrases and meaning of the songs/arias in different ways and would therefore sing it differently and deeply. I’m not quite sure what this says about me as a singer but I thought it was an interesting little look into the lengths I will go to find better ways of singing.
If you hadn’t chosen this career, what would you have pursued instead?
I’ve always wanted to be a chef. I really love cooking for people and creating new dishes. Who knows maybe after my singing career is over I will open a restaurant called Aria!
What non-operatic music do you enjoy? Do you dabble in performing/playing/singing any other genres?
I love all kinds of music. My earliest musical education came from the old movie musicals like The Sound of Music and West Side Story, so that genre holds a dear place in my heart. But if an emotion hits me and a song can express it then that’s what I’ll sing whether it be opera, blues, musicals, pop, rnb, anything really. You never know what you’ll catch me singing when I think no one is listening.
What interesting things have you discovered about yourself or about your character (in this summer’s operas) during your role preparation? What aspects of your character are natural fit with your personality and/or which aspects are a stretch for you?
As I learn more about Rosina in this opera, it’s apparent that she’s very unhappy and has been for a very long time. She yearns for lost years that she will never get back and yet still has hope for the future with her husband which is why she keeps asking for forgiveness for her past transgressions. I respect her for staying and carrying that hope in her heart of a future of happiness but that is where she and I differ. I would be out of there in a heartbeat! Life is too short to stay in a relationship that makes you unhappy. Girl go get a makeover and find a new man, one who appreciates you!!
What’s your favorite part (or parts) of the preparation/rehearsal/performance process(es)?
I adore costumes! Costume fittings, dress rehearsals, even staging rehearsals where I get to wear parts of the costumes and work with any props I might have. I’m a very tactile person so getting to physicalize my character even more is always fun. Plus costumes are so pretty!
What aspect(s) of this career do you find the most challenging?
My least favorite part of learning music is the beginning parts where you are still solidifying pitches and rhythms and trying to get it into your body before you can really sing and let it go (insert Disney song)! However necessary that process is it doesn’t make it enjoyable. Finding the motivation to get started on a new large project or opera is challenging. The hardest part is knowing where to begin. It’s like spring cleaning – you have this huge mess in front of you and you have to tackle it somehow but you don’t know where to start. So you just jump in and make a bigger mess while trying to clean and eventually over time it slowly becomes organized and looks clean. That’s what learning music feels like to me.
Do you have any “hacks” that make your job easier/more enjoyable?
I record myself singing or playing my role on a music memo and I listen to it wherever I go that way I learn it even when not trying to learn it. That also helps tremendously with memorizing.
What’s the most exciting thing you think is happening in the opera industry today? The most discouraging/challenging thing? If you could change one thing about our art form and/or industry, what would it be?
The most discouraging thing to me is how the media keeps saying “opera is dying.” I’ve watched many interviews where all the interviewer wanted to ask was what will you do when opera dies? Opera is so alive! Yes there are scary things happening in our world like opera companies closing but there are also new works being created and performed, more outreach programs than I’ve seen in recent years that brings opera to a wider audience, and more and more people going to opera after great press like Renee Fleming singing the national anthem. To me the worst thing we can all do is to keep saying “opera is dying” that’s a sure way to run it into the ground. Optimistic I know, but it’s how I feel.
If you were talking about opera with someone who has never experienced it, what part(s) of it would you be most excited to explain to them?
My favorite thing to describe to a new operagoer is the atmosphere. The pure pomp and circumstance that is the act of going to see an opera. I tell people that you don’t have to get all dressed up to go but I think it’s more fun that way. How often do you pull out that one fancy dress you have and get to strut in public with it? Go crazy! People-watching at the opera is almost as fun as the opera itself. I’ve seen some crazy outfits including a gown made almost entirely of feathers and a woman who wore her beautiful formal kimono. Then all of these people from every corner of the world, speaking multiple languages, head into the theater where there is now a new atmosphere, one of anticipation. You look around at the architecture, is it beautiful, plain, ornate, showy, are there chandeliers, box seats full of well dressed people, a “nose-bleed” section balcony where the true opera lovers go to sit just to hear the beautiful music? Before the music even starts there are so many wonderful things happening all around you that will delight your senses. Then the lights go down and the true magic starts. The entire experience of opera doesn’t just start when the conductor takes the podium, it starts when you purchase that ticket.
What’s your dream role and why?
Tosca. I mean who wouldn’t want to sing all of Act II? Adore that music.
Do you have any artistic heroes? People whose careers or artistry you particularly look up to?
The more I meet people in this industry the more I look up to all of them. This is such a difficult career filled with so many sacrifices that no one ever sees. When I see how passionate most people are about what they do that gives me more energy to keep carrying on with my own career. I will say that Sondra Radvanovsky has been someone I have really looked up to in recent years. Her commitment to keeping all her energy in her character and in what she is saying is admirable. I saw her sing Tosca at LA Opera when I was a young artist there and I saw every single performance and still cried every time. There is not a moment when she is not totally submersed in her character and in the music. It was truly awe inspiring. Just watching her made me realize how much of myself I have to give when singing. It was a wonderful lesson to experience and one that I’m still attempting to accomplish.
If you could travel back in time to meet any composer/artist from a former time, who would that be and why?
I think Mozart would be fun. Besides the fact that he was a genius, I think he must have had a good sense of humor judging by his comedic operas.
What are you most looking forward to this summer?
Honestly I’m just happy to be singing at Wolf Trap. It’s such a prestigious program and I’ve wanted to be a part of it for so long that I’m really excited for it. (Also, the “Oh Wilhelm!” scene in Ghosts is pretty hysterical.)