Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Soprano Emalie Savoy Interview

New York Philharmonic
Music by Falla and Orff
May 31, June 1 and 2, 2012
Avery Fisher Hall, 65th Street and Broadway, New York, NY

Composer Manuel de Falla
When Spanish composer Manuel de Falla died in 1946, he left unfinished his magnum opus, the patriotic cantata Atlántida, which he had been working on for the last 20 years of his life. Although it was finished in 1958 by Ernesto Halffter and premiered at Milan’s La Scala in 1962, it’s rarely been performed or heard—I have a recording on Allegro of the world premiere—so that the New York Philharmonic and conductor Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos will perform it at all (even if it’s only a scant 25 minutes’ worth of excerpts) is very welcome.

With the Brooklyn Youth Chorus and Spain’s Orfeón Pamplonés providing the extensive choral singing (also prominent in the main work on this program, Carl Orff’s Carmina burana), Atlántida—based on a work by Catalan poet Jacinto Verdaguer,  which tells the story of the lost continent of Atlantis through the prism of Greek mythology and Columbus’ voyages to America—also has golden opportunities for soloists, including young American soprano Emalie Savoy, who sings one of the score’s  most memorable sections, “Queen Isabella’s Dream,” at these performances.

Savoy—a fearless interpreter early in her career who recently sang Gluck’s baroque opera Armida and Janacek’s 20th century masterpiece The Makropulos Case in New York already this year—spoke about coming to terms with this unfamiliar but masterly work.

Kevin Filipski: How difficult has it been to work on such an obscure work as Atlántida?
Emalie Savoy: This is such gorgeous music, but it’s not done very often. In terms of preparation, it’s a very interesting project for me because I’ve never sung anything in Catalan, which is very unique and sounds beautiful. It’s not just a Spanish dialect; it’s actually its own language with its own heritage and history. To prepare, I had to approach it from a linguistic standpoint first of all and track down a Catalan specialist; it took awhile to find someone who knows the language! 
Soprano Emalie Savoy

KF: Can you talk about singing this work and Falla’s music in general?
ES: My part is Queen Isabella–she has one solo where she recalls a dream while sleeping in the Alhambra (in Granada), then sends Columbus out on the high seas to discover America. It’s a very long section of the work, and it’s absolutely beautiful music. Falla was a very strong Spanish nationalist composer, and this particular piece was written in a neo-Renaissance style with dance rhythms and syncopations that “feel” old. The poem it’s based on has archaic words and a very exulted, flowery prose. It too has a strong sense of nationalism: it’s about the glory of Spanish history. I’ve sung some of Falla’s songs, but not any of his larger works. The songs were in Castilian Spanish which is very different from singing in Catalan, so I didn’t need to learn a new language!

KF: You’ve performed a lot of 20th century music, like Leos Janacek, Erik Satie and now Falla. Is it the kind of music you like to sing?
ES: It’s more scheduling, really. I did a lot of early music while a student (at Juilliard), and I just sang Gluck at Juilliard and I did a great deal of Mozart while studying there. It’s fascinating to jump from one country to the next as well as languages and centuries. I from singing in Czech for the first time at the Met in Makropulos to singing in Catalan for the first time. It’s fascinating to find out how many different ways music can be used to express something: I’ve had the privilege to watch my father compose and how he’s inspired by different texts and what styles he ultimately ends up composing in. Every piece by every composer is unique, and I like to find out a great deal about each composer and what was going on during his life—the research aspect is fascinating to me.

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