This weekend soprano Marnie Breckenridge (pictured left) will be singing the role of the Princess in Ensemble Parallèle's production of Orphée by Philip Glass. She will be singing in The Rape of Lucretia with Castleton Opera, which will be presented by Cal Performances in Berkeley next month. Last week, the Opera Tattler met with her in a practice room of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music between rehearsals.
You attended San Francisco Conservatory of Music, so welcome back! Are you from California?
Yes, though the Conservatory was on Ortega Street then. I grew up in Claremont, California, lived in San Francisco and Napa, but now I live in New York.
I see you have sung in English quite a bit, such as in Love and Other Demons, Candide, and The Rape of Lucretia. Orphée of course is in French, what are the challenges of not singing in your native language?
French was the first foreign language I studied, before I knew I was going to be an opera singer. It does feel different in the body than English.
How did you get the role of the Princess?
I was already singing with Nicole Paiement for the BluePrint Series, so Brian Staufenbiel asked me to audition for the Glass. I sang Juliette's Waltz, and I got the part. I've never sung Glass before but I'm absolutely loving the challenge.
I've seen some of the previews, and the production looks very exciting. Your character looks like a ringmaster in the videos that have been shown. Where have you been rehearsing?
We've been here at the conservatory, and rehearsing at a circus school too. We don't get into Herbst until the Wednesday before the opening. The performers in this production are incredible. The Roue Cyr artist, aerialist, and juggler are as much a part of this opera as the singers.
What was your first opera?
The first opera I sang in was Così fan tutte, and I was Despina.
I love all of Janáček's operas. Wozzeck and Der Rosenkavalier are also favorites.
Norma! I will probably never sing it, but I do sing it in the shower.
Who do you look up to?
The list is very long, and also, in a way, very short. Renée Fleming is amazingly consistent, and a nice person too. I admire Anna Netrebko, Angela Gheorghiu, Barbara Bonney, Kathleen Battle, but my all-time favorite is Leontyne Price.
How do you feel about live simulcasts?
As far as exposing opera to more people, it is really great. However, opera is a live art form, and you feel all the vibrations physically, so simulcasts do not recreate a full experience of it.
Do you feel pressure to be able to move and act well?
I have always been physically active, I danced ballet, jazz, and did gymnastics before deciding to become an opera singer. I've also acted, I was in ACT's summer training program. So I am coming to this from the other side, I've had to figure out how to move less! So I haven't felt that pressure.
Are there musicians in your family?
My mother plays piano, she also sang, and played organ at church.
Do you play an instrument?
I play piano. I played flute in band, but I didn't like the freezy brain feeling it give you.
What are your hobbies and interests?
I am interested improv, my husband is in a troupe. I go to art museums. I especially enjoy Monet, Manet, and Delacroix, but I also love trying to figure out more abstract paintings, like those of Jackson Pollock.