Mezzo - Soprano  Nancy  Maultsby

A Conversation with Bruce Duffie


American mezzo-soprano Nancy Maultsby is in demand by opera companies and orchestras throughout the world.  Her unique vocal timbre and insightful musicianship allow her to pursue a repertoire extending from the operas of Monteverdi and Handel to recent works by John Adams. She regularly performs the major heroines of nineteenth-century French, Italian, and German opera and the great symphonic masterpieces.

Highlights of Maultsby’s future and recent seasons include performances as Genevieve in Pelléas et Mélisande at the Los Angeles Opera, directed by David McVicar and conducted by James Conlon, and the Cleveland Orchestra in a new semi-staged production by Yuval Sharon, conducted by Franz Welser-Möst, as well as at Cincinnati Symphony with Louis Langrée in a staging by James Darrah. At the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Maultsby performed the role of Julia in Lou Harrison’s Young Caesar, a reimagining of the classic piece by Yuval Sharon, which was later released on recording, and Bianca in Boston Lyric Opera’s production of The Rape of Lucretia. Maultsby also performed Handel’s Messiah with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, Mozart’s Requiem with the Indianapolis Symphony and Verdi’s Requiem with the Florida Orchestra, Akron Symphony and Eugene Symphony. She was also featured in performances of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the San Antonio Symphony conducted by Sebastian Lang-Lessing, Handel’s Messiah with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Edward Polochick, as well as a return to Lyric Opera of Kansas City as Ježibaba in Dvořák’s Rusalka.

Nancy Maultsby’s other recent engagements include her role debut as Gaea in Strauss’ Daphne with the Cleveland Orchestra conducted by Franz Welser-Möst at Severance Hall in Cleveland and at New York’s Lincoln Center Festival; her role debut as Mrs. Sedley with the St. Louis Symphony in Britten’s Peter Grimes under the baton of David Robertson at Powell Hall in St. Louis and at Carnegie Hall, with additional performances of the role at the San Francisco Symphony conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas; her role debut as Mamma Lucia in Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel; Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Donald Runnicles, the Cleveland Orchestra at the Blossom Festival under the baton of Franz Welser-Möst, and with the Florida Orchestra; Haydn’s Paukenmesse with the San Diego Symphony conducted by Jahja Ling; Judith in Bluebeard’s Castle with the Wichita Symphony Orchestra; and Verdi’s Requiem with the Pacific Chorale and the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra.

Maultsby’s operatic career has included a wide range of roles in some of the world’s most prestigious houses.  In the United States, she has performed principal roles at Lyric Opera of Chicago (Das Rheingold, Siegfried, Götterdammerung, La Gioconda, Pique Dame), San Francisco Opera (Carmen), Seattle Opera (Das Rheingold, Siegfried, Götterdämmerung, Werther, Carmen, Die Fledermaus), Washington National Opera (Falstaff, Siegfried), Boston Lyric Opera (Rusalka, Un Ballo in Maschera), Florida Grand Opera (Giulio Cesare), Santa Fe Opera (Falstaff, Tea: A Mirror of Soul), Minnesota Opera (Aïda), Opera Colorado (Un Ballo in Maschera, Giulio Cesare), Opera Philadelphia (Tea: A Mirror of Soul), Opera Theatre of St. Louis (The Death of Klinghoffer), Pittsburgh Opera (Carmen), Palm Beach Opera (Aïda), Michigan Opera Theatre (Aïida), Opera Colorado (Il Trovatore), and Lyric Opera of Kansas City (Il Trovatore).


Internationally, her extensive career has taken her to the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (Die Ägyptische Helena), Teatro dell’Opera in Rome (Oedipus Rex), Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires (Carmen), Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa (Norma), Opéra de Montréal (Bluebeard’s Castle, Aïda), Staatsoper Stuttgart (Die Walküre), Teatro San Carlo in Naples, Italy (Oedipus Rex), Semperoper Dresden (Oedipus Rex), De Nederlandse Opera (Rigoletto) and the Greek National Opera in Athens (Aïda, Oedipus Rex, L'incoronazione di Poppea).

Throughout her career, she has enjoyed frequent engagements with many leading conductors, including collaborations with Zubin Mehta, Alan Gilbert, Gerard Schwarz, Pierre BoulezChristoph von Dohnányi, Kurt Masur, Edo de Waart, James Conlon, Yuri Temirkanov, Sir Andrew DavisLorin Maazel, Sir Colin Davis, Riccardo Chailly, Patrick Summers, David Zinman, Peter Oundjian, Jeffrey Kahane, David Robertson, Stephen Lord, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Bruno Bartoletti, Roberto Abbado, Michael Christie, Robert Spano, Christian Thielemann, Sebastian Lang Lessing, Franz Welser-Möst, Neeme Järvi, Tan Dun, Hans Vonk, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Leonard Slatkin, and Robert Shaw.

Ms. Maultsby’s orchestral repertoire extends from the Baroque to the most important works of the twentieth century.  Her regular collaborations with America’s leading orchestras include concerts with the New York Philharmonic (Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9Béatrice et BénédictMessiah), Philadelphia Orchestra (Verdi Requiem), Cleveland Orchestra (Glagolitic Mass, Verdi Requiem), Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra (Glagolitic Mass), Los Angeles Philharmonic (Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9), San Francisco Symphony (Alexander Nevsky), Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (Alexander Nevsky), Toronto Symphony Orchestra (Glagolitic Mass), Seattle Symphony (Bluebeard’s Castle, Mozart Requiem, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9), Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (“Jeremiah” Symphony, El Niño, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9), St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (The Rake’s Progress), St. Louis Symphony (Rossini’s Stabat MaterAlexander Nevsky), Colorado Symphony (Verdi Requiem), Detroit Symphony Orchestra (Verdi Requiem), Houston Symphony, Milwaukee Symphony (Bach Mass in b minor), Rochester Philharmonic (Aïda, Messiah), Florida Orchestra (Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9), IRIS Orchestra (Elgar’s Sea Pictures), Indianapolis Symphony (Messiah), and the Brooklyn Philharmonic (The Death of Klinghoffer).  She has sung at every major U.S. festival, including Ravinia (El Niño), Tanglewood, Saratoga, Aspen, Grant Park (Alexander Nevsky), Eastern Music Festival, and the Cincinnati May Festival.

The particularly rich quality of Maultsby’s vocal timbre is a natural fit with the music of Gustav Mahler.  She has sung his Symphony No. 2 with the Cleveland Orchestra (Dohnányi), Minnesota Orchestra (de Waart), Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (Temirkanov), National Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Symphony, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (Spano), on tour with the Israel Philharmonic (Mehta), Aspen Music Festival, Orchestre National de France (Conlon), Australian Broadcasting Company (de Waart), Brooklyn Philharmonic, Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Utah Symphony, Nashville Symphony (Slatkin), and the New Jersey Symphony.  Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 has taken her to the orchestras of Cleveland (Welser-Möst), Minnesota, St. Louis (including Carnegie Hall), Detroit (Järvi), Baltimore (Temirkanov, Zinman), Atlanta (Levi), New Jersey (Macal), Hong Kong (de Waart), and West Australia.  She has also performed the Symphony No. 8 with the New York Philharmonic (Maazel), Los Angeles Philharmonic (Salonen), Seattle Symphony (Schwarz), Minnesota Orchestra, Cincinnati May Festival, Nashville Symphony, and in Amsterdam; Das Lied von der Erde with the orchestras of Atlanta, Baltimore, Aspen Festival, Brooklyn, Syracuse, Eastern Music Festival, and Sydney; Kindertotenlieder with the Baltimore Symphony (Temirkanov) and Orchestra della Toscana (Bartoletti); Das Knaben Wunderhorn with Rochester; Das Klagende Lied with the American Symphony Orchestra; and Rückert Lieder conducted by Gerard Schwarz for a recording by PBS.


See my interviw with Martin Pearlman

In addition to a recording of Mendelssohn’s Elijah with Antonio Pappano, Max Bruch’s Odysseus, and Telarc’s highly-acclaimed recording of Mozart’s Requiem – the premiere recording on period instruments with the Boston Baroque – Maultsby can be heard on Telarc’s recording of Dido and Aeneas, also with the Boston Baroque.  She is featured on box sets honoring Christoph von Dohnányi and the Cleveland Orchestra (Mahler’s Symphony No. 2) and Kurt Masur at the New York Philharmonic (Debussy’s St. Sebastian). Her recent recordings include the Lamentation from Bernstein’s Symphony No. 1 (“Jeremiah”) with Robert Spano and the Atlanta Symphony for Telarc, Richard Yardumian’s Symphony No. 2 with the Singapore Symphony on BIS, and Wagner opera excerpts on Naxos.

A North Carolina native, Maultsby is a graduate of Westminster Choir College, where she studied with Lindsey Christiansen, and was a graduate student at Indiana University School of Music, where she studied with Margaret Harshaw.  She is an alumna of the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Center for American Artists.  Among numerous other awards, she is the winner of the Marian Anderson Award and the Martin E. Segal Award.  She is on voice faculty at Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio.

==  Biography (slightly edited) from IMG Artists website  
==  Names which are links in this box and below refer to my interviews elsewhere on my website.  BD  


Many of the artists I have met and talked to were in the midst of wonderful careers.  Others have been past their performing days and were teaching young students.  A few I spoke with at the outset of their journeys, and this conversation, from February 1995, with mezzo-soprano Nancy Maultsby is one of those early encounters.

As seen in the biography above, she went on to sing a solid repertoire in many significant places, and now, in 2022, is teaching at Baldwin Wallace University in Ohio.  It is interesting to read her early thoughts, with the enthusiasm that comes with youthful vigor, and the excitement of looking forward to certain roles and opera houses.  [Vis-à-vis the recording shown at left, see my interview with José van Dam.]

Portions of the interview were used a couple of times on WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago, and now I am pleased to present the entire chat.

Bruce Duffie:   You worked with the opera school here in Chicago for two seasons.  Is that the right kind of training ground for a career?

Nancy Maultsby:   For me, it has been, absolutely.  The main thing that you get from the Opera Center is experience.  You stand on stage with the greats!  So for me it was absolutely the best thing I could have done.  It also gave me opportunities that came up.  It’s been a very big help in the transition between school and career, because that is the difficult time.  [A chart of all of her performances at Lyric Opera (with full casts) is shown at the bottom of this webpage.]

BD:   Have you been able to work as much as you want?

Maultsby:   Yes.  I have worked consistently since I’ve been out of here.  I have had very few gaps, and so that’s been great.  I’ve gone in different directions.  I also do a lot of concert work, which has been a wonderful way for me because I’m still relatively young.  I’m able to keep myself vocally in shape, and it’s also just incredible music for the mezzo soprano especially in Mahler.

BD:   How do you divide your career between the opera and the concert work?

Maultsby:   I don’t purposely divide it.  The way this career works, things come along and you say yes or no.

BD:   How do you decide yes or no?

Maultsby:   That’s a good question.  You look at the piece.  Is it something that is appropriate for you and your voice?  You think about where it is.  You think about who’s conducting it.  So those three big things are key in the decision making.  In terms of opera versus concert, I can’t really say.  In 1994, for instance, I had more concert work than I did opera, and it was just because that’s what came along, and those were the most interesting and the most appropriate at the time.  This year I’m doing a lot of Wagner, and that happened just by chance.  Those were the interesting things that came up.
BD:   Does this mean that you’re now going to have to do more Wagner roles?
Maultsby:   I’ll tell you, no!  [Both laugh]  That is something that I am very aware of.  I am very thankful for the opportunities that I’ve had to do Wagner, and this year I’m doing it here and I’m also doing it in Seattle.  Those are wonderful, wonderful opportunities, but I don’t necessarily think Erda is the ideal part for me right now at my age.  However, it’s been a wonderful vehicle for me.  But I am aware enough, and I’ll be careful enough to not let too much of that happen.  However, the show doesn’t rest on Erda’s shoulders, by any stretch of the imagination.  It’s very low for me...

BD:   It is not a large part, but it’s an impressive part.

Maultsby:   It is, but it doesn’t beat the voice.  It’s not as strenuous as a lot of the other Wagner roles, but I do think that in a couple of years, Fricka is really where I’ll belong.  It’s much more appropriate for me and my voice.

BD:   Fricka, and Waltraute also [shown in photo at right]?

Maultsby:   Absolutely!

BD:   So, you’re waiting for an opportunity?

Maultsby:   Yes.  I’m actually covering those here next year.  I’ll have a chance to understudy them, and learn them, and see Marjana Lipovšek, a wonderful artist perform them.  She was here before and she’s phenomenal!  That’ll be great, but I have other things coming up that I’m really looking forward to.  I’m doing my first Carmen this year, which is very appropriate.

BD:   With recitatives or spoken dialogue?

Maultsby:   Spoken dialogue.  Also, I’m going to try my first Eboli in an out-of-the-way place that nobody will hear.  That way I can just really concentrate and not be wigged out about the press.

BD:   Just to see how it feels?

Maultsby:   To see how it feels, exactly.

BD:   I hope it feels good.

Maultsby:   I hope it does, too.  I love Verdi.  I love that repertoire, but it’s a little bit easier for a mezzo in a way.  You may or may not agree with this, but with the bigger sopranos, you have to make up your mind which school you’re going to go with
whether you’re German or Italianand it’s not really the case with mezzos as a rule.  It’s much easier to do both, because I’m just as interested in Fricka and Waltraute as I am in Amneris someday.

BD:   As for Carmen, so you have actually a third school, namely the French.

Maultsby:   Exactly, and Delilah.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:   The mezzo voice obviously dictates what kinds of roles you sing.  Do you like the characters that are imposed on you?

Maultsby:   I do.  I said Amneris just off the top of my head because she’s just so interesting.  In the beginning, she comes across as being evil, but she’s not.  They’re all complicated characters.  They’re not one-dimensional, and they’re very interesting to play.  I feel that way about Carmen, too.  You can’t just play her like a slut, because she’s not.  There’s a reason why all these men are nuts about her.  It
s so interesting to look into her, and figure out what you decide she is going to be.

BD:   Obviously, she enjoys men.


:   She does, and it
s the same with Delilah.  She’s a little bit more straightforward, though.

BD:   She’s more manipulative.

Maultsby:   She is, but she does what she does in some way for a good reason.  It is for her people and for what she believes.  It is manipulative, though.  There’s no getting around that.

BD:   Is it satisfying not to be playing a bunch of victims?

Maultsby:   Yes, it is.  The reason why Charlotte is appealing to me is because it is more along those lines.  She is more vulnerable, and she is more of a victim type.  It is more of a soprano character when you compare it to other mezzo roles.  I don’t feel like I want to live in that world all the time, so it’s nice to have those roles in there.  Also, there are some twentieth century operas, like The Rape of Lucretia [Britten] and even The Crucible [Robert Ward].  Elizabeth Proctor is not a victim.  She’s a strong woman, and the soprano is actually sort of the temptress for a change.  Proctor’s the more vulnerable type, so there are these opportunities.  But I am satisfied that I have different things to choose from in the mezzo repertoire in terms of character.
BD:   Are there enough mezzo roles for you?

Maultsby:   I hope so.  I’m at a point right now in my study and in my career that I’m examining things, and I’m trying things out.  So there are certainly enough roles, but as far as absolutely fitting me and being really appropriate for me, that remains to be seen.  I have a gut feeling about what I think is going to be right, but I’m not quite sure about that yet.  There’s also the Handel stuff.  Again, in some ways mezzos have it a little bit easier, because we can go between things a little bit more easily than sopranos can.  You have coloratura, and you’ve got a decent middle, and low parts, the whole Handel range.  I’m working on that now today in my voice lessons.

BD:   You have the flexibility in the voice.

Maultsby:   Exactly, which is important.

BD:   Would you ever want to do the Rossini repertoire?

Maultsby:   I love that stuff.  I went to The Barber of Seville the other night, and just had a blast.  I was so entertained.  There are mezzos that sing it so well that learning these operas might be a waste of my time.  But I have been taught, and do believe, that these roles are more transparent
Mozart, Rossini, even Handeland it is very important to study and to sing them, even if you don’t perform them.  I sing Parto, Parto [La Clemenza di Tito (Mozart)] as part of my warm-up, not because I’m the greatest Sesto in the world, but because there’s something to be said for it.  I haven’t anywhere to hide, vocally, so I must keep things clean, and hooked up, and correct.

BD:   You travel around from theater to theater.  Do you adjust your vocal technique at all for the size of the place?

Maultsby:   No.  That you can get into trouble when you start doing that.  At least I don’t do it intentionally... maybe I do it subconsciously.  If I’m in a 400-seat house, maybe I don’t give as much as I do when I’m singing at Lyric [3600 seats], but I don’t do it intentionally.  You sing with your voice, and you go on the sensation.  You sing your technique no matter where you are, so I try not to change anything.

BD:   Do you think about the acoustics of the house?

Maultsby:   Sure.  Some are better, some are more friendly, and that’s nice.

BD:   How is the sound here?

Maultsby:   I feel this is my home in a way, so now, when I look back on it, I am thrilled that I trained in a house like this.  I do not think it’s unfriendly, but it’s certainly a big space, and it’s certainly not easy to fill.  You do look at the houses you sing in, and when you compare Chicago to the European houses, you know this place is huge, but it has a wonderful acoustic.  So, coming from Chicago, I do feel like I’m ready for anything.  It’s not because it
s not a good acoustic, but maybe because it’s just so big!  [Both laugh]  It’s a large house, but it feels friendly when you’re on stage.  It depends on what you’re singing, though.  Certainly, when you’re up in a higher register, the voice goes out well.  It’s just a rule of acoustics, and when you’re down lower, it’s not as easy.  It’s that way anywhere.

BD:   That’s a given.  When you’re performing on stage, are you aware of the audience that’s out there?

Maultsby:   [Thinks a moment]  Sometimes I am, but as a rule, no.  Usually I’m not really aware of them.  It does depend on what I’m doing, though.  If you’re doing a comedy, you’re aware of the audience because you’re playing off of them.  But I haven’t done a lot of comedy.  I haven’t done any here.  But if you’re doing something serious, a drama, I’m not as aware of them.  I’m concentrating on what I’m doing, and staying in character.  I’m not aware of them until the end.

BD:   When you walk out on stage, are you portraying that character, or do you actually become that character?

Maultsby:   I’d have to say I portray it.  I do feel like I’m coming from limited resources, because it still is sort of early in my career, the short answer is that I portray it.  There are roles that I’ve done where I definitely feel like it is such a part of me that I almost feel like I am that character.  But that’s a danger.  We are singers, and there are lots of those whom I respect that seem to become the character.  But sometimes that comes at a price, and for me, ultimately the thing that I strive for is just to portray the character in a really honest way.  Of course, there are elements of me in any character.  There are parts of me that become that character, so that it’s honest.  Sometimes when you say no, you don’t become the character, it somehow seems less honest, or less committed, but I don’t think that.  You can portray the character and still be incredibly committed, but still remain able to think about what you’re doing, and to sing well.

BD:   You try not to lose yourself within it?

Maultsby:   Yes, because that’s what separates us from actors.  We have another thing to do on top of being this character, which is to throw our voice out across a big orchestra.

BD:   When you’re out there on stage, how much is art and how much is entertainment?

Maultsby:   Oh, gosh!  I think art is entertainment, I really do.  You strive for art, and, as a result, it is entertaining.

BD:   Is there a role you’ve done the most?

Maultsby:   Operatically, I really haven’t repeated anything yet.  I’ve done a lot of concerts of Mahler, and I love the Verdi Requiem.  That’s something I look forward to.  When I look at my colleagues who have been at it longer, I envy them in a way.  They’re sure of themselves, and have felt their way through the difficulties, and now they really bring things to the roles because they’re more comfortable with them, and so I look forward to that.

*     *     *     *     *
BD:   You’ve made a couple of recordings...
Maultsby:   Yes.  I’ve recorded the Mozart Requiem with some members of the Boston Baroque on Telarc, and Elijah with Antonio Pappano and José van Dam.  He was incredible.  I just found out a couple of days ago I’m going to record Dido in Dido and Aeneas with Boston Baroque on Telarc [shown at right].  I performed it in Boston this year, and it just fit me.  I felt very, very comfortable with it, and I love that music.  So I really look forward to that.  That’s my first big recording.

BD:   Do you sing differently for a microphone than when you’re on stage?

Maultsby:   I have to say that I was a little bit frustrated when I did the Mozart Requiem.  I didn’t for the Elijah because we recorded performances, and did re-takes, but for the Mozart I was the largest voice of the quartet.  They wanted a mezzo that could be heard in that range, and they were always saying to sing less, less, less, less, less, and it was so frustrating.  If you don’t want me, don’t hire me, but I can’t do this.  I have to just sing, so I look forward to having an experience like the role of Dido where there is a substantial amount of singing for me to do.  I can see how that feels.

BD:   When you’re working on a role how much probing and delving do you do beyond just the notes and the words in the score?

Maultsby:   I do a lot, first of all, by knowing the opera, and not just when I’m on stage, but really knowing what’s going on with everybody else, and looking at the other characters.  I at least get a sense of where they’re coming from.  Then, in my own character, for example when I do Werther I’m going to read the The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe.  I will read all that I can about it, about the opera, and about the composer.  All that stuff is really important, and in the end it just makes everything easier.  It’s really important to do all that homework.

BD:   What advice do you have for the audience that comes to see an opera that you’re in?

Maultsby:   It’s always good to read ahead.  Read the synopsis of the opera, and if you can, listen to it.  In general, it’s a whole lot easier to go to see a Rossini opera than it is a Wagner opera.  So, education is about the only advice I can give.  Just try and have a sense of what’s going on, and be open.  Opera is not that different from what we have now in the movies and on television.  People should realize that these stories are filled with all the things that they get in the movies.

BD:   It’s all sex and violence!

Maultsby:   [Laughs]  It is!  It’s true!

BD:   Thinking of your repertoire, Carmen gets killed.  Do you like dying on stage?

Maultsby:   [Pondering a moment]  You know, I do, and I look forward to it
perhaps more toward the end of my career.  When I was in graduate school, we did The Dialogues of the Carmelites.  I love that opera.  I was the old Prioress, so I got to go nuts, and I loved it.  [Laughs]  I got to die, and I do like dying on stage.

BD:   Women don’t usually get to kill...

Maultsby:   No, we don’t.

BD:   That’s one of my questions for baritones
would you rather kill or be killed?because they to both in various operas.

Maultsby:   Right.  I do like to die though, but I don’t think we do kill anybody.

BD:   Maybe we should get some composers to write works about murderous mezzos.

Maultsby:   I would love that!

BD:   In general, what advice do you have for someone who wants to write for your voice?

Maultsby:   Try to make it as vocal as possible.  Any singer would say that.  That’s what scares some of us away from twentieth century music, is the vocal line.

BD:   [Gently pressing the point]  What do you mean by

Maultsby:   I mean linear. 
Melodic is not the right word because that’s not always appropriate for what you’re trying to say.  [Gives an example of angular, wide leaping singing]  That is not vocal.

BD:   [With mock horror]  You don’t want to be treated like a clarinet???

Maultsby:   No!  [Both laugh]  We do like a beautiful melody.  Anybody does.  Instrumentalists are no different than we are.  What other advice would I say?  Certainly, interesting characters are always what we want, but the music is the most important thing.

BD:   Prima la musica?  [This is the first half of the well-known phrase Prima la musica e poi le parole (First the music, then the words)].
Maultsby:   Yes, prima la musica, veramente [truly]!  [Laughs]

BD:   [With a sly grin]  And to hell with the drama???

Maultsby:   [Smiles]  No, I don’t feel that way.

BD:   Then let me ask the big question.  What is the purpose of music?

Maultsby:   Oh, gosh.  That’s a huge question.  [Thinks a moment]  I don’t know if I’m answering it, but ultimately as a musician, as a singer, part of what I want is to connect with whatever it is that I’m performing in the most honest way that I can.  For instance, if you’re singing a Bach aria, it is just to connect, and be as committed to that as musically and spiritually as you can.  By doing that, the audience or the listener may connect with something in themselves.  Opera could be different.  That element can exist in opera, but it is a little bit bigger.  Opera is also a little bit more entertaining than a Mahler symphony.  That’s not to say those orchestral works aren’t incredibly operatic, because they are in a way.  But just because you have the whole visual thing happening in opera, you want to incorporate all those things that are real.  You’d find doing those from a Bach aria in your operatic performances, too, but they’re bigger, and there’s that whole element of spectacle.  You want entertain the audience.  You want to be honest, and that’s what I meant when I said that art is entertainment.  You go for the absolute highest standard, and you give the most honest and straight-forward performance that you can.  Hopefully, people will be entertained by that.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:   [Noting that she is thirty years old]  Are you at the point in your career that you expect to be at this age?

Maultsby:   Yes, I am.  Actually, I was just thinking about that, and I do think I’m in a good place for my age.  I just want to keep going forward.  I have been lucky.  In some ways it’s difficult when you work all the time, and I have been.  
I’ve worked consistently since I finished up at the Lyric Center.  The danger in that is that when you’re always working, and you’re always preparing for the next thing, you have to think about stuff which is going to happen later.  You have to prepare for that, and try to get your management to be thinking in that same direction, so that you’re not stuck doing too much of the same thing.

BD:   What advice do you have for those who are just entering the Lyric Opera Center?

Maultsby:   [Sighs]  Study... vocal study, and technique.  Getting your voice as technically sound as you can is very important when you’re young.

BD:   So that you can forget about it?

Maultsby:   I don’t think you ever really can forget about it.  That’s something you always, always, always have to be aware of, and always have to think about.

BD:   Eventually does it become second nature?

Maultsby:   Yes.  That’s what we’re going for.  But even when it becomes second nature, just to cover yourself, it is always something you have to check back with daily.  However, when you’re in performance, you ultimately like to be at the stage, as you say, where you don’t have to think about it.  As younger singers, we technically have to get it together.  If you’re just starting out, certainly if you go to a school where you get good musical skills and good training, that also makes things easier in the end in terms of learning a score.  I had a good background so that’s not hard for me.

BD:   Where are you from originally?

Maultsby:   Originally from North Carolina, but I did my undergraduate at Westminster Choir College, and Princeton.  That was such a great school.  I had a great combination, because I had a small-school background where we were looked after, and it wasn’t realty competitive.  It was more of a family kind of thing, and I had great teaching and great encouragement.  Then I went to Indiana where I got to perform.  They do six full operas a year during the school year, and two in the summer.  So, there are tons of opportunities operatically, and that’s where I also met my teacher.  But for young singers, that’s an important way to go.  Just get some good sound musical skills, and then try to get into one of these American Opera programs.  They’re great, and they don’t have that kind of opportunity in Europe.  We are lucky that they exist, because they really do make your life a little bit easier in that transition.  They’re educational, but they also just logistically make things easier career-wise.

BD:   I wish you lots of continued success.

Maultsby:   Thank you.



Nancy Maultsby at Lyric Opera of Chicago

1990-91 - Lucia (Alisa) with Anderson, Kraus/Giordani, Summers, d'Artegna; Renzetti, Dudley, Serban
                Carmen (Mercédès) with Golden, Shicoff, Cowan, Lawrence; Mata/Pappano, Ponnelle, Calábria
                Magic Flute (2nd Lady) with Hadley, Mattila, Nolen, Jo, Lloyd, Stewart; Kuhn, Zimmerman, Everding

1991-92 - [Opening Night] Mefistofele (Pantalis) with Ramey, Jóhannsson/Cupido, Millo, Johnson; Bartoletti, Tallchief, M. Levine, Carsen
                Antony and Cleopatra [Barber] (Iras) with Cowan, Malfitano, Trussel, Halfvarson, White; R. Buckley, Yeargan, Moshinsky
                Puritani (Enrichetta) with Anderson, Merritt, Perry, Plishka/Kavrakos; Renzetti, Lee, Sequi
                Gambler [Prokofiev] (Venerable Lady) with Trussel, Greenawald, Orth, Palmer; Bartoletti, Boruzescu, Ciulei

1992-93 - [Opening Night] Otello [Rossini] (Emilia) with Merritt, Cuberli, Croft, Blake; Renzetti, Pizzi, Tessitore
                 Rheingold (Erda) with Morris, Wlaschiha, Troyanos, McCauley, Terfel (Donner); Mehta, Conklin, Everding

1993-94 - Walküre (Grimgerde) with Morris, Marton, Jerusalem, Kiberg, Lipovšek, Hölle; Mehta, Conklin, Everding

1994-95 - Siegfried (Erda) with Jerusalem, Morris, Marton/Eaglen, Clark, Wlaschiha, Halfvarson; Mehta, Conklin, Everding

1995-96 - Ring (Erda - Rheingold and Siegfried [all performances]; First Norn [all performances] and Waltraute [one performance] - Götterdämmerung)
                 [The principal cast was identical to those listed above, with the addition of Salminen as Fasolt, Hunding, and Hagen, and Held as Donner and Gunther]

1998-99 - Gioconda (Cieca) with Eaglen, Botha, Redmon/Matos, Putilin, Halfvarson; Bartoletti, Brown, Copley

2000-01 - [Opening Night] Queen of Spades (Pauline) with Dalayman, Galouzine, Putilin, Skovhus, Palmer; Davis, Hudson, Vick

© 1995 Bruce Duffie

This conversation was recorded in Chicago on February 16, 1995.  Portions were broadcast on WNIB in 1998 and 2000.  This transcription was made in 2022, and posted on this website at that time.  My thanks to British soprano Una Barry for her help in preparing this website presentation.

To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.  To read my thoughts on editing these interviews for print, as well as a few other interesting observations, click here.

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Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001.  His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.

You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests.  He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago.  You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.