Mezzo - Soprano  Robynne  Redmon

A Conversation with Bruce Duffie



See my interviews with Bright Sheng, and Hugo Weisgall

Having grown up with Lyric Opera of Chicago, it was always a pleasure to experience their productions.  It was especially exciting when they began the Opera School of Chicago, which was later called the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists.  The company of students sang smaller roles in the mainstage performances, and gave full productions in the Civic Theater, which was a 900-seat jewel in the same building that was designed as a miniature of the big theater.  I still lament that it was converted to rehearsal space during the renovations of the 1990s... *sigh*

In any event, the groups of young singers got their training and generally achieved high levels of success.  One of their number was Robynne Redmon, and she is among those whom I had the opportunity to interview.  Several names in the chart below were participants of that experience.  As usual, all names on this page which are links refer to my interviews elsewhere on my website.

Robynne and I got together for a chat in February of 1997, when she was back at Lyric for Adalgisa in Norma.  While setting up to record our conversation, we chatted about the complex nature of the operatic business.

Bruce Duffie:   Is the opera world too highly competitive?

Robynne Redmon:   I don’t think you can say it’s too highly competitive, but it’s certainly highly competitive.
BD:   Should it be competitive?

Redmon:   Absolutely.  Why not?  Everything else is.  Any profession is competitive.  Anything in the public eye.  I would compare it to being an actor in Hollywood, or trying to be a Country & Western singer.  These are now hugely competitive, and the more competitive it is, the more great singers or artists you get.

BD:   How much is the business of competition, and how much becomes the artistry involved?

Redmon:   Oh gosh, it’s very politically incorrect to talk about the artistry.  That is a word hardly even heard any more.  That’s something that is essential, and the thing that you begin with.  Your technique, your languages, your acting, everything adds up to one’s artistry, and makes one an artist.  But today, that is the thing that is the biggest lack in the business.

BD:   Is it an after-thought?

Redmon:   Totally.  When you have artists in this country who become famous, or household names, everyone is clambering for their records, yet they’ve never sung a performance in this country.  It’s the young, pretty face on the album, or the handsome virile guy, that seems to sell the records, and the record companies are very much behind pushing which artists are being engaged.  In that sense, artistry has to suffer, and unfortunately the public becomes less aware of what is great artistry, and accepts things that are sub-standard as being great.  My gosh, you can’t read anything or talk to anyone where they’re not saying that opera singing is not what it once was.  They ask,
“What happened to the glory days?  The glory days were when people worked and slogged it out in the provinces, and came to attention, and built their artistry, and became famous because they were great.  They didn’t try to be great because they were famous.  I feel very passionate about this, but I take being an artist very seriously.

BD:   You’re on the threshold of the big career now.  You’re starting to sing the bigger roles, and the leading roles in the bigger and bigger houses.  Are you at the point in your career that you want to be?

Redmon:   Being given this opportunity at the Lyric, which really has happened despite some people’s criticism of the company for hiring me, really has come at the exact right time for me.  There’s no overnight sensation that usually didn’t take many years.  I did come out of the Young Artists Program here, and have gone on, and worked really hard.  I’m at that age now where my voice has come into where it’s supposed to be for being a lower female voice, a mezzo.  Technically speaking, I
m not supposed to be at my peak yet, but I’m coming to it.  This is my debut season at the Met, and to have this happening now is exactly the right time.  Its also the right time artistically and emotionally and spiritually in every way.  Things have come together for me as an artist, and to be able to have the chance to present my art is perfect.

BD:   Isn’t this the way that the Lyric Opera Center is supposed to work
to give you training, and then send you out where you’re supposed to get the big roles?

Redmon:   I completely understand the system here.  The Lyric has always been a star theater.  They are a theater for the stars.  Sometimes who’s hot in the world may not be the best thing, but they’re going to give it to this audience.  This is what the audience wants, and I can’t fault them for it.  At the same time, they have sometimes given an opportunity to artists that they feel have reached a certain level , and who have come out of their program.  I am one of those artists.  Lyric would love to give you a chance when your star is rising.  You’re not a star yet, so why don’t you accept a contract to be a cover?  I originally signed a contract here, and agreed that I would make myself available in the event that the star artist could not perform.  This happened quite a long time ago, so long ago that I actually had other work on my calendar that I canceled in order to accept this.  This particular part is well-known for being a career maker.  This part helped Giulietta Simionato and Fiorenza Cossotto make their careers.  The original artist was completely ready to perform at the time that I agreed to cover, but I just had a feeling this could be something that could happen for me.  So when she canceled, I had already made the time available in my schedule.  It was a way that the Lyric really could give me a chance.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:   Let’s talk about Adalgisa.  Perhaps this is an indelicate question, but when we first see her, should the audience be aware that she is not a virgin?

Redmon:   That’s open to interpretation.  Maybe she is a virgin once removed.  She has given in to her passion, but she is deeply regretful and ashamed, yet can’t seem to fight going back.

BD:   If she had known that he was Norma’s lover, she wouldn’t have given in?

Redmon:   Oh, of course not.  One would have assumed that Norma didn’t have a lover.  [Both laugh]

BD:   Does she make the right decision by trying to give up Pollione?

Redmon:   Right or wrong, she’s making the decision based on a conviction that she’s already promised the temple, that she would be faithful to God.  It’s very much a religious fervor thing, but when he came to her, she realized that the passion that she felt is more powerful than her faith in God.  Then, when Norma says she never took her final vows, and she’s free, that’s when she really feels happiness, and all the guilt can go away.
BD:   Does she really feel that her life is beginning at that point?

Redmon:   Oh, definitely.

BD:   If Pollione hadn’t been such terrible guy, and not been with Norma, could he and Adalgisa have been happy going off to Rome together?

Redmon:   Sure, why not?

BD:   But she was not a Roman.

Redmon:   No, but, love conquers all that, especially in opera.  [Both laugh]

BD:   That is true, until someone gets stabbed in the back.  [Laughter continues]  Do you think that Pollione gets the right reward at the end?

Redmon:   Well, it’s not very realistic, is it?  It’s the same as the ending in Aïda, but it makes for a great surge of emotion at the end, and then there is the great duet.

BD:   Does Adalgisa wind-up taking care of the two kids, or is that left for Oroveso?

Redmon:   It’s intimated that Oroveso will take up his grandchildren, and Adalgisa is stigmatized and repentant for ever.  She is never going to leave the temple anymore.

BD:   [With a gentle nudge]  She doesn’t get together with Oroveso?

Redmon:   No!  [Both laugh]

BD:   Do you like the character of Adalgisa?

Redmon:   Of course!  Adalgisa is a very heroic, self-sacrificing woman.  It’s a quintessential feminist opera, because here are the two women who are in love with the same man, but they bond together, because Adalgisa really has very innocently become involved with him.  As soon as she realizes that he has obligations
children with another womanshe immediately pulls herself away from the situation.  Norma had him first, and Adalgisa will do what she can to get him back for her.

BD:   I am a bit surprised that she would try to help get the two of them back together again, especially realizing that Norma has broken her vow.

Redmon:   Right, but she has great respect for Norma.  With the children, and the man’s responsibility there, it’s quite forward-thinking for the Druids, or even for Bellini’s time.

BD:   Does it really speak to the women in the audience today, in the 1990s?

Redmon:   Absolutely!  If more women would say,
“Hey, he’s your man, and I’m not going to mess with him, there’d be happier marriages.

BD:   Maybe we should advertise this as the ‘feminist opera’.  [Both laugh]  Are there other characters that you play who are really strong women that speak to us today?

Redmon:   I’ve been doing Carmen a lot, and you can’t get a much stronger woman than Carmen.  She’s certainly a universal character.

BD:   Is it stereo-typical that lower voices play stronger women, and the higher women play the weaker victim types?

Redmon:   I don’t know.  I never really thought about it in those terms, as to the strength of the women.  There probably could be an argument made for that.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:   When you’re offered a role, how do you decide if you’ll accept it and learn it, or say no, it’s not for me?
Redmon:   There are a lot of things.  Obviously, if it’s a standard repertoire piece, you learn it if it’s going to be right for your voice, or right for your voice where you are at that point.  I have been waiting to start tackling some of the more dramatic things.  That’s the first thing.  Then I do a lot of modern music, so I like to see what kind of character it is.  I find there are a lot of really juicy roles for mezzos in contemporary opera.  Then it certainly interests me who is directing, and who else is in the cast, who my colleagues are.  It can be an event.  Last season I was at New York City Opera for a cameo, just a really small part in Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler.  Christopher Keene was conducting, and at that time he was very ill.  I felt certain that it was going to be his last show, and it turned out that it was.  So I arranged for the time for rehearsals.  It wasn’t a very big part, but it was worth it for sentimental reasons, and also because the work was something that I thought would be interesting to participate in.

BD:   It would also draw in the press because it is an unusual work.

Redmon:   Right, but generally speaking people come to modern opera.  You do get your name in the paper, but no one knows how to judge if you’ve done well or not because they don’t really know the piece.  You’ll get a laundry list of who was in it, and if they made a favorable impression.  But I don’t really look at doing a modern piece as being so much career-building as something that fulfills me and helps me grow as an artist.  Also, it’s very interesting for the characters, for stretching acting-wise, and for intellectual stimulation.

BD:   But these works also have to fit your voice.

Redmon:   Oh, absolutely, yes.

BD:   I was just wondering which consideration is first
the vocalism or the characterization?

Redmon:   When I’m approached about an opera, it’ll be that I’m a mezzo, and this is a mezzo role.  Sometimes it may be a little too low, and some parts lie a little higher than you’d like, but pretty much, if it’s written for a mezzo, it’s within a range that would be comfortable and possible.

BD:   Is there less variety among mezzos than there is among sopranos?

Redmon:   If you’re a mezzo, you sing everything from contralto to some soprano things.  It’s partly because you want to work, and there is a greater capacity in the mezzo voice to do a wider range of things.  Sopranos do really have special roles, and maybe they pick those roles and hone those skills that are needed for them.  A coloratura wouldn’t feel as comfortable about some parts, but you surely have a lot of lyric sopranos doing a huge range of parts.

BD:   Do they often regret it?

Redmon:   Yes, they do!  [Both laugh]

BD:   Are you happy that you’re a mezzo rather than a soprano?

Redmon:   Hmmm...  For the most part, yes.  Certainly the mezzo doesn’t usually get the tenor or the star billing.  It’s Norma.  It’s Aïda.  It’s Anna Bolena.  It’s always the mezzos tending to be the secondary woman, even though she’s usually got some of the best music.

BD:   Is that why you gravitate to things like Carmen?

Redmon:   Yes.  There you get to be the star.  But everybody wants to be Carmen.  Sopranos sing Carmen.  It’s just such a great character.  It’s fantastic music.  It’s just a great piece.

BD:   Do you have the coloratura in your voice to do the Rossini roles?

Redmon:   I don’t really feel as comfortable with the Rossini parts for a number of reasons.  Back when Simionato was singing everything from Amneris to Rosina, the public had a much different taste for the Rossini singers.  Those performers had bigger voices which were maybe a little less flashy, with a little slower coloratura and also a little less brilliance.  They were considered the great Rossini singers.  The great bel canto singers did everything, but now the taste of the public isn’t for that.  The Mozart singers are lighter than they used to be.  I’m a great fan of hers, but probably Marilyn Horne forever changed the taste of the public for Rossini, in that she has the most incredibly fast coloratura, plus it
s so expressive.  She’s a brilliant singer, so I don’t feel competitive to come back to that.  As a Rossini singer, in some ways you have to limit what you do in order to capture the fancy of the public.

BD:   Are you conscious of the public when you are singing?

Redmon:   Of course, yes.  You have to be.  Why else are we there?  You do the auditions. You start out and you’re working on your craft.  You’re doing auditions.  You go to your coaching sessions, and you work with the conductor.  You try to make everything as perfect as possible.  You can come to a million dress rehearsals, and see a very nice so-called performance.  But when the public is there, there’s the magic, and the magic only comes in that moment.  At the dress rehearsal, where the general manager of the house, and the maestro and the invited important guests are there, fine.  But when I come to the first performance, all these so-called important people have already heard me, so now I’m here to entertain.  Opera is a Grand Art, and I definitely aspire to be an artist.  But when the public comes and puts their money down for a ticket, it’s like being at the fights, or at the movies, or at the ballet.  They want a show, and they want to be entertained, and so in that respect I think of them.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:   You sing in various houses.  Do you change your technique at all for the size of the house?

Redmon:   No, no!  The bigger the house, the more you have to tell yourself not to push!  Lyric is a big house, and has such a beautiful acoustic.

BD:   Of course, you were weaned here, so you know the house.  Was it nice doing a big role and coming back into a house you knew intimately?

Redmon:   Yes, it’s very exciting.  I could not have picked a part in an opera that I would have rather come back to do, because of all the houses in this country, this one is more identified with the great Italian bel canto style and Italian opera.  I don’t think that a singer who was trained in any other place would realize the importance of Italian opera as much.  When you’re singing bel canto, there’s nowhere to hide.  There are no tricks to help you get around vocally.  You can either crescendo [get louder], decrescendo [get softer], or mezza di voce [taking a note all the way through the dynamic range up to fortissimo [very loud], and bringing it back, seamlessly, to pianissimo
[very soft.]  You can either sing a soft high note or you can’t.  There’s nothing to hide behind.  As to the language and the Italian style, having been trained here really was the seed, the beginning of understanding how important the language and the style are, especially for this type of music.

BD:   How long were you with the Lyric Opera Center?

Redmon:   I was here for three years.

BD:   At the time, did you feel it was giving you the solid training you needed, or is it something you look back on to realize what it gave you?

Redmon:   As soon as I left and had to pay for my first coaching with somebody who couldn’t begin to compare to the coaches here, I knew.  It was so great!  Along the way, I got to watch the greats.  Everybody came here while I was here, and I was able to see the performances and the professionalism... and some of the bad things too!  There are always things that you don’t want to emulate, or aspire to, but being here was invaluable.  [Note all the significant names in the chart below.]

Robynne Redmon at Lyric Opera of Chicago

1983  Aïda [Opening Night] (Priestess), with Tomowa-Sintow, Pavarotti/Giacomini, Cossotto, Wixell, Giaotti, Kavrakos, Negrini; Bartoletti, Joël, Halmen
         Manon (Rosette), with Scotto, Kraus, Titus, Washington, Castel; Rudel, Hebert, Dupont

1984  Carmen (Mercédès), with Nafé/Berganza, Domingo/Frusoni, Studer, Devlin; Plasson, Ponnelle
          Frau ohne schatten (Child's voice), with Marton, Johns, Nimsgern, Zschau, Dunn; Janowski, Corsaro, Chase

1985-86  Otello [Opening Night] (Emilia), with Domingo/Johns, Price, Milnes, McCauley/Kunde; Bartoletti, Diaz, Pizzi
               Traviata (Annina), with Malfitano, Araiza, Elvira; Bartoletti, Alden, Pizzi
               Rondine (Suzy), with Cotrubas, Kunde, Stone, Langton, Doss, Kaasch; Bartoletti, Chazalettes, Santicchi

1986-87  Parsifal (Flower Maiden), with Vickers, Troyanos, Sotin/Howell, Nimsgern, Becht, Salminen/Kennedy; Perick, Pizzi

1988-89  Tancredi (Isaura), with Horne, Cuberli, Merritt, Cox, Sharon Graham; Bartoletti, Copley, Conklin

1990-91  Rigoletto (Maddalena), with Nucci, Pace, Araiza, Langan; Fiore, Sequi, Pizzi, Tallchief, Schuler

1992-93  Rheingold (Flosshilde), with Morris, Troyanos, Wlaschiha, McCauley, Maultsby, Terfel (Donner); Mehta, Everding, Conklin

1995-96  Andrea Chénier (Madelon), with Jóhannsson, Millo/Fantini, Leiferkus; Bartoletti, Mansouri, Williams, Schuler, Dufford
               Ring - Rheingold (Flosshilde), with Morris, Lipovšek, Wlaschiha, Clark, Maultsby, Held; (same as above)
               - Walküre (Grimgerde), with Marton/Eaglen, Morris, Elming, Kiberg, Lipovšek, Salminen; (same as above)
               - Götterdämmerung (Second Norn & Flosshilde), with Marton/Eaglen, Jerusalem, Salminen, Held, Lipovšek, Byrne, Wlaschiha; (same)

1996-97  Norma (Adalgisa), with Anderson, Margison, Colombara; Rizzi, Graham, Conklin

1997-98  Nabucco [Opening Night] (Fenena), with Agache, Guleghina, Denniston, Ramey; Bartoletti, Moshinsky, Yeargan

1998-99  Gioconda [Opening Night] (Laura), with Eaglen, Botha, Putilin, Halfvarson, Maultsby; Bartoletti, Copley, Brown, Tallchief
               Meistersinger (Magdalena), with Rootering, Gustafson, Winbergh, Pape, Schulte, Schade, Del Carlo; Thielemann, Horres, Rheinhardt

2004-05  Ring - Walküre (Waltraute), with Morris, Eaglen, Domingo, DeYoung, Diadkova, Halfvarson; Davis, Everding/Kellner, Conklin

BD:   Is there something that you can learn by singing a very small part in an opera with great singers?

Redmon:   Oh, sure.  Sometimes that’s just helping you hone your craft by doing the small part, and watching and learning how to use the stage when you’re not under so much pressure.  You can figure out how to use the prompter, and what can work for you in a big house when you’re not under so much pressure.  Then you also see how other people behave and respond under tremendous pressure.

BD:   It this going to give you added sympathy for those who are singing small parts now that you’re starting to sing big parts?

Redmon:   I’ve always had great sympathy for people singing big parts, and I have two things to say about people singing small parts.  First, it’s much harder to come out and sing two lines than to sing all night, because if you make a mistake in your two lines, your whole part is ruined.  But if you make one mistake when singing the whole night, it’s not so much.  And secondly, it’s very difficult to make a big impression singing a small part, and yet people in the Opera Center do it all the time.  The audience doesn’t realize they only had five lines.  You think it’s easy to be good with five lines, but it’s hard to get noticed with five lines, and when you do, it speaks volumes about what you’ve done.
BD:   When there’s a little hole in the cast because of a poor supporting player, it is very noticeable.

Redmon:   Exactly.  One of the things that speaks so well about the theater here, and that you don’t always see in other small and major companies, is the high level of casting throughout every part.  Now when I go and sing at a festival, and they have young artists filling in chorus parts or small parts, a lot of them are very talented, and I know they will be my equal colleagues in times to come, just as I am the colleague of people I was in the chorus for.  So I say to these young people as they’re moving the furniture,
Some day you’re going to be the big star, so don’t be ugly to those people now, or think that you’re better than they are.  That is something which is really important to keep in mind.

BD:   It sounds like you have a good head on your shoulders.

Redmon:   [With a big smile]  Oh, thank you!

BD:   [With mock surprise]  My God, an intelligent singer!  It’s not an oxymoron anymore!

Redmon:   I hope not!  [Both laugh]

*     *     *     *     *

BD:   These days, are you with an opera company in a major house?

Redmon:   No, I’m just freelancing.

BD:   Do you like being a wandering minstrel?

Redmon:   For the most part.  I’ve been at the New York City Opera a lot.  I like being in New York, and now I’m going back to go to the Met again.  I’m hoping to spend more time in New York.  I was here for the Ring last year, so that was for a few months.  I really like having a few months to be somewhere, and seeming more at home than just traveling all the time.

BD:   Do you have enough engagements to keep your calendar full?

Redmon:   Right now I’ve ben lucky to be really busy.  I hope it continues.

BD:   Do you leave enough time to study new roles, and have a personal life, and all of those ordinary things?

Redmon:   Recently, my personal life has been fitted into whenever I have a hole in my schedule.  I have a dog, so that’s my personal life on the road.  I like walking him in the park wherever I go, and that helps me feel like I have a personal life.  But I haven’t been home in my house very much lately.  To be honest, it’s like any profession
you go for it while you can, and take years making a career.  I’m looking forward to enjoying the memories of it all in my house when that time has passed.  But I’m really enjoying the pursuit right now.

BD:   Are you taking care of the voice so that you do have the long career?

Redmon:   Definitely.  One of the things I’ve noticed is that a lot of people I started out with have already fallen by the wayside.  Being a mezzo with the capacity and potential for singing dramatic repertoire, I’ve really been waiting and biding my time.  Now that my voice is starting to naturally do the kinds of things that are necessary for the more dramatic repertoire, I’m looking forward to beginning it.  But I haven’t been in a hurry to push for it.

BD:   A patient singer!  That’s the oxymoron.

Redmon:   [Pretending to be shocked]  Patient???  [Laughs]  I’ve paid my mortgage for a while singing various parts some of my friends would turn down.  Some of them have wondered why I haven’t been making it bigger faster.  They’re on their path, making it big now, but let
s see where we both are in ten years.  It’s been slow, but things are happening.  It just feels right.  It feels like the right time.

BD:   What’s the part you’re singing most now?

Redmon:   Carmen is the role I’ve been singing the most.

BD:   Tell me a bit about her.

Redmon:   She
s incredibly challenging as a character.  Everybody knows the music, but often it’s not sung particularly well.

BD:   Is it better or worse that the audience can hum along with your arias?

Redmon:   If you don’t sing it well, it’s worse!  Since it’s French music, I’m trying to present it in a certain elegant style which elevates the character above being a trampy, dirty person people expect.  I hope that when people hear my Carmen, they’re hearing something new, and they’re not busy humming along.

BD:   She really enjoys men.
Redmon:   She enjoys freedom, whatever that means to each person.  To her, certainly men and love are parts of that freedom.  I don’t see Carmen as being particularly man-hungry, or particularly sexy.  What we see of Carmen on stage comes from her freedom of movement, her freedom of choosing men, and of using them if that’s what she needs to do.  But it’s not about any overt sexuality.

BD:   Is it about power?

Redmon:   It’s about power, and power certainly is freedom.

BD:   Does she know she has power?

Redmon:   She has the power, and she uses it!  The women you see in life that you think are sexy or desirable, are not coming on with their hands on their hips, and their breasts hanging out, and their tongues smacking their lips.  It’s not about that.  To see a Carmen trying to be sexy is very boring, and for me to try to portray that is not interesting.  I try to find the places where Carmen is really human.  That is interesting, and that is what has gotten me the positive attention in New York for my portrayal, and I’m hoping that it grows and grows and grows.  It’s nowhere the same as it was five years ago.  This is my second production of Norma, and I feel I’ve learned about my character, and I’m able to do more with her.  I want to do this part more... I want to do a lot of parts more, so that they can grow.

BD:   Do you learn each time you get a new stage director, or a new producer?

Redmon:   Absolutely, yes.

BD:   Are there ever times where you feel the producer is wrong-headed?  You don’t have to mention any specific names, but are there times when you and your understanding of the character are fighting with the way the producer is trying to make the character go?

Redmon:   Absolutely, and what choice do you have but to fight it?  If a character is new to you, and you haven’t lived with it, you can be more open to finding it together.  But once you’ve done many productions, I don’t want to say that I don’t want to take input, because I really do.  If they have something interesting, let’s work that in.  Let’s make the character deeper.  Let’s develop it.  But when somebody comes in and throws away everything you know about your character, and insists you just believe what they say, no matter how many times have you done this part, it has to be a collaboration, and it has to be a respectful collaboration.  A lot of times, stage directors just want you to be an empty vessel, and that’s just not possible.

BD:   Do you make a mental note, and not work with that director again?

Redmon:   I really haven’t got to that point yet, but there are directors I would prefer not work with anymore.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:   Are the conductors in the pit generally supportive of the voice?

Redmon:   Some of them are fantastic, and of course there are certainly conductors that you would rather never sing again than work with them!  But you can never be sure down the road that some project’s not going to come up that’s going to throw you together.  The conductor here for the Norma, Carlo Rizzi, is fantastic.  I just think he’s the greatest.  I love him, and he’s made this whole thing really special.

BD:   It
s nice to find a conductor that is in love with the voice.

Redmon:   Absolutely.  He knows the voice and understands how it works.  When you work with him, you can really sharpen things up and really fix things, and make effects that you want because he understands how the voices work.

BD:   Is there such a thing as a perfect performance?

Redmon:   Oh, no!  Perfect in what way?

BD:   In every way, or in any way.

Redmon:   No, it’s not possible.  If it’s perfect, it’s for the audience to find it perfect.  Sometimes there have been the performances when I’m on stage and am miserable.  For some reason it is not working for me.  I might have phlegm, or I’m dry, and it’s the most miserable night on stage.  But you’re out there, and you’re just giving what you can, and then that’ll be the night when everyone will say it was magic.  So maybe it’s just the passion and the intensity.  I don’t know, but if you have spent the night being preoccupied with being perfect, you probably haven’t given very much to anyone.  Don’t misunderstand me... I would like to be perfect.  I would love to be come off and feel like I’m perfect, but I’ve never felt that way, and I don’t think it’s a good idea for a performer to be too preoccupied with whether they were perfect or not.

BD:   Tomorrow is always another day.

Redmon:   Yes.  You can’t live on the last performance.  It’s being created every time you go out, which is what’s so scary and so exciting.

BD:   Is there a part that you sing, or you’re going to sing, that may be perilously close to the real Robynne?

Redmon:   They’re all perilously close!  [Both laugh]  I don’t know if this is a good thing or not.  When I’m singing Carmen, I feel very strong.  I won’t take any abuse from anybody.  I’m very tough.  When I’m singing Dorabella, all the men are so cute.  Dorabella is really the one who loves men.  When I’m singing Suzuki in Madame Butterfly, which I’ve sung a lot, I’m very much for my Butterfly.  Nobody can give her a hard time when I’m there.  During this rehearsal period as Adalgisa, I felt so vulnerable.  In The Rape of Lucretia, my mind was completely boggled by things.  I find that if you’re into your characters, it really brings out a part of your personality during the time you’re working on them.

BD:   Once you get on stage, are you portraying the character, or do you actually become that character?

Redmon:   There’s always that veil between you.  I really do feel that.  I’m not that crazy.  I really do feel that you’re portraying the character.  In Hollywood movies, maybe it’s easier to lose yourself, but when you’re singing, and when you’re singing opera
which is demanding on a very high levelwe say we don’t worry about being perfect, but it’s the highest art form.  With classical dance, there’s very little room for variation.  You really have to be on a high level.  When you’re singing, there are times when you have to be preoccupied with the vocal technique.  Perhaps that is what keeps one from going too far over the edge with the character.
BD:   There’s always a guy in the pit waving a stick at you to keep you line.

Redmon:   Right, exactly!

BD:   Did you spend enough time in the Opera Center?

Redmon:   Yes!  I don’t think it would have been productive to stay any longer.  I stayed longer than most.  I stayed the extra third year at the request of the theater because they believed in me.  I was the youngest person when I came in, so I really did need that extra year.

BD:   You would recommend the Lyric Opera Center for other young and aspiring singers?

Redmon:   Oh, absolutely.  I don’t know if I should say this, but when you go through the Met Young Artists Program, it is very much expected that you’ll come back to the Met the next season, and sing a major role.  It happens all the time.  To come back to Chicago and sing a major role is a very big deal.

BD:   Shouldn’t it be a big deal?

Redmon:   It should, in that it’s a major opera company and you’re singing a major role.  It should be a celebration for the artists.  However, not every young singer is going to have a big career.

BD:   Don’t some young singers go out and make a name for themselves, and then come back?

Redmon:   That’s true, but there shouldn’t be any reason to eschew [deliberately avoid] the singers that you train just by virtue of the fact that you trained them.  If you have a wonderful training program, and a wonderful opera house, and you’ve picked good people, obviously those people are going to be the cream that rises, and they’re going to be the people who do have the big careers, and do come back.

BD:   What advice do you have for the next crop of singers coming along?

Redmon:   Oh, gosh, I don’t know.  Too many things!

BD:   Are there too many young singers coming along?

Redmon:   How could there be?  The market dictates because it’s a business and an art.  So the more singers there are, the fewer jobs there will be.  But the cream will always rise.  There are the exceptional few who make it internationally, with all the elements that you have to have incorporated.

BD:   You sing quite a bit of contemporary opera, so what advice do you have for composers?

Redmon:   [Shouts]  Write more for mezzos!  [Both laugh]  That’s my main advice, and to study the voice.  A lot of composers call the singers up and ask, “What’s your range?”  It
s high C [C6] to low G [G4].  Then, of course, they write the entire score on B6 and C6!  They don’t really have an understanding of how voices work.

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

Redmon:   [Laughs]  No!  The voice can’t do it.  It’s impossible!  But there are composers who write beautifully for the voice.

BD:   You sing mostly opera.  Do you also sing recitals and concerts?

Redmon:   I haven’t done very much recital work.  There’s really not so much opportunity.  When singers become household names, and can sell tickets for recitals, then you will see more recitals.  I’m doing a chamber music festival this year, and I do a little bit of concert work with symphonies.  But there’s a parallel universe of singers that do mostly orchestral repertoire, so it’s really not as easy as one thinks to crossover.

BD:   Good, stay in the opera house.

Redmon:   I like being on stage.  What makes it all interesting to me is the acting aspect of it.

BD:   Thank you for all the performances thus far, and we look forward to those yet to come.

Redmon:   Thank you.  I hope things can continue to go the way they’re going.  I am really happy right now.

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© 1997 Bruce Duffie

This conversation was recorded in Chicago on February 10, 1997.  Portions were broadcast on WNIB the following week.  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.