FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, May 9, 2006
LYRIC OPERA OF CHICAGO
20 North Wacker Drive
Chicago, IL 60606
Lyric Opera of Chicago names Gianna Rolandi Director of Lyric Opera Center for American Artists
Gianna Rolandi has been named director of the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists (LOCAA), the prestigious training program for young professional singers at Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Rolandi succeeds Richard Pearlman, who died April 8, and who had served as the program’s director since 1995. Rolandi worked closely with Pearlman since she became director of vocal studies for the Opera Center in May 2002. She has served as acting director since Pearlman’s death.
“I am thrilled to accept the position of director of the Opera Center,” Rolandi said. “It brings me great joy to continue the legacy of my dear colleague Richard Pearlman, and it is a privilege to play a part in helping these tremendously talented young singers realize their dreams.”
Each year the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists selects a dozen gifted young singers from some 500 applicants. Soon after arriving at Lyric in April, incoming LOCAA members began an intensive full-year residency under the guidance of numerous opera professionals. Coaching sessions and master classes are augmented by performance and understudy experience in productions mounted by Lyric Opera of Chicago, including the eight operas of Lyric’s regular season. New ensemble members generally remain in the program for two to three seasons, after which they embark on full-time professional careers. The Opera Center’s directors preceding Pearlman were Andrew Foldi, Lee Schaenen, and Herbert Handt. The program was founded in 1973 and was incorporated in 1974.
“Gianna has been with us as director of vocal studies for the past four years – no one understands the program and how it functions better than she does,” said William Mason, Lyric’s general director. “She brings her personal experience as a singer to the program, and has proven herself to be a superb teacher. Many of the young singers she has worked with have already launched distinguished careers.”
Mason noted that much of what Rolandi will do as director of the Opera Center she has been involved with previously. “Gianna has been part of the decision-making process since coming to Lyric, working closely with Richard Pearlman and Opera Center manager Dan Novak, as well as Lyric Opera’s music director Sir Andrew Davis, artistic administrator Andreas Melinat, and myself,” Mason said. “She is a wonderful colleague and everyone in the company is delighted to continue working with her in this expanded capacity.”
Mason added that Rolandi’s previous duties have been incorporated into her new role as director of the Opera Center, so the position of director of vocal studies will no longer exist at LOCAA.
As director of the Opera Center, Rolandi will oversee all artistic aspects of LOCAA’s activities and operations. She will travel nationally for preliminary auditions each spring and summer, followed by final auditions at Lyric each fall. Rolandi will continue to oversee each ensemble member’s vocal and artistic development (as she has been doing as director of vocal studies), and will provide professional advice and counsel. She will select guest teachers and resident and guest faculty for LOCAA’s training curriculum, plan concert engagements and recitals for ensemble members, and work closely with Lyric’s artistic administration to cast ensemble members for Lyric’s mainstage season. Rolandi will also advocate for ensemble members with artist representatives and opera-company and symphony executives to help secure management and future engagements for ensemble singers when they complete the program. Additionally, Rolandi will oversee the artistic aspects of two major education outreach programs: “Opera in the Neighborhoods” and “Meet the Artist.”
As LOCAA’s director of vocal studies since 2002, Rolandi has shown an exceptional gift for teaching young singers how to shape and polish their voices and their interpretations, and how best to prepare for a life in the lyric theater. Among her students have been Nicole Cabell, Lauren Curnow, Roger Honeywell, Quinn Kelsey, Dina Kuznetsova, Brian Leerhuber, Lauren McNeese, Scott Ramsay, Stacey Tappan, Erin Wall, and Guang Yang, many of whom have continued to work with Rolandi after completing the program.
Gianna Rolandi has enjoyed great success on opera, concert, and recital stages internationally over the course of her career. She graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia in 1975 and made her operatic debut that year with the New York City Opera as Olympia/The Tales of Hoffmann and as Zerbinetta/Ariadne auf Naxos, both to critical acclaim. Rolandi was a leading coloratura soprano at NYCO for the next 15 years, singing more than 30 roles in operas including I puritani, La traviata, The Daughter of the Regiment, Rigoletto, Lucia di Lammermoor and The Cunning Little Vixen (both telecast live from Lincoln Center), Lakmé, and Giulio Cesare, among others. Following her Metropolitan Opera debut as Sophie/Der Rosenkavalier in 1979, Rolandi returned to the Met to portray Olympia/The Tales of Hoffmann, Zerbinetta/Ariadne auf
Naxos, and the title role of Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol. At Lyric Opera of Chicago she debuted as Dorinda in Handel’s Orlando (1986), and returned to sing Despina/Così fan tutte (1993-94), a production that marked her retirement from the stage.
Rolandi has performed with many of the major North American opera companies, including San Francisco Opera, the Canadian Opera Company, the Washington National Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Santa Fe Opera, and the Spoleto Festival in Charleston. She debuted in Europe in 1981 at Glyndebourne Festival Opera as Zerbinetta, returning in 1984 for her first performances of Susanna/The Marriage of Figaro and Zdenka/Arabella, to enormous critical acclaim. Other major European engagements have included Ginerva/Ariodante and Cleopatra/ Giulio Cesare in Geneva, Constanze/Die Entführung aus dem Serail in Lyon and Paris, Almirena/Rinaldo at the Châtelet in Paris, Amenaide/Tancredi in Torino, and Elcia/Mose at the Pesaro Festival in Italy. Rolandi has recorded Susanna/The Marriage of Figaro under Haitink, and has appeared on video as
Zdenka/Arabella in the Glyndebourne production.
Orchestral engagements have included appearances with all the major ensembles, including the New York Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Atlanta Symphony, the National Symphony Orchestra, the BBC
Symphony Orchestra, and the London Philharmonic with conductors including Leonard Bernstein, Sir Andrew Davis, Sir Bernard Haitink, Erich Leinsdorf, and James Levine. Rolandi was born in New York City and raised in Spartanburg, South Carolina. She lives in Chicago with her husband, Sir Andrew Davis, Lyric Opera of Chicago’s music director, and their teenaged son Edward.
This interview was recorded in Chicago on November 8,
1993. Portions (along with recordings) were
broadcast on WNIB in 1997. The
transcription was made in 1995 and published in The Opera Journal in June of that
year. It was slightly re-edited and posted on this
website in 2009.
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.