Home » Kelli O’Hara’s Ties to Opera, From ‘The Gilded Age’ to the Met Stage

Kelli O’Hara’s Ties to Opera, From ‘The Gilded Age’ to the Met Stage

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On the HBO costume drama “The Gilded Age,” Kelli O’Hara performs a New York grande dame pressured to decide on sides in an opera battle: stay on the previous guard’s Academy of Music, or defect to the Metropolitan Opera being constructed by the nouveau riche they’d excluded.

When her character, Aurora Fane, joins a throng of socialites surveying the almost accomplished Met, the digicam lingers on her face, upraised in awe.

O’Hara herself is much extra aware of the Met, at the least in its present incarnation. Along with being a Tony-winning star of Broadway musicals and an Emmy nominee, she has been singing on the Met for almost a decade, and is again now for a revival of “The Hours,” starring reverse Renée Fleming and Joyce DiDonato, opera legends each.

Nonetheless, the Met’s grand auditorium, which holds 4,000 individuals, conjures up the identical surprise in O’Hara because it does in Aurora. Though Aurora by no means needed to fill it. And O’Hara does.

“As soon as I give over to it and consider in myself, I do not forget that that is the best way my voice desires to sing,” she stated.

This was on a latest morning throughout a break from rehearsals. O’Hara, 48, had traded her costume corset for a black jumpsuit. One handheld a paper cup of espresso. (A socialite would by no means.) Later she would return to the basement area the place she is rehearsing “The Hours,” Kevin Places’s adaptation of Michael Cunningham’s time-skipping novel, itself impressed by Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway,” which opens Could 5.

One of many Met’s archivists, John Tomasicchio, stopped in to point out O’Hara a couple of gadgets from the Met’s founding that might have been acquainted to Aurora: a chunk of its unique stage, an etched glass lightbulb, brocade from a field seat. Tomasicchio displayed a newspaper illustration of the viewers thronging the stage.

“It was like a rock live performance,” O’Hara marveled. “The eagerness individuals had.”

Opera was not fairly O’Hara’s first ardour. She went to varsity intending to review musical theater, however was instructed that her voice wasn’t constructed for the pop and rock types then in vogue. As she was graduating, she participated within the Met’s Nationwide Council Auditions and made it to the finals on the regional degree. However she missed the camaraderie she had skilled in musical theater, so she packed her baggage and headed for Broadway.

Broadway welcomed her. She starred in acclaimed productions of basic musicals together with “South Pacific” and “The King and I,” for which she received a Tony. Simply this week she obtained her eighth Tony nomination for “Days of Wine and Roses.”

Whereas she didn’t remorse leaving opera, she generally puzzled how she may need fared on the Met’s stage. “There was all the time this factor behind my head that stated: However my voice desires to sing that approach,” she stated.

On the very finish of 2014, she had her likelihood, in a brand new manufacturing of the operetta “The Merry Widow” directed by Susan Stroman, with whom she had beforehand labored on Broadway. She adopted that debut with a manufacturing of Mozart’s “Così Fan Tutte” in 2018. To make this leap in midcareer was scary, however O’Hara, who runs marathons and has gone sky-diving, doesn’t thoughts a certain quantity of fright.

“I needed to put my spine straight and have conversations with myself,” she stated. “’You are able to do this. You’re fantastic. Simply hold your nostril to the bottom and do your work.’”

That work paid off. When she sang in “Così,” her “beautiful soprano voice and fairly good Italian diction” had been praised by Anthony Tommasini of The New York Occasions.

Whereas opera singers often make the transfer to Broadway (Fleming and Paolo Szot are latest examples), careers hardly ever circulate the opposite approach. And a performer who can do all this and tv, too? That’s rarer nonetheless.

“The Hours,” O’Hara’s first up to date opera, which premiered in 2022, is an extra problem. O’Hara co-stars as Laura Brown, a lady constrained by the suburban rhythms of post-World Conflict II California. In some methods, Laura is a companion to Kirsten, the position O’Hara was nominated for in Adam Guettel’s “Days of Wine and Roses.” Kirsten is one other girl confined by the expectations of midcentury American life. Each discover freedom the place they will.

“I’m coming off of over two years now of enjoying unhappy ladies, held ladies, even Aurora, held again, constricted,” O’Hara stated.

For O’Hara, opera just isn’t precisely releasing. It’s too demanding for that, too needful of perfection. However she believes that she’ll hold pursuing it — for the issue, for the fear, for the vary of roles. (On TV, she stated, she now performs grandmothers. Opera is slightly extra forgiving.)

O’Hara is aware of that she may fail. Her voice may crack. She would possibly flub a be aware. However Aurora is courageous sufficient to hitch the new-money professionals on the Met’s opening. And O’Hara in her approach is courageous, too. Courageous sufficient to ship her brilliant, unamplified soprano out into hundreds of ears every evening.

“I’m assured sufficient to wish to attempt,” she stated.

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