Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ten Questions with Alexandra LoBianco

Ten Questions With...




Alexandra LoBianco, soprano
Leonore in Fidelio






1.  Where were you born / raised? 
St. Petersburg, Florida.  Not to be confused with St. Petersburg, Russia (that's happened).

2.  If you weren't a singer, what profession would you be in?
When I was younger, I wanted to go into Equine Science, but I quickly realized I'm just not that smart.  So if I had to make a choice outside of the profession, I'd be a therapist of some sort.  I'm actually considering going back for my Master's, because trust me, when you teach voice you are already a therapist.  I might as well get the diploma to go with it.

3.  My favorite opera is...
This is actually a difficult question.  It tends to be the one I'm working on.  I have my absolute go-to's, which are Tosca, Macbeth, and Cavalleria Rusticana.  (Yes, I love verismo.)

4.  My favorite post-show meal is...
Munchies and sometimes a bourbon neat.

5.  People would be surprised to know that...
I'm blind as a bat on stage.  I don't wear contacts.  Well, I can make out Maestro's hands, which keeps me on top of the beat, thank goodness.  I was also a competitive horseback rider when I was younger.  And last but not least, my favorite form of workout is boxing.

6.  What is your favorite song to belt out at the bar / in the car /for karaoke?
Oh, this one is easy.  You'll find me at my favorite little piano bar, Uncle Charlie's in New York with my dear friend / composer William Wade having me belt "Maybe This Time" from Cabaret, then right into "Quando m'en vo."  Don't ask, I don't get it either, but it's a lot of fun.

7.  What is your pop culture guilty pleasure?
Netflix has made it very easy to binge-watch TV.  When I'm on gigs, my favorite thing to do is find a new or old TV show and, well, indulge.

8.  A few of my favorite films are...
I must confess, I love movies but I'm not a huge movie buff.  When I go to the movies (or watch Netflix...  you see a trend here), I tend to watch things that are truly entertainment.  So, with that in mind: The Avengers (and all the others in the series), plus I love Pixar and most all Disney flix.  They are such a wonderful escape from reality while being a marvel of artistic abilities that I just don't comprehend.

As far as films that I feel are of major artistic worth, I love Cinema Paradiso, The Artist, Forrest Gump, and Amelie.  Cult classics: Clueless, Young Frankenstein, Willie Wonka (original version), Fight Club, Highland, and Coming to America.

Well, that surprised me to see that I'm a bit more opinionated than I thought! 

9.  If we were to turn on your ipod right now, what five artists/songs would we see on your recently-played list?
Honestly, the first thing you'd find would be about 5 different versions of Fidelio followed quickly by about 5 more versions of Don Giovanni, as I just finished that and haven't replaced it with Tosca yet. Once you're past work, you get into things like "Sandman" by Metallica, "Who I Am" by Alice Peacock, "Trouble" by P!nk and "Ben Aindi Habibi" by Mary Fahl.  You'd also find a bunch of musical theater followed by some of the greats: Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Holiday, Edith Piaf, Tom Lehrer, etc. 

10.  What is the worst costume you've ever worn?
It was when I was in the chorus for Opera Carolina and we were in the midst of Nabucco.  One of the slave costumes was just pieces of burlap sack that had been dyed shades of blue and stitched together with no lining. Needless to say it was difficult finding your character while itching from the burlap and laying on the floor. 



Don't miss the chance to see Alexandra in Fidelio, Beethoven's only opera!  Performances are November 21 and 23 at Overture Hall.  Tickets start at $18; visit madisonopera.org for more information.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Ten Questions with Clay Hilley

Ten Questions With...

Clay Hilley, tenor
Florestan in Fidelio 



1.  Where were you born / raised? 
Born in Athens, Georgia, and raised in a small town near there - Statham, Georgia.

2.  If you weren't a singer, what profession would you be in?
Law.

3.  My favorite opera is...
Falstaff.

4.  My favorite pre/post-show meal is...
Steak and potatoes - but that's not unique to a show. ;)

5.  People would be surprised to know that...
I am the oldest sibling of four.  Because of my maturity level, most people assume I'm the baby.

6.  What is your favorite song to belt out at the bar / in the car /for karaoke?
I loathe karaoke.  The only thing I belt are corny jokes.

7.  What is your pop culture guilty pleasure?
American Horror Story.  All horror stories.  80s and 90s slasher films.

8.  A few of my favorite films are...
Return of the King.  Many horror movies.

9.  If we were to turn on your ipod right now, what five artists/songs would we see on your recently-played list?   
Fidelio.

10.  What is the worst costume you've ever worn? 
There are many, but one comes to mind.  While playing King Kaspar in Amahl and the Night Visitors, I was dressed in a VERY heavy (and VERY HOT) costume.  It was so hot that I made a choice to forgo any sort of undergarment (as no one in the audience would ever be able to notice).  During the performance, I noticed an air-conditioning vent in the stage floor (we were performing in a church chancel), and "altered my blocking" such that I ended up hovering over said vent, enjoying the pleasantly-cooling streams of air while actively engaged in performing.

11.  Bonus:  One question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer):
Q:  Would you like to have my UGA Bulldogs season tickets?
A:  YES.

Don't miss the chance to see Clay in Fidelio, Beethoven's only opera!  Performances are November 21 and 23 at Overture Hall.  Tickets start at $18; visit madisonopera.org for more information.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Ten Questions with Kelly Markgraf

Ten Questions With...

Kelly Markgraf, baritone
Don Pizarro in Fidelio 






1.  Where were you born / raised? 
Cedarburg, Wisconsin.

2.  If you weren't a singer, what profession would you be in?
Antique restoration and/or historical architecture preservation.

3.  My favorite opera is...
After studying it recently for an upcoming recording project, Carlisle Floyd's Wuthering Heights is near or at the top of my list.  From the traditional repertoire, probably Don Carlos.

4.  My favorite pre/post-show meal is...
Wild rice, a bit of protein, and a raw kale salad.

5.  People would be surprised to know that...
I have a tea company, importing fine loose leaf tea from all over the world.

6.  What is your favorite song to belt out at the bar / in the car /for karaoke?
"Country Road" by James Taylor.

7.  What is your pop culture guilty pleasure?
Antique Roadshow.

8.  A few of my favorite films are...
The Philadelphia Story, The Lion in Winter. 

9.  If we were to turn on your ipod right now, what five artists/songs would we see on your recently-played list?   
India Arie, Sam Cooke, Neil Young, Disney songs (for my daughter), Chris Paulson (the best street musician I've ever heard, who I came across this past spring in Bordeaux).

10.  What is the best costume you've ever worn? 
The Plant in Little Shop of Horrors.

11.  Bonus:  One question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer):
Q:  Have you had a moment where you felt affirmed that all that you do and sacrifice to have the life of a musician is worth it?

A:  Absolutely.  I recently was on a plane and started talking with the guy across the aisle from me.  He was a veteran Army Ranger of multiple tours of duty in Iraq, and then two in Afghanistan.  He has now left the military and is hoping to start a new life.  Hearing about what he went through:  the stress, the danger, the injuries, the despair over watching all his friends die -- it was heartbreaking.  He asked what I do, and when I told him I sing opera, he was quite taken aback, and tears came to his eyes.  He said, "Man, you have no idea -- that's what gets us through out there.  So many of us, even though we don't really talk about it, listen to opera to help us get through.  The sheer power and beauty of it... to be able to turn that on when we're in the field and be transported to another place...  Thank you for doing what you do.  It means the world to us."


Don't miss the chance to see Kelly in Fidelio, Beethoven's only opera!  Performances are November 21 and 23 at Overture Hall.  Tickets start at $18; visit madisonopera.org for more information.