Tuesday, October 23, 2012

30th Anniversary Spotlight: Ava Pine Makes A Welcome and Surprise Return

Soprano Ava Pine -Superheroine, Slips into Juliet’s Ball Gown, Comes to Rescue

Opera companies plan quite far in advance, often selecting operas and casting singers for the main roles two, three—even five years in advance. So it was with the upcoming Romeo and Juliet in which Heidi Stober was expected to return as Juliet. However, sometimes life intervenes in the years after the ink on the contract dries. Just a couple of weeks ago Opera Colorado received the happy news from Heidi that when the curtain goes up in February, she will be just about ready to give birth to her first child. We wish Heidi, her husband and soon-to-be bundle of joy all the best as they embark on this new chapter in their lives. Sometimes--very rarely--life is more important than opera! However, Heidi’s withdrawal from the production meant we needed a new Juliet for our Romeo who was left standing at the secret altar! Enter Ava Pine, who thrilled our audiences with a breathtaking role debut as Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro last season. Ava, (pronounced AH-va), sang the role of Juliet for Dallas Opera in 2011, and is looking forward to returning to Denver, and re-visiting the role. Return engagements often take several seasons to arrange due to the advance planning and tight schedules in the opera industry, but fortunately for OC audiences, Ava was able to make herself available and will step into the role in our production. You won’t have to wait several seasons to hear Ava again on the stage of the Ellie!

Born on Galveston Island into a musical family, Ava is the eldest of five closely-spaced siblings. Her father, an emergency-room physician by day/old school Country Western singer-songwriter by night, moved the family to Fredericksburg, in the heart of Central Texas, when Ava was young. The family raised cattle, horses, chickens along with an orchard full of peaches, plums, pecans, pears and cherries. Ava’s father wanted her to follow in his bootsteps and sing Country music, and in fact her first professional engagement was singing the National Anthem, a capella, at Willie Nelson’s annual Fourth of July picnic, where she was introduced by Willie himself! In college, Ava rebelled and chose a classical music path.

As a girl she wanted to be an astronomer—until she found out how much math was involved! Attending college thanks to an academic scholarship, her course of study was broad-based and not the typical music major. In fact she did more traditional theater in college than opera, and after graduation, unsure about pursuing a career as a performer, took a job doing marketing for a software publisher specializing in handheld devices like Blackberries and Palm Pilots. Looking back she realizes it probably wasn’t the career for her, because she was not as obsessed with continuously checking her e-mail for new messages as her co-workers were! Continuing to perform, occasionally singing oratorio or with choral groups while holding down her ‘real’ job, Ava finally discovered opera in her late 20’s. She realized it was the perfect marriage of classical music, and the theatrical challenge of stepping into another person’s shoes for the evening. “I love opera because I get the chance to be someone else, and to experience entirely different feelings and reactions than what I usually experience—even if only for an evening. I’m a very visceral, involved singer when it comes to character. I really FEEL it. When I sing Juliet, I will really feel the butterflies of first love and the anguish of losing it. When I sing Pamina, I feel the rejection of Tamino’s silence. When I sing ditzy characters, I lose the weight that comes with rational awareness in everyday life. It’s fun! Actually, opera can be the best form of therapy.”

Ava is looking forward to be in back in Denver, partly to resume training by running along Cherry Creek. She trained for her first half-marathon while she was here last season for Figaro, and spent a lot of time on that trail. She runs her second half-marathon next month, and may plan to run another in early January so she will be in great shape to tackle a difficult role like Juliet at Mile-High altitude.

“To be able to earn a living from my art, my talent—it’s the greatest feeling. There is nothing quite like it and I am extraordinarily fortunate! But, it can also be the biggest drawback. Because my ‘product’ comes from within me, it can feel very personal—or not living up to the expectations we set for ourselves can hit very close to home. It’s a tough dichotomy and something all singers struggle with, I think. But, to be able to do what I do every day is pretty much a dream come true.”

Segue way to Juliet-- who in her first big scene in Gounod’s opera, sings Juliet’s Waltz: “Je veux vivre dans le rêve qui m’enivre…” or “I want to live in the dream that intoxicates me…”

Welcome back, Ava Pine!

By Brad Trexell, Director of Artistic Operations

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