Yesterday, Kate Aldrich ’96 reprised her dream role as “Carmen” for the sixth time in her career, this time at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. She started singing opera professionally just 10 years ago and has already performed at several prestigious opera houses all over the world, from the San Francisco Opera to the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, Germany. Senior Writer Kathy Laluk spoke with Aldrich about returning to the role of Carmen at the Met.
Kathy Laluk: How did you get into opera?
Kate Aldrich: I went to Ithaca for music, and I wanted to give the classical music angle a try because I had also been doing some rock music in high school. I almost didn’t go to school because I was going to stay with my rock band. But at Ithaca, little by little I started discovering more about opera. I think it was really not until the end of my time at Ithaca until I decided I wanted to go more in that direction.
KL: Were there any classes you had at the college that pushed you toward opera?
KA: There was the opera scene workshop, and I remember being really kind of moved by the whole idea of it. When you’re doing art songs, you’re telling a story, but it wasn’t quite as dramatic, and you didn’t have the theater side of it. That’s really what I found so exciting about opera. I also took choir with Larry Doebler, and he was fantastic. What was great about his approach to choral music was that he would incorporate movement into the music so that all four parts would be moving to the music in whatever way they felt. So we’d have these sort of blocked out tableaus. It really taught me to be more comfortable with movement while singing, which is incredibly important in opera.
KL: Since graduating, you have been in many different shows. What is the most difficult thing about performing?
KA: It depends on the day. Some days I would say it’s simply the making of music and the singing, and then other days, it can be the stresses of movement and things like that. It’s a lot of pressure because your livelihood and your passion and dreams are dependant on how well you do. There’s always this battle between trying to be natural and be in the moment and also trying to do your part well.
KL: I’m sure your upcoming performances of “Carmen” are pretty stressful. Tell me a little about how that’s going.
KA: It’s incredibly exciting. When I started rehearsals, of course, I was nervous because it’s a big deal, but I’m working with a fantastic cast. The tenor, Jonas Kaufmann, is just a dream to work with. He’s a real singing actor, which is such a special thing to work with because you can separate yourself from the fact that there’s an audience. You can get fully sucked into the drama.
KL: Did you ever think you would be performing at the Met?
KA: You don’t start off singing professionally at the Met. This is my 10th year performing professionally. I’ve been kind of working my way up. I was really lucky because it’s not always a given that you’ll be able to start working right away. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time and in the right repertoire.
KL: What about the performances are you looking forward to?
KA: Oh gosh, I’m actually looking forward to them being over in a way, but I know as soon as they are I’m going to be sad. There’s a lot of anticipation about it. We have to just dive off the diving board and hope everything happens the way it’s supposed to.
KL: Do you think opera still has a place in the contemporary theater and music scenes?
KA: Absolutely. It’s incredibly popular right now and even more popular than it was 15, even 20 years ago. It’s one of the fastest-growing classical art forms. It is going through a bit of a tough time because of private sponsorship and the way the economy is. Plus we can never really compete with popular music. But I think, for example, that the Met is not trying to compete with it, but [rather] having its own approach. They’re making it more current by bringing it to movie theaters so that people who don’t live in the big cities can still have the chance to experience good opera.