Sometimes singers become so identified with a role, they're said to own it.
Think of Placido Domingo's Otello, Leontyne Price's Aïda or, these days, Susan Graham's Iphigenia.
The mezzo has earned raves everywhere from the Met to the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden for her interpretation of Gluck's tragic heroine. In the Canadian Opera Company's season opener tonight (Thurday, September 22), the dramatic powerhouse joins a star-studded cast in a production by Canada's own Robert Carsen, who wowed audiences last season with Gluck's Orfeo Ed Euridice. See listing.
The COC has never staged Gluck's Iphigenia In Tauris before. In 15 words or less, can you sum it up?
Death, betrayal, forgiveness and uncertainty, with the most dysfunctional family ever.
Iphigenia is one of your signature roles. Many critics say you own it. What do you like about it?
It has enormous emotional range as well as enormous vocal range. A great opportunity to express very deep feelings.
Anything you don't like about the part?
The high notes.
You've performed in this production by Robert Carsen before. What should audiences expect?
Deep psychological drama. The effects of familial damage. And symbolism: the water represents blood.
Gluck's popularity has soared over the past few years. Any theories why?
People are hungry for an opera that has classical and timeless themes with which we can all relate, and amazingly compelling music they may not already know.
It's 10 minutes before a big opening night. What's going through your mind?
Gotta test the high notes and do a few high kicks, to loosen up, and stretches (physical and vocal ones), and go over any tricky parts in my head.
It's 10 minutes after the performance. Now what are you thinking?
"Well, that went well, mostly."
If you, Marilyn Horne, Cecilia Bartoli and Dolora Zajick got into a mezzo wrestling ring, who would win - and why?
Oh, Dolora in a heartbeat. She's one tough chick, not that we're all not tough, but she would kick anybody's butt in a wrestling ring - and probably has.
You're close to 6 feet tall. Has that ever proved embarrassing for your male co-stars?
Growing up as a tall girl in Texas, I learned to stand short when necessary. Certain tenors have demanded that I sing barefoot.
Speaking of gender, what's your favourite trousers part - and why?
Octavian in Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier. He's funny, touching, young, wise (at times), has some of the most beautiful music ever written and perhaps the best entrance of any opera: the second-act Presentation Of The Rose.
You've done many contemporary operas, like The Great Gatsby and Dead Man Walking. How do these compare to the classics?
Creating a new opera involves enormous freedom. There are no standards to live up to or judge it by. It's a pleasure to have a composer who's still living and breathing, and it's a true collaboration. Plus, you get to bring something new before the public.
You want to relax. What music do you put on?
Antonio Jobim. I love Brazilian jazz.