2014 Best Supporting Actress in a Musical or Opera Nominee Interview: Sadie Gregg as Ottavia in New England Conservatory's "L'Incoronazione di Poppea"

Photo by Lu Zang

Photo by Lu Zang

Before we announce the winners of the 2014 ArtsImpulse Theatre Awards, we are proud to present our Nominee Interviews.

NOTE: If you or your production was nominated for a 2014 ArtsImpulse Theatre Award, and you would like to participate in a Nominee Interview, please email us here.

Sadie Gregg has a rich mezzo-soprano voice, but it is her musicality and acting that allows her to soar above the rest.  Her Ottavia held raw, love-sick passion in each of her notes, earning her a 2014 ArtsImpulse Best Supporting Actress in a Musical or Opera Nomination. In her Interview, Sadie discusses her busy year in 2014-2015, her hardest class in her Masters in Music program, and her upcoming role in Odyssey Opera's The Zoo.

Sadie, thank you so much for joining me again for an Interview.  Can you introduce yourself to our ArtsImpulse readers?  What have you been up to for the past year?

Thanks for having me, Brian! In the past year, I’ve graduated with my Master of Music degree from New England Conservatory, and I have made my professional chorus debuts with Odyssey Opera and Boston Lyric Opera. I’ve been lucky to sing a bunch of great mezzo roles, and take auditions in my free time.

What roles did you play in 2014?  Which was your favorite?

In this past season, I’ve played Ottavia in L’incoronazione di Poppea, Florence Pike in Albert Herring, and Charlotte in Les Lettres de Werther. Each role has been different: Ottavia is a woman scorned, Florence is an under-appreciated but enthusiastic maid, and Charlotte just can’t help lovin’ that man. I love them all for different reasons, as I’ve been in all of their shoes. These characters aren’t so different from one another, and that is what makes them human. Everyone has been deeply hurt, under-appreciated, and completely lovesick. I am so thankful to be able to bring each of these women to the stage.

Talk to us about your training and education.  What has been the hardest part?  What has been the most fulfilling?  

I earned my Master of Music from New England Conservatory in 2014. Funny enough, the hardest parts of my training have also been the most rewarding. My brilliant teacher Bradley Williams and I have toiled away for hours in the studio to produce the most beautiful, pure and uninhibited singing that I can possibly manage. My wonderful coach Jean Anderson Collier has schooled me on style and language, day after day. I’ve also been truly blessed to study with acting teachers Steven Goldstein, Patricia Weinmann, and Greg Smucker, who have helped me really embody the characters I play and make them human. All of these experiences have been grueling, but so rewarding when I take the stage and invite the audience to come along with me.

Also, the theory class I took in my Master’s program was super hard. I took Beethoven’s String Quartets, where I was one of two singers (the other being my soprano bestie Danielle Barger), and had to analyze sonata form and read alto clef. The class was taught by Dr. Graybill, who is a saint and has the patience of the Dalai Lama. I passed, and learned a lot of things about strings, delayed resolutions and avoiding cadences. Thank you, Dr. Graybill, you are a scholar and a gentleman. 

What is your favorite opera?  Do you have a least favorite?  Do you have any types of operas, or certain composers, to which you are drawn? 

I can’t really chose a favorite, because all of the stories are so interesting and different, even the ridiculous ones! I love Ariadne auf Naxos because it’s the opera about an opera. It’s hilarious, sweet, and really captures the behind the scenes of it all. I also love La Cenerentola, and the idea that good ultimately trumps evil. I even love The Zoo, which I’m currently singing with Odyssey Opera, which is a Sullivan comedy about two pairs of lovers who meet at the London Zoological Gardens. I’m Eliza, the cockney girl who runs the snack shop, and is in love with Thomas, the nobleman in disguise. As silly as the story is, she’s just a regular girl who loves a nice boy, and wants to take care of the animals at the zoo. Who doesn’t want to be with their sweetheart forever? And who doesn’t love animals???

How have others described your voice and presence onstage? 

The Boston Musical Intelligencer has described me as "a mezzo-soprano with a rich, flexible instrument."

Photo by Andrew Hurlbut

Photo by Andrew Hurlbut

The Boston Classical Review has described me as a “standout...whose amber-toned mezzo-soprano sounded strong across her full range."

The Boston Performing Arts Examiner said, of Lakme: “The famous Flower Duet between Lakme and Mallika was one of the high-points of the performance. The two singers wove their melismatic lines together dexterously and Gregg's mellow mezzo-soprano voice blended soothingly with Farnsley's ringing tone.” 

My Entertainment World on La Cenerentola: "Gregg allows us to see the demure, the flirtatious, and the honest in Cinderella through her softest gesture and slyest glance."

Boston Musical Intelligencer on La Gazzetta: "The older Madama la Rose was an effective part for Sadie Gregg, who was herself quite seductive in explaining that, whenever the opportunity arose, she liked to answer ‘yes.’”

What are some of your hobbies? 

I love throwing parties, when my other singer friends and I have the time. There’s no better night of a homemade feast, fantastic drinks and fun card games. Singers and actors make for the best parties, though it’s hard to coordinate all our schedules. It’s like another family. 

What are a few of your guilty pleasures?

One word: NETFLIX. House of Cards, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Mad Men, etc. I love it all. I can't order a Pinot Noir now without thinking of Titus.

What is one misconception that you would like to correct about the public’s perception of opera?  About singing?  About performing?

Opera is not as hoity-toity as you’d think. The stories are compelling, hilarious, happy, sad, and still accessible, even if in another language. Singing is a job just like any other, just with many more job interviews than other professions. I’m so thankful for my instrument, but it’s less glamorous and much more hard work than you’d think. Performing is an absolute joy, and I’m thankful for every day I get to be on stage. That said, so much work goes in to making a compelling and engaging experience for the audience, and we could not do it without them. Live theater is a collaborative art, and we hope to take the audience along for the ride. 

If you could have a conversation with your sixteen year old self, what would you say?  What about your twenty-one year old self? 

I’d tell my 16-year-old self that you really need to work harder, that things are much different outside our town. I’d tell my 21-year-old self not to be afraid, and that we can absolutely do what we want, as scary as it may sound. That said, I’ve been very lucky in life, and have so many wonderful things that may not have happened had I taken a different path. I have my wonderful husband, who I love dearly, and I’m singing well and working professionally. I didn’t have these in my mid-twenties, and I’m thankful these have come into my life since. 

What are some of your goals for 2015?

I’d love to find management, but really I’d just love to do some new roles. There are so many new stories to explore, and I love the challenge that each provides.

If you could sing one song every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?  What is one lyric that resonates with you? 

There’s an aria from the opera Little Women called “Things Change, Jo.” I’ve sung the role of Meg, who sings to her sister Jo about how your priorities change, and how things change as you age. It’s kind of a joke, but I find myself singing at work, and to friends, “Things Change, Jo.”

Do you have any upcoming projects or productions?

We are headed into tech week for Odyssey Opera’s The Zoo! I’m singing Eliza, the girl who runs the snack shop. I sang in the Odyssey chorus last year, and I’m so thrilled to make my principal debut with the company!

Do you have anything else to share with our ArtsImpulse readers?

Thanks for your support of opera this season! There are so many amazing productions being put on by small and large companies in Boston. We all strive to bring you compelling performances, hope to see you at the show!