Before we announce our 2015 ArtsImpulse Award Winners, we are proud to present our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series.
NOTE: If you were nominated for a 2015 ArtsImpulse Theatre Award, and you would like to participate in our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Heather Gallagher has a warmth about her presence and voice. These qualities make her a perfect performer for more nuanced and complex characters, especially in opera. In MetroWest Opera's Trouble in Tahiti by Leonard Bernstein, Heather quickly won us over with her smooth sound and welcoming persona, but it was her aria layered with dream-like revelry that secured her nomination. In her Interview, Heather talks about her role in Trouble in Tahiti, her biggest challenges as a performer, and what inspires her.
Hi, Heather, and thank you for participating in our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series. Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself?
I'm a native Floridian and I first came to Boston to study about 5 years ago. My path to Classical Music has been anything but linear. I grew up being primarily interested in theatre and musical theatre. I discovered classical music through a church job in Coral Gables, Florida, and then I decided to go back to school. Back then I was primarily interested in sacred music of the Anglican variety. As time went on, I realized that my talents and background were much more at home in opera so that's been my primary focus for about 4 years now.
Talk to us about your role in Trouble in Tahiti. Who did you play, how did you get the role, and what interested you in the project?
I played Dinah, an unhappy 1950s housewife whose marriage is falling apart. I was very fortunate to have won 1st Place in Metrowest Opera's Voice Competition previously, and along with a cash award, there was a role opportunity as well. Considering my past background in theatre and the nature of this particular opera, the opportunity to play Dinah was exciting to me. Also, I knew I would be in good hands with the conductor, Lidiya Yankovskaya, a specialist in modern music.
What kinds of operas do you enjoy performing? What kinds of operas do you not enjoy?
I really enjoy all kinds of operas. Right now, I feel most at home in the French repertoire and in Mozart, with a little Rossini here and there. Also, I enjoy singing in English, so operas by Britten, Heggie, and Adams among others are of great interest to me.
Have you ever changed your mind about a production or kind of opera after performing in it?
I performed the role of Dido in Harvard Early Music Society's production of Dido and Aeneas a few years ago, and I was kind of worried about how I would do because I am far from being an early music specialist. Not only was it a great learning experience for me musically, but our director, Giselle Ty, took the piece to new and exciting places and it was a lot of fun. It was a wonderful experience and I felt lucky to have been a part of it. It definitely made me see Baroque opera in a new way.
What have been some of your biggest challenges as a performer? What do you continue to work to improve?
Oh . . . That is a very long list! I'm constantly working to refine my technique with my teacher, coaching but I also try to devote some time to languages and sight reading. Staying organized and keeping track of where I'm auditioning and what my resources are . . . that's something I work on as well.
When not performing, what do you like to do? Who does it with you? What do you wish that you had more time to do?
For fun, I like to travel and I definitely wish I had the time and the resources to do that more often. Other fun things I like to do: go to the theatre, eat poutine, drink coffee, go to brunch. Quite honestly though, sometimes I just like to lie in bed.
What changes do you wish for the Greater Boston theatre scene? What do you not want to change?
I love the culture in Boston; it's one of the reasons I came here and one of the reasons I'm still here.
It's really a shame to me that Boston doesn't have a world class opera house anymore. We have so many exciting companies here, it's a little embarrassing for such a great city and center of culture to not have a venue that's worthy of the music that's being performed.
What advice would you give to yourself at 10 years old? 20 years old? 50 years old?
Oh dear, I don't know something inspiring . . . “Resistance is always lying and is always full of shit.” Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
What inspires you?
Seeing a person have the bravery to create something beautiful and truthful whether they're an amateur or a professional is inspiring to me.
What is the biggest misconception about opera? How would you change this misconception?
The biggest misconception about opera is that it's only for a certain kind of person. Opera belongs to everyone and is for everyone. I think organizations like Opera On Tap and opera companies are making a lot of head way with youth programming, free tickets, exciting concepts, world class artists, etc., etc., but there's more that needs to be done. And I strongly feel we need to reach out to EVERYONE not just college students and people under 30 years old but EVERYONE. Opera is part of our cultural heritage and it should be in everyone's reach, no matter how much money they make.
Do you have any upcoming projects?
Yes! I will be performing with Boston Lyric Opera in their productions of Werther (Katchen, Charlotte understudy) and The Merry Widow (Sylviane/Dodo). I have a recital in Portland, Maine in June 2016 with collaborative pianist Mark Rossnagel, and I will be a Young Artist with Opera North this summer.
Do you have anything else to share with our ArtsImpulse readers?
It has been an honor to have been nominated, thanks so much! My website is www.HeatherAGallagher.com, if you'd like any more info.