A high note

Movie star Turner set to make her Metropoli­tan Opera de­but in Fe­bru­ary

Montreal Gazette - - CULTURE - RON­ALD BLUM

One of the act­ing world’s NEW YORK most dis­tinc­tive voices will make an un­ex­pected Metropoli­tan Opera de­but.

Kath­leen Turner, known for words that smoke rather than shim­mer, is join­ing the cast of Gae­tano Donizetti’s La fille du rég­i­ment (The Daugh­ter of the Reg­i­ment) in the non-singing role of the Duchess of Krak­en­thorp, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Met said Thurs­day.

She re­ceived an un­ex­pected email this sum­mer from Met gen­eral man­ager Peter Gelb propos­ing the idea. Asked to de­scribe her voice, Turner terms it “kind of bari­tone.”

“Peter says I’m one of the few women he knows who can sing Ol’ Man River in the orig­i­nal key,” she said with her dis­tinc­tive, throaty laugh.

An Academy Award and Tony Award nom­i­nated ac­tress, the 64-year-old Turner will ap­pear in seven per­for­mances of the comic opera from Feb. 7 to March 1, the last tele­vised to movie the­atres around the world in high def­i­ni­tion.

La fille du rég­i­ment is sung in French and stars so­prano Pretty Yende in the ti­tle role of Marie, tenor Javier Ca­marena as To­nio (who sings the fa­mous aria “Ah! mes amis” with the nine high Cs) and mezzo-so­prano Stephanie Blythe as the Mar­quise of Berken­field.

The Duchess en­ters im­pe­ri­ously at the start of the sec­ond act to ar­range a mar­riage be­tween her nephew and Marie.

“I was think­ing of in­ter­est­ing, big­ger-than-life per­son­al­i­ties, and Kath­leen came to mind, Gelb said.

“I don’t un­der­stand. Why do you need me?” Turner re­called telling Gelb. “I said, ‘ Well, send the li­bretto. Let me read it out loud.’ ”

She went to the Met in Au­gust, walked the stage, fell in love with the acous­tics and agreed. Gelb said it has not been de­ter­mined whether she will speak in French, English or a com­bi­na­tion. Turner doesn’t think she will at­tempt to ad lib.

“I don’t think I would have that much courage,” he said.

Turner re­ceived an Academy Award nom­i­na­tion for Peggy Sue Got Mar­ried in 1997 and Tony nom­i­na­tions for Ten­nessee Wil­liams’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1990 and Ed­ward Al­bee’s Who’s Afraid of Vir­ginia Woolf ? in 2005.

She first sang pub­licly in 2014 dur­ing Ber­tolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Chil­dren at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. She launched a cabaret show, Find­ing My Voice, at Fe­in­stein’s at the Nikko in San Fran­cisco last Oc­to­ber, took it to The Other Palace in Lon­don in April and then New York’s Café Car­lyle in May.

The Duchess has seen star turns of re­tired and semi-re­tired singers, ac­tors and even a fa­mous ju­rist.

Ljuba Welitsch, then 58, per­formed the role at the Met in 1972 along­side Joan Sutherland and Lu­ciano Pavarotti, tenor An­drea Velis filled the role in 1983 and Emmy Award win­ning ac­tress Bea Arthur in 1994. Ac­tress Mar­ian Seldes took over when the cur­rent Lau­rent Pelly stag­ing first came to the Met in 2008 and was re­placed two years later by 66-year-old so­prano Kiri Te Kanawa.

U.S. Supreme Court Jus­tice Ruth Bader Gins­burg, a noted opera fan, per­formed it in Novem­ber 2016 on the open­ing night of the Washington Na­tional Opera’s sea­son.

Turner has at­tended opera oc­ca­sion­ally and cites Ge­orges Bizet’s Car­men as among her favourites.

“I used to go more of­ten. I can’t say I’m hon­estly a huge fan,” she said. “Be­fore Peter, I couldn’t un­der­stand the act­ing — or lack thereof. That just up­set me. But that has changed con­sid­er­ably.”

Peter says I’m one of the few women he knows who can sing Ol’ Man River in the orig­i­nal key.

EVAN AGOSTINI/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Kath­leen Turner will ap­pear in La fille du rég­i­ment at the Met.

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