Strong Women: Deborah Voigt Discusses Recent Roles
By Matt Dobkin
With Senta in The Flying Dutchman and Brünnhilde and Minnie next season, Deborah Voigt has an array of powerful roles on her Met schedule. She tells Matt Dobkin about these “tough broads” of opera.
You’re so well known for your Wagner roles at the Met—Elsa, Elisabeth, Sieglinde, Isolde. But you’ve never sung Senta in Der Fliegende Holländer here before.
I’m very excited about it—it’s a wonderful role. And not quite the length of Isolde, which is not all bad! She’s tricky vocally, primarily because the role sits right around the passaggio of the voice, around the E, F, and G. The duet with the Dutchman is particularly challenging. It’s a shorter night, but she packs quite a wallop within that period of time. I haven’t sung her in a long time, so I’m still getting her back into my body and into my head.
How do you do that?
Well, that means you go into a practice room, you sing through it, and you reevaluate what you have to do from a technical and physical standpoint. With Senta it’s really going to be a matter of pacing and support, and trying to get that muscle memory back. I’m not somebody who listens to what I do. I sing by sensation. So if it feels easy then it’s right. It’s almost like reinventing her for me because it’s been quite a few years since I sang her on stage.
Is it rewarding to revisit a character like this?
Absolutely. I just finished singing Isolde in Barcelona, and it was the same production that I did in Chicago about a year ago. You find new things every time you do it. And certainly with these roles that are so complicated, confidence levels go up every time you do them.
Speaking of complicated roles, next season you’ll sing your first complete Brünnhilde in Robert Lepage’s new Ring. How are you feeling about that role?
I’m excited and thrilled about it, but I would be lying if I didn’t say that I am sort of daunted by the challenge. It’s in the early stages, but I think it’s where it should be at the moment. You know, once you take on Isolde and Brünnhilde, there’s no going back. It is sort of the pinnacle of my career. But the timing is right given the repertoire that I’ve done and the experience that I have.
You’ll also star in La Fanciulla del West next season. Minnie and Brünnhilde in one season—that should show off your range!
They’re a couple of pretty tough broads I’m taking on—only one’s got a gun and one’s got a spear!
Der Fliegende Holländer opens April 23. Visit the Metropolitan Opera.
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