Over the last few seasons, Kristine Opolais has won raves across Europe. Now the Latvian soprano arrives at the Met as Magda in Puccini’s La Rondine. She tells Philipp Brieler why she loves this opera—and what Coco Chanel has to do with it.
La Rondine is a melodic feast. What attracts you to it?
Puccini is one of my favorite composers, so first of all it’s about the wonderful music. La Rondine may not be as dramatic as Tosca or Madama Butterfly, or even La Bohème. Nobody dies! But it’s a lyrical, poetic, and very romantic story about love, and the music is full of passion. For me that’s enough to love this opera.
You’re making your role debut as Magda in this production. How would you describe her as a character? She seems to echo several other operatic heroines.
It’s true, she’s a bit like Violetta, a bit like Manon and Mimì. But she’s less tragic, and of course she’s not sick. She’s really just a beautiful young woman who wants to love and be loved and who is hungry for a real relationship.
Nicolas Joël’s production places the action in the time the opera was written, rather than the mid-19th century of the libretto...
I think the story works very well in a 1920s setting. It was the time of Coco Chanel, who had a strong influence on women—especially beautiful women who would use men to help their careers, women who were in pursuit of the monied good life.
You’re part of a wave of Latvian artists, including Elīna Garanča, Maija Kovalevska, Marina Rebeka, and your husband, conductor Andris Nelsons, among others. Is this a “golden age” for opera in Latvia?
We always had fantastic singers in Latvia, but in Soviet times it wasn’t possible for them to get out. So they all worked at home or elsewhere in Russia. Now we have even more brilliant people, singers and conductors, and the great thing is that the world is open to us. So everybody gets to enjoy Latvian talent!