By Alejandra “Alex” Serna, Florida Grand Opera
One of the rarely performed and most beautiful examples of the bel canto genre return to Miami this coming weekend with the opening of Bellini’s La sonnambula on Saturday, February 9, at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. Florida Grand Opera brings back their resoundingly successful production, taken from the mind of opera legend and Emy award-winning director Renata Scotto. This time, a new budding coloratura soprano steps up to the challenging role of Amina. Gilmore chats with us about her path to opera and her upcoming debut in La sonnambula.
You were a Young Artist at Florida Grand Opera in 2005. What’s it like returning to Miami and FGO to perform as a principle?
Rachele Gilmore (RG): I am really looking forward to being back at FGO and also really excited to perform in the new theater for the first time. I remember so many warm people from my time in Miami and I am very much looking forward to seeing some old faces and also meeting many new ones.
Is it more comfortable returning to perform at FGO because you were a YA, or does that add more pressure?
RG: I definitely feel a lot of support coming from the company, so that is an added comfort, but other than that, it feels pretty normal!
What is your first operatic memory?
RG: In elementary school I was fortunate to have the experience of participating in Atlanta Opera’s production of Carmen. It was quite a modern production, so my first memory is dancing around with Barbie dolls singing “Avec la garde montante” with my friends in the children’s chorus. It was a blast!
When did you realize what you could do with your voice?
RG: From a very young age, I loved to sing all different kinds of music. However, my high school voice teacher was the first to realize my upper extension and started assigning me operatic pieces such as “Je veux vivre” from Romeo et Juliette and “The Jewel Song” from Faust. Looking back it was probably a little early for me to singing those pieces, but I am thankful I was exposed to that type of music growing up in Georgia, where opera was not widely known or appreciated.
Who has influenced your life/career the most?
RG: My friend and mentor, Carol Vaness. She has been a part of my life since I was 20-years-old and she was the first person who really believed in me and believed that I had something to offer to the operatic world. She has taught me so many invaluable things about singing, career, life, friendship, and I will be forever grateful to her.
Let’s talk about your show-stopping performance at the Metropolitan Opera in The Tales of Hoffmann, which you delivered with only 3 hours notice. How nerve racking was that experience?
RG: To be honest, I don’t remember much about the performance. It was sort of an out of body experience. I was extremely nervous as it was definitely the highest pressure performance I had done up to that point in my career. I was so determined to get through it, I think my mind went into a kind of “survival mode.” Not to mention I had to race through rush hour traffic from Queens just to get to the theatre in time for my makeup call! It was a crazy day!
What was your reaction to the standing ovation and great reviews of that performance?
RG: Relief! I was so just so relieved that it was over. The first night, I wasn’t really able to take in the ovation from the audience. After the second performance, I was able to enjoy the applause a bit more, but I don’t think I quite understood the scope of their reaction until the days following. My Facebook was flooded with congratulations from friends, colleagues, and people I had never met before. The thing I took away from the whole experience was the amazing support of my colleagues. My colleagues at the Met during the production and all who reached out to me afterwards, it really gave me a wonderful feeling about the people involved in the opera world.
What was it like to be invited to sing Tales of Hoffmann at the world-renowned Teatro alla Scala?
RG: It was a great honor and definitely exciting to achieve an important career goal. We had such an incredibly supportive and talented cast with Ramón Vargas, Arturo Chacón-Cruz, Ildar Abdrazakov, Ekaterina Gubanova, and many others. It was an experience I will never forget!
How do you feel about working with Renata Scotto as director?
RG: I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with someone who is such a well-loved and respected artist. I’m looking forward to learning and soaking in as much as I can during our time together!
Do you have a routine that you always follow during a production?
RG: I don’t have a routine that I follow specifically for every production, but I do try to be careful during productions. I make sure to take very good care of my health and get plenty of rest when I am not in rehearsal.
Do you have dream role that you would like to perform?
RG: Violetta in La traviata. She’s probably more than a few years down the road for me, but the character and the music has always fascinated me.
What is your favorite opera?
RG: So hard to choose one! I love Ariadne auf Naxos and Madama Butterfly, but there are so many others I love and even more to get to know better and fall in love with in the future.
What do you most like/dislike about the being an opera singer?
RG: The thing I love most about being an opera singer is the music. It’s the reason I decided to dedicate my life to this career. The thing I like the least is traveling! I do love seeing so many new places, but sometimes you just want to wake up in your own bed.
What do you do on your off time? Got any hobbies?
RG: When I am home I love to cook. It’s very relaxing and makes me feel like I have a “normal” life. I also enjoy running and yoga.
Is there any in specific that you would like to do or see while here in Miami?
RG: See some old friends, eat some good Cuban food, and take in the sunshine!
La sonnambula opens at the Arsht Center on February 9 with additional performances February 12, 15, and 17. Tickets start as low as $11 and can be purchased by calling the Florida Grand Opera Box Office at 1800.741.1010 or online at www.FGO.org.