Soprano Amanda Echalaz
Soprano Amanda Echalaz at Grange Park Opera
We talk to South African soprano Amanda Echalaz about performing in La Gioconda at the highly regarded Grange Park Opera summer festival
Tell us more about the opera…
La Gioconda is grand Italian opera at its best. It has a large orchestra, six demanding main roles, huge choral parts and ballet. Set in 17th century Venice, Gioconda is a street singer who gets drawn into the murky underworld of the Inquisition. The role of Gioconda is thrilling to sing, it is a tour de force and not for the faint hearted! She struggles with a huge moral dilemma, finally sacrificing everything for the man she loves.
I am very much looking forward to making my debut with Grange Park Opera, as it is one of Europe’s leading summer opera festivals. It offers a unique experience, a stunning opera house modelled on La Scala, surrounded by the beauty of the English countryside, all this is accompanied with sublime music and a glass of champagne, what more could one want?
What do you hope audiences will take away with them from the performance?
This is a wonderful opportunity for audiences to hear this incredibly rich opera, which has not been performed in England since 2008. It truly is an operatic treat! Perhaps as an audience member you might take away that whether you are in the 17th century or the 21st century, ordinary people get caught up in times of political tensions but our desire to love and to be loved remains our path to a world with hope.
What have been the highlights of your career?
Singing major roles on major stages, it was a tremendous privilege to sing Madama Butterfly at the Metropolitan Opera House and Tosca at the Royal Opera House. I have also really enjoyed creating new roles, particularly The Exterminating Angel which had the world premiere at the Salzburg Festival.
Who and what inspires you?
My drug of choice is a live audience. I always knew it but the pandemic confirmed it. After two years of singing to myself, I realised the act of singing is only half of the thrill. The moment the lights go down in the theatre, the curtain goes up and your voice crosses the void to reach the audience sitting in the dark, is the moment I live for. There is no greater thrill, it inspires and emboldens me.
I have always loved listening to the great singers of the past. I am most inspired by the singers who not only remain faithful to the score but also bring a certain individuality to their portrayal. I was fortunate enough to have been coached by Renata Scotto on Butterfly and Catherine Malfitano on Tosca. Both of these singers had artistic integrity and individuality in spades.
What are your future plans and ambitions you’d like to fulfil?
One of the few advantages of getting older, is that my voice is now mature enough for some of the juicier roles in the repertoire. I am singing my first Lady Macbeth this year and am looking forward to venturing into the larger Strauss and Wagner roles. Ultimately, I want to sing for as long as my vocal cords will allow, it’s been a thrilling journey thus far, and it’s not over yet.
Grange Park Opera festival runs 9 June to 17 July.