Spotlight On: Mezzo-Soprano Lucy Schaufer (Aldonza, MAN OF LA MANCHA)

Lucy Schaufer, Mezzo-Soprano
Aldonza, MAN OF LA MANCHA

Today’s blog comes from an article in our 2015 Opera Insider (Festival Resource Guide), where Ms. Schaufer was interviewed by Erin Joy Swank of Central City Opera’s Education & Community Engagement staff.


Our audiences are familiar with you in musical theatre roles, portraying Elsa in last year’s The Sound of Music and Aldonza in Man of La Mancha this year. However, your repertoire includes many famous characters of the opera world, including Suzuki (Madama Butterfly) and Marcellina (The Marriage of Figaro). Do you approach the roles or music any differently?
My meat and potatoes work is mainly contemporary music with smatterings of standard repertoire and of course “musical theatre” – yet as far as I’m concerned, it’s all music theatre. We are story tellers.
My preparation remains fairly consistent. I mean, your physical and mental muscles need time to own the notes and the story and depending on the demands of the role, you’ve just got to give yourself time to ponder, work like a demon and let it stew.  
It all comes down to these questions: are you the type of artist willing to be flexible enough, to risk a lot and bend to what a composer and librettist are asking? Or are you someone happier bringing exactly who you are, vocally and dramatically, to a role? Or is there indeed a balance?
This is an incredibly esoteric answer!  But I believe it’s worth asking these questions when the range of repertoire is continually expanding with every new composition written and programming decision made.  
So, in a nutshell, yes! – I approach each role with the same dogged energy of honouring the style and intention of the composer and librettist, and demand that I honestly ask myself whether or not I can produce the sounds and storytelling required of the role.

Central City Opera’s MAN OF LA MANCHA (2015). Pictured L to R: Lucy Schaufer (Aldonza), Robert Orth (Don Quixote/Cervantes), Keith Jameson (Sancho Panza). Photo by Kira Horvath.

Your work has spanned many continents, including stints in Paris, Milan, Hamburg, Portugal and New Zealand. Can you discuss any differences in the way opera is rehearsed and produced in other countries or if the audience reaction or expectation is any different than here in America?

Opera rehearsals are like a mirror to the culture and country in which you’re working. Some stereotypes definitely ring true!  Italy can be pure chaos, England has lovely tea breaks, and Germany is well organised. Some countries do not have unions – like the UK. It’s no longer a closed shop, thanks to Margaret Thatcher.  So it’s the protections given to the musicians or chorus in the room which denote how the soloists are treated. Odd, right? 
People react in all sorts of ways to theatre the world over – but the one common reaction these days which is pervasive is the booing of “bad” characters, like  Pinkerton or Claggart. It’s a pantomime reaction or TV behaviour, and frankly, I do not care much for it. Give the actor the credit for his or her performance after hours of sweating for you.   A teasing “boo” followed by a hearty cheer is one option which is palatable.  Yet I’m still perplexed by this audience reaction nonetheless.
Pictured: Central City Opera’s The Sound of Music (2014). Clockwise from Top Left: Lucy Schaufer (Elsa Schraeder), Robert Orth (Max Detweiler), Troy Cook (Captain Georg von Trapp). Photo by Mark Kiryluk.
Schaufer and Orth will star in this summer’s Man of La Mancha, while Cook performs in La Traviata; see his interview on page 14 of our Opera Insider.
You are returning for your second season “on the Hill” in Central City. With one summer under your belt, what are you looking forward to most and are you prepping/packing any differently this time?
Well, I left a box of sheets/towels last summer and I just sent a package with my steamer and other altitude friendly remedies – so I’m prepared on that front. I’ll bring loads of tea from home because it’s my life blood. I’m obsessive about TEA. And finally I’m so looking forward to being naughty and outrageous with unstoppable Bob Orth, working again with the wonderful Paul Curran after far too many years, and doing a few late night cabaret numbers in the bar with incomparable Tom Getty*! See you soon. 
*Tom Getty is featured in a spotlight interview on page 38 of our Opera Insider.
Central City Opera’s Man of La Mancha runs through August 9. Check out the 2015 Opera Insider (Festival Resource Guide) for additional artist interviews, background on the original production and even musical versions of word search and Sudoku!

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