Rachel will be playing Sarah (Sesto) in the Blue cast and is one of the three founders of Promenade Opera Project's Justice or Mercy (an immersive modern adaptation of Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito). We got together to discuss her hope for the project and approach to this immersive production.
POP: Where are you from? How did you first get interested in opera or musical theatre?
Rachel: I am originally from Irving, TX (basically, Dallas). Musical theatre and singing in general were always a part of my life... probably because I started singing loudly before I started talking. Still, I didn’t really consider a performing career until my undergrad at University of Dallas. My voice teacher there, Marilyn Walker, took me under her wing and really introduced me to my actual voice and then to the whole world of opera and the truths it can tell.
POP: What are your dream roles?
Rachel: Sesto! (So this is pretty exciting). Octavian from Der Rosenkavalier. And if I am being really honest: Dalila from Samson et Dalila, Eboli from Don Carlo, and Donna Elvira from Don Giovanni. I clearly have a lot of dreams ... and a thing for characters with divided loyalties…
POP: What's a role you would never sing that you would love to sing?
Rachel: Sarah from Ragtime. I have no business singing that role, but good Lord, “Your Daddy’s Son” is MONEY. Oh! And Leporello.
POP: What do you think is the best way to make opera relevant to the next generation?
Rachel: I always think that this is a trick question. I don’t think opera or stories ever stopped being relevant.They are about people at their bravest, most vulnerable, worst, and best. As humans, we are hardwired to love that kind of story. The thing we as artists need to do is find a way to invite new audiences into these “old” stories and art forms to see that they are speaking to the same struggles and glories that we experience now. Love, betrayal, loyalty, and free will are not new. And engaging them through the eyes of humans 200 years ago, 300 hundred years ago, 500 years, 1000 years ago can sometimes open us to the truth in new ways .
POP: Who is your character and how do you see them?
Rachel: I am singing Sarah (Sesto). In this adaptation, she is Titus’s campaign manager as well as life-long friend, who has fallen in love with Victoria (Vitellia), the Secretary of State. Honestly, (and I don’t want to give too much away, but) by the end, Mozart has given music to all these characters that really invites us to look at passion, loyalty, betrayal, and contrition. I think that Sarah’s devotion to both Victoria and Titus come from the same place: an attraction to their passion and conviction. Unfortunately, her attraction to Victoria (more than to Titus) comes from the fact that Victoria actually feeds Sarah's sense of unworthiness of people with such passion.
POP: What do you love about this interpretation of Tito? What’s challenging?
Rachel: I LOVE that we are highlighting the parallels of ancient Rome to our own modern political system! We are really examining the Herculean difficulty for politicians to remain unstained by their involvement in the messy business of politics.
The biggest challenge is the intersection of Mozart's stunning music, and the increased reality of this production. Because the audience is right next to us, there is no cushion of unreality to distance us from them or from the vulnerability of these characters. The desire to do justice to the music and to that vulnerability is exciting, but certainly also scary.
POP: What’s your favorite moment in the opera?
Rachel: Anytime Victoria is talking or singing. Being transfixed by her in character is not hard. She’s magnetic and terrifying!
POP: What is special about this immersive production?
Rachel: The promenade format of this show is, I think, a reminder of the purpose music and storytelling have always served: tell the Truth. By stripping away the protection of distance from the audience and perhaps a more spectacular medium for the opera, this production keeps the focus on the truth of these human interactions and choices.
POP: Anything else you’d like to add?
Rachel: COME SEE THIS SHOW! IT’S GOING TO BE SO AWESOME!
POP: Most importantly... which will you vote for: Justice or Mercy?
Rachel: Mercy! Please!