Since “graduating” from our Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program in 2014, soprano Amanda Woodbury has become one of opera’s rising stars. She’s sung Musetta in La bohème here at LA Opera, Konstanze in The Abduction from the Seraglio at Dayton Opera and Des Moines Metro Opera, and multiple roles at the Metropolitan Opera, including a star turn as Juliette in Roméo et Juliette and Leïla in The Pearl Fishers. Now, Woodbury returns to sing Micaëla in Carmen, the role with which she made her professional here in 2013.
Before our last orchestra tech, we caught up with Woodbury to discuss how she fell into opera and how her performance of Micaëla has evolved.
Why did you become an opera singer?
Music has always been important to me. My mom plays the piano and my dad plays the cello, so I grew up around music, and knew from an early age that I wanted to sing. When I was fifteen, I started taking voice lessons. My voice teacher thought I belonged in opera, but I’d seen an opera, and absolutely hated it. Then, she took me to Kentucky Opera, near the town where I lived, and I saw Tosca. I was blown away and I fell in love with it. I wanted to be an opera singer like Tosca. After that, I started training, auditioning, and falling even more in love with opera. The more I learned, the more I fell in love with opera. That’s how I knew this career was meant to be.
Tell us a little bit about your time in the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program.
It was an amazing experience. From the beginning, I was thrown into the atmosphere of a professional opera house. I had to be ready to perform at that level. However, I felt guided every step of the way by my coaches and mentors in the young artist program, like Nino Sanikidze and Joshua Winograde. They really nurtured a lot of progress in me. They also believed in me and that pushed me to work harder. Being part of the young artist program gave me a sense of confidence that I could have this career. It was the perfect place to grow as a singer and as a person.
What were your favorite moments in the program?
I have a few favorite moments. One is the first time I met Plácido Domingo at my audition. After the audition, he came to speak to me and was so kind and inspiring. I remember seeing him in Simon Boccanegra later and was beyond excited to come to Los Angeles and join the program.
Other favorite moments are the first times that I worked with James Conlon and my voice teacher Stephen King. James is such an inspiring person to work with. He’s very exacting with what he wants from you, but he’s so inspiring and guides you to be your best. The first time I worked with Stephen was also wonderful. He really understood my voice completely and could get the most out of my voice that anyone had ever been able to get out of my voice.
You made your professional debut as Micaëla in Carmen, when you were part of the young artist program in 2013. Since then, how has your interpretation of the role evolved?
Revisiting Micaëla is like a breath of fresh air. I know the role, but I get to apply everything I’ve learned over the past few years. I’ve also had more time to think about her as a character. I can approach her in a different way and that’s exciting.
Micaëla is so pure and holy in many ways, but she’s also selfish in other ways. A lot of people assume that because she’s religious and pure, she doesn’t have other feelings. That’s not true. She cares about Don Jose; she feels lust and love for him and wants to be with him. She can be a little manipulative in always talking about his mother to try and sway him back to her.
Micaëla is Don Jose’s mother’s messenger. She’s been sent to bring him back home. At first, she’s a little desperate to reunite with Don Jose and bring him back home. In Act III, after she sees where he’s been hiding in the mountains that all changes. She comes face to face with his love for Carmen. It’s harsh for her and her demeanor totally changes. She’s not as desperate or hopeful for herself, but instead, is determined to fulfill her mission, knowing she has the Lord behind her.
What is your favorite moments as Micaëla on stage?
The end of “Je dis que rien ne m’epouvante” – her aria when she’s up in the mountains – is my favorite moment. Micaëla has just sung this whole turbulent aria about how she’s come to find Don Jose even though she’s afraid of seeing him with Carmen. At the end of the aria, she finds such peace and the strength to go on. I relate to Micaëla so much in this moment. I think about all the times when I’ve felt afraid to go on stage and then find that quiet calm moment and think to myself, ‘This could be incredible.’ The end of that aria is a promise and it’s so beautiful.
To learn more about and apply to our Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program, click here. To see Amanda Woodbury in Carmen, purchase tickets here.LA Opera is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to the greater good.