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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Character Spotlight: Joanna Mongiardo (THE BREASTS OF TIRESIAS’s Thérèse and GIANNI SCHICCHI’s Lauretta)

The Opera Insider caught up with Joanna Mongiardo, who performs in two of our one-act operas this summer, Gianni Schicchi and The Breasts of Tiresias.

We’re so glad you are returning to Central City Opera to play exciting roles in two of our one-act operas this summer. We’ve seen you on our stage before as the beautiful Baby Doe in 2006 and the charming Eurydice in 2010’s Orpheus in the Underworld. We remember that you were also a Central City Opera apprentice artist a few years ago.

Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi is a somewhat typical soprano ingénue role. How do you approach creating a young, naïve character to make her interesting?

Well, it helps that I get to sing one of the most beloved arias of all time, "O mio babbino caro." I enjoy singing the young ingénue. I think there is something refreshing in portraying a young woman who is newly in love, passionately so, who will stop at nothing to be married to her beloved. And, keep in mind that "ingénue" doesn't necessarily mean "unintelligent". Lauretta is, after all, the daughter of the clever Gianni Schicchi.
Central City Opera’s GIANNI SCHICCHI (2011). Pictured: Joanna Mongiardo (Lauretta). Photo by Mark Kiryluk.
Thérèse/Tiresias in The Breasts of Tiresias is NOT a typical soprano role. She’s a woman who becomes a man in a very surreal story. What appeals to you about this role?

I love that Thérèse doesn't want to be confined by traditional convention. She has a fire in her belly, wants to try new things, wants to see the world and be what she wants to be. In refusing to be beholden to traditional convention, she turns convention on its head! She assumes the male role and grows a beard, while her husband in turn assumes the female role and starts having babies. It's wonderfully improbable and totally enchanting at the same time. What I love most though, is that Thérèse, after taking her freedom, ends up right back in the arms of her husband. But, this time, as a more "complete" woman who is happy to be there.
Central City Opera’s THE BREASTS OF TIRESIAS (2011). Pictured (L to R): Daniel Belcher (Le Mari), Joanna Mongiardo (Thérèse). Photo by Mark Kiryluk.
Your career took you to Germany for a time. What are the differences between being an opera artist in Europe vs. the United States? 

Surprisingly little difference! The same standards of preparation and artistry apply in both the U.S. and Europe. The main difference, especially in Germany, is the luxury of longevity. Here in the States, we are often on a gig for three weeks, have a limited number of performances and then are off to the next opera somewhere else. Being a Fest singer gives you the opportunity to really sink your teeth into a role, because you may sing it 7-10 times a season, year after year. Central City also provides that rare opportunity to repeat a role with up to 18 performances a summer.

Please comment on your experience as an apprentice artist at Central City Opera. What did you learn or practice in the artist training program that helped you in your career development?

I believe that Central City has been the single most influential company in my development as an artist from the very beginning of my career. I first came to Central City Opera as a Studio Artist right out of college and benefited greatly from the structure of the young artist program. John Moriarty and the rest of the Central City Opera staff taught me essential tools for becoming a professional – proper audition techniques, diction, stage craft, the challenge of learning a lot of repertoire in a short period of time. You name it, they taught it. I am still putting that knowledge to use every time I get on stage.

The article is included in the 2011 Opera Insider (Festival Resource Guide) - pdf created by Central City Opera's Education & Community Programs Department, and the interview was conducted by Deborah Morrow, Director of Education & Community Programs. Check out many more insider interviews and background on all of the main stage operas this summer.

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