“You could research my family as far back as the 1600’s and you wouldn’t find anyone anywhere involved in music,” declared mezzo soprano Antonella Delli Carpini during a recent chat with Opera Wire in anticipation of her upcoming performance as the mother in Menotti’s “Amahl and the Night Visitors” at Opera Breve.
But now she is the first. And it came about very early on in her life. Delli Carpini simply wanted perform for NYSSMA (New York State School Music Association). Seeking some guidance in taking on the audition, she went to her high school teacher who promptly found talent in her young student.
And then it was all set in motion.
A Versatile Career
“My teacher immediately went to my parents and told them that I really needed to be a singer,” she explained. From there she went to study with “the best voice teacher their ever will be” Cornelius Reed and her career blossomed. She attended the University of Nebraska for both her bachelor and masters and has since peformed roles in “La Cenerentola,” “Die Zauberflote,” “Adriana Lecouvreur,” “Madama Butterfly,” “Suor Angelica,” “Dead Man Walking” and “La Boheme” among others. She has also done concert series in Italy and as a part of Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival under the baton of Louis Langree. She also made her Carnegie Hall debut in Haydn’s “Haromienmesse.” Her hopes are that some day she can do such roles as Eboli in Verdi’s “Don Carlo” and Leonora in Donizetti’s “La Favorita.”
But Delli Carpini’s impact is not only onstage, but off of it as she seeks to ensure that no other families go “music-less” for half a millennium. During the day teaches a chorus at an inner city school in Mount Vernon, NY where she spends a lot of the time ingraining students in the process and preparation of musical performances, bringing in her musical score and going into intense detail about every marking and what it means.
“I show them my score and the overall process of preparing the role. That includes where I mark my beats, the IPA if it is in a foreign language,” she elaborated. “I want them to understand the character development and what makes a character walk across the stage. I think that sometimes they believe it is as simple as walking on stage and singing. They think it is already a finished product. I want them to see what it really takes.”
Teaching & Performing ‘Amahl’
One score that she teaches year-in and year-out is none other than “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” an opera she learned in college and “loved it so much that I had to bring it into the classroom.”
The opera, which was written for an NBC broadcast back on Dec. 24, 1951, is one that she feels is “a beautiful introductory opera for people that are maybe not used to going to the opera. With my students, we analyze the story, characters, the setting and how Menotti uses music to express the plot and a character throughout the work.”
Now some of those students will get an opportunity to experience that opera they have learned so much about, but this time with their own teacher in the role of Amahl’s mother.
Amahl’s mother goes through a tremendous crisis of faith throughout the work, seeing her crippled son and her struggle to make ends meet, all the while experiencing a rather difficult relationship between the two marred by lies. At her low point, the mother winds up stealing gold to salvage their livelihood.
“I would have taken the gold,” Delli Carpini admitted when talking about how she connects with the character. “She’s a worrier and I worry. I’m not a mother but I worry a lot about my students. She is so focused on protecting her son, that like anyone she gets frustrated. Amahl lies a lot and when she grows frustrated with him, I draw back to when I get frustrated with my students.”
But at the same time, Delli Carpini finds that there is a lot for her to learn from this character in the qualities that she cannot find within herself.
“I admire her faith. Without seeing her son walk, she has an incredibly amount of faith in this king and the change that he can bring. I wouldn’t take it at face-value. I would need to see him to truly believe,” the mezzo soprano revealed. “But I hope that as I leave this role, that that might be a part of her that I take with me.”
Most exciting for Delli Carpini is the prospect of playing out the drama with Ethan Laird and Lior Schwartz, two young boys taking on the title role. “I learn a lot from how they use their faces to express their emotions. And not to mention how hard they work. This is a challenging score and both boys have done a wonderful job learning the music and memorizing it,” she enthused. “They have rejuvenated the artistic process for me and my colleagues because they bring so much energy. It’s really lovely to play off them and have that presence onstage. They remind me of how hard I worked to get here.”
“Amahl and the Night Visitors” premieres Dec. 8 at 7 p.m. and runs through the 11th for a total of four performances at the St. Michael’s Parish in NY.