It was 2009 and Andriana Chuchman was a Young Artist at the Ryan Center at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Then she landed a massive experience to do something she had never done – take on the title role in a major opera in a professional setting.
The Edmonton Opera was looking for someone to take on the role of Marie in Donizetti’s “La Fille Du Régiment.” Chuchman was given the opportunity and she jumped at it. Per her account, it was her first major role in a professional setting.
Fast forward nine years and Chuchman is returning to the role for just the third production of her career. Back in 2016, she took it on at the Washington National Opera for three performances, but then she was second cast behind Lisette Oropesa. Now she is headed to Atlanta to headline the production all on her own, starting on Feb. 24, 2018.
In speaking with OperaWire about returning to the role, Chuchman placed emphasis on how she has evolved as an artist and how that will affect her approach this time around.
“In 2009, I was a younger singer,” she explained. “You sort of go into it with a young anxiety and think about how great it is. It was the first time I had taken on a title role in a professional sense. It hit me that I had to be the title role and carry it. I had that realization then. Being a younger singer, you are excited, but it is also really daunting.”
Overcoming the nerves the first time around came down to “staying positive and putting a smile on in the face of any doubts.”
Now It’s Different
But now it’s different. She’s not as anxious. She’s had a ton of professional experience with such companies as the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Glimmerglass Festival, Washington National Opera, Bard Summerscape, and Canadian Opera, among others.
“The first time, I feel like the first time, your sensory perception of singing and acting it are in this new stage,” she noted. “And coming back to it is super exciting because you can put aside things that you worry about the first time. Then you can just discover new things.”
There are a ton of artists that despise listening to recordings for the fear that they might become overly present in an individual interpretation of a role. Chuchman is no such artist and admitted that she “wore out” her Joan Sutherland and Beverly Sills recordings.
“They are so amazing and bring their stamp on the role. Vocally they are incredible,” she noted before shifting attention to a more recent recording that has had a major impact on how she views the Donizetti works. “I really took to Natalie Dessay’s version in terms of character. Seeing her in Laurent Pelly production was so fascinating in how she embodied this tomboy, socially-awkward, but determined young lady.
“She physicalized every movement. It was so detailed and planned out. It inspired me and changed how I view the role. It asked me how I wanted to characterize this person and make Marie my own.”
A lot of times, interpreters find it easy to find themselves in their roles. But this isn’t quite the case with Marie.
“First of all, I wasn’t raised by a regiment of soldiers. I think that that influence for Marie during her upbringing and childhood, of being raised by a group of men, she is physically more of a tomboy,” Marie noted. “It affects the way she moves and how much she is not self-conscious about her hygiene.
“I was raised by a Manitoba and I had siblings in a more traditional family setting. I would say there are a lot more differences.”
Moreover, the destinies of the two are quite different. Unlike Marie, whose destiny has little to do with her upbringing in many ways, Chuchman admits to having been in love with music and the idea of performing from the get-go, imitating the music from “The Sound of Music” and “Annie” and re-enacting moments with her sister. She grew up singing in local festivals and eventually went on to study at the University of Manitoba where she eventually came to the realization that the opera world was her world.
After “La Fille du Régiment,” the singing-actress heads over to do some performances with the Regina Symphony and Manitoba Chamber Orchestra. Then she heads to Opera Theatre of Saint Louis to reprise the role of Euridice in “Orfeo and Euridice” followed by Jake Heggie’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” at the San Francisco Opera. She caps her 2018-19 season with Musetta in “La Bohème” at the Canadian Opera Company.
From there she didn’t reveal much about upcoming projects but noted that there are a ton of operas she is planning to take on in the near future.
Her dream role is “Manon” in Massenet’s masterpiece, noting that she covered the role when Natalie Dessay performed it in 2008.
“I need to do ‘Manon’ in my career before I retire. It has always been a dream role.”
Leïla in “Les Pêcheurs de Perles” is also on her list, as is Anne Trulove in Stravinsky’s “The Rakes Progress.” Other roles that she pondered about included Marguerite in Gounod’s “Faust” and Tatiana in “Eugene Onegin,” citing that she feels comfortable with the Russian language.
Above all, she feels a mission to work on new operas, citing her excitement at taking on the Heggie opera.
“I am excited for the future of new operas and new subject matter and working with composers.”
But she has no particular preference ultimately. She just loves what she does.
“I love being onstage in anything I do. I feel like I come alive. My teacher would always say in my lessons that I would amp up my characterization when I am in front of an audience. The audience gives me life and encouragement.”