All who wandered into the Kosciusko Foundation on Wednesday, Feb. 8 were greeted with an intimate celebration of mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton’s debut album “All Who Wander.”
The event, which was hosted by the Gerda Lissner Foundation featured a performance in addition to a Q&A hosted by Ken Benson. Barton performed a total of seven selections from the album alongside pianist Brian Zeger.
Here are some of the biggest nuggets of insight and wisdom that came about from the 90-minute event.
The title of the album was the result of an algorithm.
Barton revealed that the title for the album came late in the process and was the result of her publicist Beth Stewart using a word cloud type application. “She did this ridiculously cool thing and threw all of the text translations into this computer thing that was basically this algorithm that told you which words popped out and which ones were repeated. And so we ultimately came to ‘All Who Wander’ from finding ‘Wander’ being a common theme,” revealed Barton.
Brian Zeger cannot stop talking about Barton’s versatility.
There were a few times where Zeger pointed out the flexibility in Barton’s voice as a true mark of her artistry. “I knew how rich Jamie’s voice was and how opulent and how gorgeous. But to be able to move up to these piannisimo… You shouldn’t be able to do that actually. I didn’t think those two things were allowed in the same person. That was a bit of a shock.”
He would repeat the comment a while later after performing a few Mahler selections.
Barton does not listen to recordings when learning a new piece.
“I learn things really quickly by ear. And that is a blessing and a curse,” revealed Barton. “If I listen too much, especially to someone who I feel an affinity with, I’ll take on their interpretation. And that’s not good. That’s not the point. I personally have to keep the recordings away until I have learned them and performed them.”
The choice of including the Dvorak song cycle had an ulterior motive.
After being offered the role of Jezibaba in the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of “Rusalka,” Barton realized that she needed to start learning the Czech language, which she had never done before. “I thought that I should probably do some before that,” she noted before explaining that as a motivation for adding the Dvorak Gypsy songs to her album.
Barton’s Dream Roles (that she admits that she probably will never sing) are Wotan or Brunhilde.
“I’m a Wagner nut,” she proclaimed after making the revelation. She noted that while singing one of the Norns in Munich, she sat back and listened to Nina Stemme sing the Immolation scene at the end of the opera. “I kind of for the first time in my life had that moment of love at first listen.”
Being a chef is Barton’s dream job if she could no longer sing.
“I am intrigued by people who can seemingly pull out one ingredient from one bag and another ingredient from another bag and put it together and make it taste like heaven,” she explained.
At the same time she also admitted a strong pull toward the Peace Corps or ACLU, “especially in today’s social climate.”
Barton’s Best Advice for Success – “Take Your Time.”
The mezzo-soprano noted that soprano Indra Thomas did a talk at her university and used those three words as her best piece of advice. “We are not in a sprint,” Barton noted, “but really we are in a marathon of a career. It’s super, super easy to burn out vocally, to burn out emotionally, travel-wise. There are so many elements that you have to balance, even if you are having a very busy career.”
She also advised younger students to “dive into art song.” “That’s where I found a lot of vocal training,” she admitted. “You can find everything from a nice simple song in German… There are so many variations of that color.”
The final piece of advice she handed out was “Do the Work.” “Joyce DiDonato told me to do that. Just do the work,” she added. “If you just focus on that and let everything else fall away, then you’ll go at the pace that’s best for you.”