Swiss soprano Marie Lys has had a busy past few months. Among other numerous engagements, she stood in at the last moment for the indisposed Cecilia Bartoli in the role of Alcina at Florence’s Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, receiving widespread acclaim for her performance from both audiences and critics.
Having just finished a run of successful performances in houses across northern Italy in the role of Irene in Vivaldi’s “Tamerlano,” she now awaits the release of her new CD, “Amate Stelle,” which is due out this month.
OperaWire: What was the first opera you saw?
Marie Lys: “Don Pasquale” in Freibourg. My mother was playing the flute in the orchestra.
OW: What was the first opera in which you performed?
ML: My first professional performance was Handel’s “Tamerlano” at the Buxton Festival.
OW: What was the last opera in which you performed?
ML: Bernstein’s “Candide” in Lausanne.
OW: What role will you be performing next?
ML: Vivaldi’s “Il Giustino” in Basel and Amsterdam.
OW: What is your favorite role?
ML: Cleopatra in Handel’s “Giulio Cesare.”
OW: Who is your favorite composer?
OW: Which opera character would you like to meet in person?
ML: Carmen. She could teach me to dance flamenco.
OW: Who was the biggest influence on your singing career?
ML: My parents.
OW: What do you like most about your voice?
ML: Its versatility. It allows me to sing in so many different styles.
OW: Which character do you most dislike?
ML: Cunegonde from “Candide.”
OW: Which character would you most like to exchange your life with?
OW: Name three people you would like to invite to a dinner party, of which at least one has to have a connection with opera.
ML: Don Giovanni and Werther. They have such different attitudes toward life. Also, a friend of mine, Sam Brown, who always has something witty to say.
OW: Which character would you most like to play but have not yet had the opportunity?
OW: If you could have a composer write an opera with you in the starring role, who would it be?
OW: What was the last book you read?
ML: “The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth” by Monica Sjoo and Barbara Mor.
OW: What is your favorite piece of non-classical music?
ML: The Beach Boys’ “Wouldn’t it be nice?”
OW: What is your favorite film?
ML: La Belle Verte by Coline Serreau.
OW: Who is your favorite painter?
ML: William-Adolphe Bouguereau.
OW: If you had a dog, what would be its name?
ML: I do have a dog. Its name is Loïsi. Its named after an Austrian countertenor Aloise Mühlbacher.
OW: Who is your favorite singer?
ML: Anna Moffo.
OW: In which opera house would you most like to perform?
ML: La Fenice.
OW: If you hadn’t been an opera singer, what would you have liked to have done?
ML: A midwife.
OW: What do you like most about being an opera singer?
ML: The ability to communicate directly with people and to bring so much into so many people’s lives.
OW: What are the qualities you most appreciate in a stage director?
ML: Being able to see the singer as a person and be able to develop the character from within that person rather than arriving with a pre-defined idea and imposing it upon the singer without regard to their personality.
OW: Yesterday you performed the role of Irene in Vivaldi’s “Tamerlano.” Name two adjectives that sum up the role.
ML: Strong and Spurned