Opera in the Time of COVID – Dramatic Soprano Lise Lindstrom, Renowned Interpreter of Wagner & Strauss

By David Salazar
(Credit: Frances Marshall)

“Opera in the Time of COVID” is an interview series in collaboration with photographer Frances Marshall of Marshall Light Studio. We talk to notable figures from around the opera world to get their perspective on how they feel these challenging times may change opera’s present and future.

Soprano Lise Lindstrom is one of the great Wagnerians of this era. She is one of the few go-to singers for the rule of Brünnhilde in the famed tetralogy as well as the challenging title role of Puccini’s “Turandot.” Not to mention that Lindstrom is one of the more famed interpreters of the R. Strauss operas as “Die Frau ohne Schatten,” “Salome,” and “Elektra.”

In this interview with Lindstrom, she underlines the challenges opera singers face during these tough times and her views on streaming opera worldwide.

OperaWire: What have you done during this time to keep yourself positive and productive?

Lise Lindstrom: Initially, I was focused on trying to wrap my head around what was happening in the world.  Then, the first few weeks in lockdown were spent trying to just get enough food and supplies in the house to sustain us.  As traveling artists, we are rarely at home for more than a few days, and therefore there was practically nothing here!  After sorting all that out, we rather guiltily enjoyed the time off for a while.  Once that “stay-cation” feeling ended, we started to find new projects!

OW: One of the major developments of this time are the emergence of streaming and connecting with fans and followers more directly via social media. How has this impacted your time in quarantine?

LL: I have enjoyed, and encouraged, a more open dialogue on my social media platforms.  I love the sense of community and the sense of how close we all are in the midst of the pandemic.  However, I do not record myself singing and post online.  I don’t have a recording studio in my home and let’s face it: dramatic sopranos just do not sound good on iPhone recordings! 😉

OW: How do you feel about the growing preponderance of streaming opera?

LL: I have to say that I am personally rather ambivalent about live-streaming. While I see the obvious benefits, especially right now, we have also seen the direct result of streaming as fewer people attend to live performance because they can stay home, or “go to the movies.” Of course, right now no one is able to go to live performance, and isn’t it lovely that people can “go to the opera” every day via the streaming platforms.

But ultimately, I would hope the public be encourage to crave the live aspect of the art form vs. the streaming, and that the extraordinary difference between the two is highlighted.  If we give it all away for free, why would anyone pay for it later?  And, not the smallest of issues to be addressed…. the artists don’t get paid for those streams.

OW: What are you most excited about doing once the quarantine officially comes to an end and we are allowed to resume a “normal” life?

LL: I am hoping that people flock to live performance for the joy of community and the intensity of the music and artistry that cannot be duplicated in a streamed performance. I, personally, can not wait to feel the power of the music again in a theater. I also can’t wait to walk into that first rehearsal with others.

OW: Who have been the people you have relied on most to help you through these challenging times?

LL: I have definitely relied on my partner, Chris Ventris, to get me through.  Thankfully, we seem to be alternating good days/bad days at this point so that when one of us is down, the other can help lift up.  Of course I have also relied on my dear friends all over globe via Whatsapp and Facebook.  Without an internet connection, I would be lost.

OW: Most people in quarantine are actively engaging with the arts via either music, TV, film, reading, literature. Etc. What have you been watching or reading during this time?

LL: I am taking an online French intensive course.  It is five days a week and quite difficult, with homework and grammar and verb conjugations….. oooh, la, la….   But for those hours, it definitely takes my mind off being out of work and all the uncertainty and tragedy in the world.

OW: Speaking more globally about the pandemic, what can the world learn about this experience? What do hope to see from our leaders (political or even industry) in order to build a better future that enables us to better manage any similar type of situation?

LL: I think this forces us to focus on what matters most in their lives, and where we “spend” our energy.  Our hectic lives were/are so goal-oriented, and when the goals all change what do we do?  I feel like I have become clearer with myself and my priorities and rather than focusing on the next “mountain to climb,” I am grateful for my health and that I wake up every morning safe and sound.

I also think that in the absence of clear governmental information and support, we are all forced have to make the hard choices for ourselves.  For me, I know I don’t want to get sick, and I don’t want any of my loved ones to get sick, so that means I’m going to stay home until it’s safe.