Q & A: Michelle DeYoung on Performing With the San Diego Symphony, Mahler & the Rady Shell

By Francisco Salazar

On Oct. 16, Michelle DeYoung will make her San Diego Symphony debut singing Mahler’s “Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen.”

But the debut will be extra special because the concert will take place at the Rady Shell, a new bayside venue at Jacobs Park which has seen more than 88,000 visitors since its inauguration on August 8, 2021.

OperaWire recently spoke to DeYoung ahead of her upcoming debut and about performing in this new outdoor venue.

OperaWire: What excites you about performing with the San Diego Symphony for the first time?

Michelle DeYoung: This is my first time singing with the San Diego Symphony and I’m so excited to be here. We were scheduled to do concerts last year, but of course, because of COVID, they were canceled. I am thrilled we were able to reschedule.

OW: What excites you about performing at the Rady Shell?

MD: The location of the Rady Shell is extraordinary! I always feel power and strength from water, and being able to see it while one stage is idyllic!

OW: How does performing outdoors affect your performance and do you do anything differently from performing indoors?

MD: When we sing outdoors we must be amplified, as there is no barrier to stop our voices. I find it is an extra excitement because you can do anything musically and still be heard! Also, I love seeing the sky and the water and beauty while I sing… It’s thrilling.

OW: Let’s talk about working with Rafael Payare. How has your collaboration with him been?

MD: This is my first time working with Rafael Payare. I was so excited about it, and after our first rehearsal, it’s even better than I anticipated. He’s a wonderful musician, and we collaborate so well together … and he is right there with me. It’s a dream!

OW: Tell me about Mahler’s “Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen.” What are some of the challenges that this piece brings?

MD: This particular song cycle is a story from beginning to end. It’s a journey. It is somewhat challenging to sing as it requires a lot of delicate high singing, but I enjoy the challenge. The most difficult thing is to not get too emotional.

OW: How does this piece differ from other Mahler music you perform?

MD: All Mahler has similarities and differences. Musically it’s similar… the vocal challenge is also similar. These are such a wonderful journey and story… starting from experiencing loss, then trying to see the beauty, then in deep despair, and ending with an acceptance and silver lining.

OW: What is your favorite of the songs and why?

MD: The last song is my favorite…. It’s the one where you’ve gone through the tunnel and the sun is shining.

OW: How does Mahler fit in with Boulanger and Tchaikovsky and why do you think it makes a great combination?

MD: I don’t know why this program was chosen and I had nothing to do with it… but I do think it works together beautifully. All three composers are so passionate and deep emotionally. All are so poetic in their writing.

OW: What are you looking forward to with this upcoming concert?

MD: I am so looking forward to recreating these songs with Rafael and the symphony in this amazing space… I’m looking forward to sharing this journey with the audience. I’m also looking forward to taking the journey that these songs bring me on.


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