Artist Interview Series: Jennifer Zetlan

Leading Lady Laurey Returns to Cville Opera from The Met & Broadway:

October 2016 World Premiere of Louis Karchin’s Jane Eyre with Center for Contemporary Opera

October 2016 World Premiere of Louis Karchin’s Jane Eyre with Center for Contemporary Opera

What have you been up to since Charlottesville saw your memorable performance of Pamina in Magic Flute in 2012?

Since our Magic Flute, I have been BUSY!  I have been part of countless opera productions, two of which were recorded and released (Two Boys at the Met and Wagner’s complete Ring Cycle at Seatle Opera), as well as numerous recitals, concerts with orchestra, world premieres, my Broadway debut, and I have made my European and South American opera and concert debuts.  AND of course I’ve been raising my beautiful daughter who was six months old during our last trip, and is now 5 years old and is just finishing Kindergarten

How exciting you have been part of the recent Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof -- how does your work in opera differ from your experience on Broadway?

Broadway was an amazing experience.  It was not always easy, but it was a huge education.  I referred to myself frequently as a tourist on Broadway as I learned the differences between the two worlds.  I was involved with the show for just about a year, from the start of rehearsals until I left because my performance schedule outside got to busy to balance both.  The schedule is quite rigorous, 8 shows a week is no joke!  It is emotionally and physically taxing, but also incredibly meaningful.  There is no way to replicate what it is like to do a show so many times- to know it so deep in the marrow of your bones.  Fiddler will always be with me in a very special way.  When I was working on Two Boys at the Met (also directed by Bart Sher, who directed Fiddler), I remember Bart kept saying things like “if we only had ‘real’ time” and at the time I remember thinking it was funny, because the Met had scheduled 5 weeks of rehearsal, which is a lot for an opera production.  Conversely, Fiddler had about 6 weeks of rehearsals, followed by tech, and then a full month of previews before opening.  Now I understand what he meant!

Backstage at Fiddler on the Roof during a performance when I was on for Tzeitel.

Backstage at Fiddler on the Roof during a performance when I was on for Tzeitel.

There are things I learned in my Broadway experience that I hope to carry forward into all of my work; most notably the intimacy with a piece of theater or music.  You can KNOW Rigoletto or La Bohème, but maybe not the same way you can know something you’ve done 280 consecutive performances of.  So the challenge is how to deepen ones experience with a piece despite a shorter form schedule.

 

 

 

Does Oklahoma! and, in particular, the role of Laurey have a particular resonance for you?

I am really excited to delve into Oklahoma!. The creation of it was part of a pivot of the genre of music theater and I feel like I’m experiencing my own sort of turning point where I am finding my own version of what it means to be a singing actor— so I feel I’m in the right head space to meet this piece, which is exciting.  I love Laurey’s fire and individuality and can’t wait to explore with Stage Director Mary Birnbaum and all of my colleagues what it is that drives this story and makes it feel just as important to tell in 2017 as it felt was when it was written.