Magic & Mayhem Artist Interviews: Emily Hughes

Get to know the cast of Magic & Mayhem!

Emily Hughes, mezzo-soprano, will be performing Sandman's aria from Hänsel und Gretel, "The Unquiet Grave" (Vaughan Williams), and the Wayward Sisters' duet from Purcell's Dido and Aeneas

Tell us about what you’re singing and how it fits into the “Magic and Mayhem” theme. 

The Sandmann Aria from Hansel and Gretel fits squarely into the magic half of the theme. This mythical being of Western- and Northern-European folklore sprinkles sand in the eyes of children to bring them sweet dreams. It’s magic with maybe only a touch of spooky! 

The scene from Dido and Anaeus, on the other hand, is both magic and mayhem. Two witches and a sorceress brew up a storm at sea that sets in motion the tragic events that ultimately lead to the two lovers’ demise. 

Vaughan-Williams' "The Unquiet Grave” is a haunting setting of a folk song for voice, piano, and violin. The poem is a dialogue between a girl and her dead beloved's ghost. She wishes only to bring him out of his earthly grave and kiss him one last time, despite his warnings that this kiss will surely mean her death as well. It is spooky, a little macabre, and entirely beautiful. 

If you weren’t an artist, what would your dream job be?

I’d love to work for an NPR show like This American Life as a journalist or contributor. Telling stories and sharing the human experience is really important to me, whatever form it’s in!

Describe your dream role.

If any voice type is on the table, then probably Tatyana in Eugene Onegin. Tchaikovsky does a beautiful job of depicting what unrequited love looks like for a thoughtful, introverted, self-possessed woman (a character-type we don’t often see depicted so fully in an opera). She is a well-drawn, complex, dynamic character. And the music is so gorgeous! 

Tell us something unusual or bizarre about your hometown.

This year was pretty big for the small college town I grew up in: Carbondale, IL. It was a huge destination for eclipse viewers in August since it was the town with the longest duration for the total eclipse. NASA was there to take readings and made it one of their live webcast locations. Carbondale was even featured with an article in The NY Times! And it will also be in the path of totality for the 2024 eclipse, one of maybe only a couple towns that will see both total eclipses. This is all a huge deal for a town that doesn’t usually get a lot of attention. Hooray for astronomy!

What’s on your schedule after Magic and Mayhem? 

I will be singing with the New York Continuo Collective in a concert of “17th Century Sacred Songs of the Holy Roman Empire” in December, and in January I will be singing the role of Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro with Panopera in Northampton, MA. 


Visit Emily's website at