Unbound Identities Artist Interview: Jennifer Peterson

Pianist Jennifer Peterson, Soprano Rebecca Richardson, and mezzo Brittany Fowler perform UNBOUND IDENTITIES - a recital project exploring the concept of identify across time and across borders.

Saturday, March 24 @ 3pm

Opera America

330 7th Ave., NYC

You’re playing quite a variety of music on this recital! How do you mentally switch between styles?

Navigating musical styles might be my favorite thing about making music. The trick with this program is that all the songs were written in the same century, requiring me to dig and be more penetrating and creative in delineating them. For everything I do, I try to put myself into the composer's head. For several of these guys we have a plethora of recordings of them conducting or playing the piano. So these give me clear places to jump when switching from piece to piece. For the pieces based on medieval materials, I find it so enriching and adventuresome to look for clues from the original monk or troubadour, then I can discover how the 20th-century-composer part of the equation interpreted the old music/poetry, or even just what general or emotional impression it made on him. And then my job is to interpret both versions on my own, which I strangely find very direct and straightforward.


What connections to do you see running through the different sets, either musically or thematically?

Like all music, we find the common themes of love and death throughout the program, love expanding into sex, unrequited love, flirtation, etc., and death expanding into loss, war, devastation, etc., and the theme of isolation possibly growing out of the two. It was fun for us to put together the order of the sets for this program. What we have ended up with is something that has presented these two themes immediately in the Britten, and has ended with the songs (the Ives) that tear the farthest in how humans deal with the two themes. This grouping of songs opens up many questions, but seems to answer them only with music

You do a little bit of everything! Pianist, harpsichordist, conductor, coach, violinist, and you run Operamission. How do you balance all of these artistic identities?

I don't see them as different—I work like a conductor in terms of finding the cohesion of a piece, set, or program. My brain is drawn to putting things together; I've ended up in music, and opera specifically, because it's one of the most complicated types of "putting things together" a person can do. No two days are the same. I also love working with people one-on-one to discover things in music that I would never notice on my own, and doing a recital program like this is soul-enriching on every level. In terms of the different instruments, they all complement each other. I've had teachers on all sorts of instruments teach me huge concepts that I use every day. I would encourage more musicians to learn more instruments!

What’s up next for you after Unbound Identities?

My website is operamission.org and as I work through Handel's 39 operas in order, I come up with schemes and missions of all types along the way.