Tabula Rasa Artist Interview: Allison Gish

Mezzo Allison Gish is creating the role of Mrs. Prin in the world premiere of TABULA RASA, a new jazz opera by Felix Jarrar & Bea Goodwin that tells the story of country girl Alice Prin who ultimately takes 1920s Paris by storm as Kiki de Montparnasse.

May 4, 5, 11, and 12th @ 8pm

Blue Building

222 E 46th St., NYC

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

In a former life I was a medical speech-language pathologist living in Louisiana, and now I live in NYC and sing all over place!  I particularly love singing early and new music, but really I love all the variety this career has to offer, whether it be singing Renaissance polyphony or premiering a sexy new opera like this one!

How did the switch from speech-language pathology to singing come about?

My first love was singing. In my early 20s, I frankly got scared and decided to pursue a more “practical” “stable” job. (I would later learn that’s working in healthcare in America is hardly stable given the current political climate!) After moving to NYC, the switch back to singing as my career was basically inevitable.

Photo credit: Joyce Yin

Photo credit: Joyce Yin

All of the characters in Tabula Rasa are based on actual historical figures. What did you know about your character prior to working on Tabula Rasa, and how did you go about preparing the role?

My character is Mrs. Prin, aka Wine Mom, Kiki's mother, as she exists in Kiki's mind. I love the relatable creepiness of this feeling that mom is always watching and judging, whether Kiki is out at a cafe or in Man's bedroom.

What was the most interesting thing you learned about the historical Ms. Prin?

There isn’t a lot out there about Ms. Prin (including her first name!), but here’s what I know: Ms. Prin has Alice/Kiki out of wedlock and left Alice to be raised by her mother while she went to Paris to work as a linotypist. Apparently, Ms. Prin summoned Alice to Paris when she was 12 to start working. She disowned Alice when she would not give up modeling.

If Mrs. Prin and Kiki could have a mother-daughter moment, what do imagine they would talk about?

Given the way their relationship ended, I can’t imagine it would be very pleasant.

Photo credit: Joyce Yin

Photo credit: Joyce Yin

What are some of the rewards of working on a new work? What are the challenges?

It's quite a thrill to sing a new work for the first time, especially one of this caliber!  One of the biggest challenges of working on new pieces for me is not having recordings to assist in learning particularly gnarly passages with complicated instrumental parts. That said, Felix is not only an amazing composer but also a patient and considerate coach when working on his music.

What is your greatest non-artistic achievement?

Escaping the deep South and moving to New York!

Photo credit: Joyce Yin

Photo credit: Joyce Yin

What do you miss most about the South? And what do you most enjoy about NYC?

I miss living close to my family. Everything else about NYC is better!

Name a trashy TV show you secretly love.

Sister Wives.

In one sentence, why do hope people come to see Tabula Rasa?

The music, the story, and production are amazing!