Tabula Rasa Artist Interview: Rebecca Richardson

Soprano Rebecca Richardson is originating the role of Lee Miller in the world premiere of TABULA RASA, a new jazz opera by Felix Jarrar & Bea Goodwin that tells the feminist story of one of the most iconic women of 1920s Paris: Kiki de Montparnasse

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

Blue Building

222 E 46th St., NYC

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

I'm a born-and-raised Southern Californian who currently lives in Brooklyn, I love sunshine and naps, and if I weren't pursuing a career as a performing artist, I would either be studying musicology or studying to become a sommelier (or both!).

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?

ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! Fortunately, so much information is available on Lee that I found so many great resources to pull from. While I've been focusing on researching the points of her life that relate directly to this opera (her time in Paris that overlaps with the end of Kiki and Man's relationship / the beginning of Lee's relationship with Man), there are so many fascinating periods to dig into. The challenging but equally thrilling part about portraying Lee in Tabula Rasa is that her identity isn't revealed until the end of the work. As one of the voices moving the plot forward in time between Kiki and Man's scenes, I have to find a way to maintain a consistent character so that it would make sense to reveal herself as Lee at the end while not overindulging before that point. 

 Photo credit: Joyce Yin

Photo credit: Joyce Yin

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

I've never sung a role that was written with my specific voice in mind, and it's such an honor and privilege to bring this work so life and create the character for the first time. The challenge is having no one ahead of you to set an example, and you consequently feel a bit blind at times. However,  Felix and Bea are so brilliant at what they do, so thorough in their process and open about their vision, that it makes our job as interpreters of this work immensely easier. 

 Mary Garden as Mélisande in Debussy's  Pelléas et Mélisande.   Davis & Eickmeyer, N.Y

Mary Garden as Mélisande in Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande.  Davis & Eickmeyer, N.Y

Is there a singer you particularly admire for having originated a role?

Mary Garden - she was a muse for both Debussy AND Massenet. Not to sound dramatic, but could anything sound more dreamy!? She was exquisite. I love studying her career because she thrived while performing works by the same composers that I gravitate towards when learning music myself--Debussy, Gounod, Massenet, Strauss, etc.

Name a trashy TV show you secretly love.

When I was in grad school in Boston (my first time living outside of the Los Angeles area, let alone another state), I would watch The Hills on repeat whenever I was homesick. So terrible, so so good! Remember Justin Bobby!?

 Surviving and thriving in Brooklyn!

Surviving and thriving in Brooklyn!

What is your greatest non-artistic achievement?

Keeping an army of houseplants alive and thriving (mostly) for the first time in my life.

These two plants were less than a foot tall each when I got them and have since tripled in size. Grow, babies, grow!

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

Tabula Rasa is accessible to everyone -whether you enjoy opera or not- and is so relevant for the time, and undoubtedly unlike anything you've seen before.