Alcina Artist Interviews: Barbara Porto

In this series, Artist Interviews, we hear what our artists have to say about the project they're currently part of...

We're pleased to have Barbara Porto, who will be singing the role of Oberto, share her thoughts:

Barbara as Oberto during Alcina rehearsal.

Barbara as Oberto during Alcina rehearsal.

Who is Oberto outside the context of the opera? In other words, what does he like to do on a Friday night when he's not stuck on an enchanted island searching for his long-lost father?

When Oberto isn't trying to track down his missing father, he's probably hiking or sailing by day, and geeking out with Minecraft by night.  At the tender age of 15(-ish), he's too pure and socially awkward to be chasing girls just yet.

What is Oberto's significance within the context of the opera?

Despite his naïveté, Oberto plays a very important role in the opera. His innocent Boy Scout presence provides a stark contrast to the ruthless, wiley temptress, Alcina.  He's also the first person to formally challenge her, and that's no small feat! Badge earned.

How do you feel about playing a pants role? What's the best part? Worst part?

I'm proud to say that this is my very first pants role!  It has definitely been an adjustment for me.  Given my Fach, I've mostly played young chambermaids or peasant girls, so my instinctual dramatic gestures are very feminine.  Now, I have to be very conscious of my body posture and, particularly, my hands, to ensure that my "masculinity" translates to the audience.  While I do have to be much more mindful of my movements, one major plus is that I get to wield a weapon on stage for a change.  That's pretty fun!

How much Baroque music have you sung before this production?

Alcina isn't my first Baroque rodeo ;) In August, I performed in staged scenes from Handel's Orlando with Cantanti Project (#shamelessplug). I have also studied and performed many arias from Baroque operas and oratorios, and I really relish the creativity that the da capo aria allows. Oberto is, however, my first full-length role in this tradition. I can't wait to perform with the Dorian Baroque Orchestra!

You mentioned you've studied and performed Baroque arias before - do you have a favorite that comes to mind? And why does it stand out?

Two arias stick out to me, and they are both works of Handel: "Rejoice greatly, o daughter of Zion" from  Messiah and "V'adoro pupille" from Giulio Cesare. I fell in love with "Rejoice" when I first looked at it in undergrad. The coloratura just exudes celebration. It's such a jam! On the other hand, "V'adoro," which I've learned much more recently, is straight-up sexy.

For any of our readers who is not familiar with the da capo convention, can you give a brief definition?

The da capo aria is a compositional form used primarily in the Baroque era of western classical music. It is comprised of three sections: A, B, and A'. After the contrasting B section, the A section is repeated "from the top" with ornamentation.

And what is your creative and/or technical process for figuring out those da capos?

I consider several different factors when I need to come up with ornamentation for the A' section of a da capo aria. First, I think about what is happening in the aria. The ornaments should suit the character and enhance the drama. Next, I'd be lying if I said I didn't check out how other singers have embellished the aria, historically. I like to get a sense of what is stylistically appropriate. Finally, I factor my own personal taste and vocal strengths into the decision. Ornaments can't just be copied and pasted from another singer's score to yours.  You have to own them, and for that to happen, they must work with your voice. At the risk of sounding a bit like Cher Horowitz, it's similar to selecting the perfect jewelry to complete an outfit: Are you wearing that statement necklace, or is it wearing you? :)

Come see Barbara in the role of Oberto on February 28th!

Event details and tickets are available here.

Barbara studies her music in between rehearsing scenes.

Barbara studies her music in between rehearsing scenes.