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Eugene Weekly : Opera : 10.26.06

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Drinking Espresso and Dancing With the Devil

Singer returns to Portland Opera for Faust

BY SUZI STEFFEN

Soprano Maureen O'Flynn sang many roles at the Portland Opera in the early 1990s, including Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor and Gilda in Rigoletto. For the Portland Opera's new production of Charles Gounod's Faust, O'Flynn returns to sing the role of Marguerite in the tale of lust, betrayal and deals with the devil. She took a few moments from a heavy rehearsal schedule to talk with EW.

How does it feel to be back in Portland?

I was so excited to come back! I love the environment, I love the place, I love the opera company. … I'm working with a director [Nicholas Muni] who's really into relationships and motivations and good stagecraft and a conductor [Vjekoslav Sutej] I've missed terribly. It's been a homecoming in more ways than one and a renaissance for me as well.

Any favorite places to visit in the area?

I finally took a day to go up to the Gorge! Yesterday, for an hour, I teased myself back into Washington Park. And Portland was my first Nordstrom's experience; I discovered lattes, espressos and Nordstrom's.

Tell me what appeals to you about the role of Marguerite.

I played the role quite a few years ago, in 1992 in Belfast in Northern Ireland and in 1997 in Denver. Nine years ago, I had a different voice. Now it's heftier, darker, rounder, and the role is a more comfortable thing. This particular production is very psychological, with layers, special effects, interesting concepts.

How did you prepare for the role?

It's a bit of a challenge to make the character really live as a complex human being, not just as a cardboard cutout. First and foremost, I go with the music and the text. That's your bible; it tells you what the character is about, what the character is thinking and what she is feeling.

What is challenging about Gounod?

I think Gounod, as in Roméo et Juliette, writes some of the most romantic music; the duets are just to die for. I find French composers to be a little more, well, I don't want to say problematic, but the orchestration is a little thicker. The roles for the sopranos are written lower, with a lot of middle to low voice stuff.

What are some of your favorite roles?

Violetta [from La Traviata] is my favorite by far, along with Gilda. … Now that I'm older, I can add a few more lyric roles like [Mimi in] La Bohème.

How do you think opera can be relevant for young people today?

Opera needs to be transcendent theater. Opera at its absolute best is all of the performing mediums mixed together: great theater, great acting, virtuosic singing, great orchestra, sometimes dancing, lighting, sets, everything. When someone experiences that, they want more of it.

Why should Eugeneans make the drive up I-5 for Faust?

It's going to be a Faust unlike anything they may have already seen. It's not the traditional presentation of Faust with the devil doing his thing and Faust being a victim; there's much more complexity going on.

Faust 7:30 pm Nov. 4, 7, 9, 11. Keller Auditorium, SW 3rd & Clay, Portland. 866-739-6737 • $39-$140. $10 stu./sr. tix available at 6:30 pm nightly

 

 












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