Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Opera!  True Atlanta Story
The Atlanta Opera takes you behind the scenes as only we can. Brandon Odom tells you what it’s like to be a member of The Atlanta Opera Chorus…

Brandon Odom, member of Atlanta Opera Chorus can next be seen in The Italian Girl in Algiers - April 27 & 30, May 3 & 5

Tell us a little bit about yourself.... where are you from, how did you get into singing opera? 

I came to Georgia from Mobile, AL in 2002 with the hopes of taking my musical training to the next level.  I loved musical theater and wanted more opportunities to perform, so I thought it made sense to move to the “big city”.  I enrolled at Clayton State University and began studying voice with Maya Hoover.  She introduced me to the world of opera and art song, and I had the bonus of free tickets to every Spivey Hall recital as a music major.  Our campus hosted Joyce DiDonato, Susan Graham, Rolando Villazรณn, to name a few, and I was there for it. 
My last semester at school, there was a chorus opening in Charles Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette, which was the last show of the Atlanta Opera’s season that year.  I auditioned for Walter Huff, and was offered the position. 
L’Italiana in Algeri will be my fifteenth opera with the company.      

What do you do to prepare for a production? 

          We began musical rehearsals in March.  Like many members of the chorus, I work a full-time job.  The week before opening night is always the most tiring, as we rehearse every night until the final dress rehearsal. When the production opens, usually on Saturday night, I do my best to sleep in as late as possible.  Some may call this lazy, but after a solid week of 13-hour days, it is important your body and voice have a chance to rest.  I’ll sleep in and try not to talk too much throughout the day (yeah, right!) I usually look over my music once more and refresh my memory, then it’s off to warm up at the theater! 

 What about The Italian Girl in Algiers appeals the most to you?

Rossini’s operas, in general, appeal to me.   I fell in love with Gioachino Rossini when I was fortunate enough to be a part of the Atlanta Opera’s 2008 production of La Cenerentola, a “Cinderella” story.   I loved the rapid-fire coloratura and the flurry of simultaneous vocal lines layered one on top of the other, as well as the silly, yet precise staging.   L’italiana in Algeri is in the same realm, and equally as engaging.

Do you have a favorite aria or scene from Italian Girl?

The entire concept of the show, as a “pop-up book,” is unlike anything I’ve done with the company and I think the audience will love it!  There are several moments, in particular, that I enjoy tremendously.   A moment that stands out is in Act Two, when Isabella sings “Pensa alla patria”, a hopeful and victorious aria.  It is quintessential Rossini, and is performed beautifully by Sandra Piques Eddy.  Even though there is relatively little movement during that scene, there is an underlying, palpable energy that builds to a glorious end!  

How is Italian Girl different from other operas?

I suppose the obvious difference would be the absence of a women’s chorus, as is the case in many of Rossini’s comedies. In general, I feel like we interact differently with each other than when the women are present.  There is a unique bond in this smaller group.  It’s apples and oranges, though.  The women and the men of this chorus have come to be my extended family and I’m grateful for them.  When you spend a large amount of your year with a group, you develop solid relationships. 
          One thing that season ticket holders will notice is that this is the only opera of the season where the heroine does not die in the end.  We already lost Carmen and Violetta earlier this season, so a comedy will be a nice departure, and add some variety to the season.  Some of my friends had never seen an opera before this season and they were convinced that death was an integral part of opera.  This will definitely change their mind!

What advice would you give to someone looking to become an opera singer?

I believe that everyone has their own path, and must discover what is best for them.  The best advice I could give, based on what I’ve experienced thus far, is to not be in a hurry.  You have to let your voice grow at its own pace and, if you rush it, then it could do permanent damage.   Find a teacher you trust, practice, and be patient.  I am fortunate that being a part of The Atlanta Opera Chorus has allowed me to grow as a singer and performer, and will continue to do so as long as they will have me. 

If someone created an opera about you and your life what would the title of the opera be?

If I were to be the subject of an opera, I would it want it to be a comedy, very much like Italian Girl.  How about, “Boy from ‘Bama Becomes a Baritone?”  I love alliteration.  

Usage of any images on this blog is restricted to The Atlanta Opera and approved news websites. Any other usage, particularly for professional purposes, must have written permission. For additional information, please contact The Atlanta Opera's Marketing Department at 404.881.8801.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Get to Know: Mezzo-Soprano Sandra Piques Eddy

Sandra Piques Eddy rehearses at The Atlanta Opera Center for the upcoming production of The Italian Girl in Algiers.

Sandra Piques Eddy was last seen on the Atlanta Opera stage in 2008’s The Marriage of Figaro.  She returns to Atlanta to sing the role of Isabella in the Opera’s upcoming premiere production of The Italian Girl in Algiers.  We sat down with Sandra to learn more about her, her love of Pinterest, and who she has dance parties with while listening to ABBA!

Where do you live when you're not traveling?  
My husband, daughter and I recently moved into our first house in Dedham, Massachusetts, a small city outside the Boston area.  I grew up near Boston and went to school there too, and we both have family in Massachusetts. 

What was your first opera experience?
My first opera experience was at Boston Conservatory.  I was a music education major and I was dating a voice major (my husband, Bill) who was in the chorus of the Opera Department's production of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas.  Originally, I was attending the opera to see and tease Bill about being in a toga, but I got so much more out of the experience than I bargained for!

Why did you choose to be a singer?  
I love losing myself in the music and the drama of an opera.  My love of music and drama started when I was a teenager and I was obsessed with musicals like West Side Story, Les Miserables and Hello Dolly.  I didn't decide to become a singer until much later.  I didn't realize I could actually earn a living singing, playing make believe and dress up until I started getting roles and performance opportunities outside of college. 

What's the best thing about this profession?  What's the worst thing?
The music itself is really the best thing.  I get goose bumps even in rehearsals or practicing.  When music hits you in a visceral and intense way, it is just incredible.  I love communicating through music and drama to the audience.  The worst thing is missing family and sometimes missing important life events like weddings, graduations, etc.  Luckily, my family has been supportive since day one.   I try to get as much family time in when I can.

What has been the biggest challenge in your performance career? 
It changes all the time.  One of my goals is to get completely into the character in order to have the freedom to take risks on stage.   I also strive to react to circumstances and characters as if it is the first time I've ever heard or done the scene before in order to keep the action, reaction and text fresh and alive and buzzing.

Do you still get nervous when you have to perform? 
Yes, but I believe this is an indication that I really love what I do and I want to serve the music as best as I can.  Also, I try not to say "nervous", I like saying "excited" instead.  This sounds more positive

What do you like to do when you're not singing? 
I like catching up with family and friends.  I love hosting brunches!  Since we just bought a house two months ago, I love decorating and organizing our new home and spending too much time on Pinterest!! 

If you were not a singer, what would you be?  
I used to be an elementary and middle school music teacher for three years in Needham, Massachusetts before getting my masters in voice performance at Boston University.  I also love teaching master classes to young singers.  I've done about ten in the last three years.   I enjoy seeing the light bulbs go off and I love seeing the sense of pride in singer's faces.

Obviously you travel extensively in this profession. What has been your best travel experience? What has been the worst?
The best travel experience was singing in Hawaii in February of 2008.  I had a great role in Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette.  I sang Stefano, the page boy.  He had one fabulous aria, an intense sword fight and sang in some of the most beautiful chorus music in opera...and that was it!  I had so much time to explore and experience Hawaii.  My cast mates and I became very close there.  It was an incredible experience and we still have a strong bond.  

The worst travel experience was actually the last time I was here in Atlanta!   I had sharp shooting pains on my right side while I was on the plane and could hardly sit up straight.   The lovely opera patron, Sara, who picked me up that afternoon at the airport had to take me to the ER right away from the airport.  I was in so much pain at that point I actually started crying.  There was a woman there with a patient who saw how much pain I was in and she started talking with me.  I know this sounds a bit dramatic but she was truly like an angel!   She was there with a man who had a sport's injury.  I was there until 2 a.m. and it turned out I had a kidney stone.  Those are not fun.  BUT the silver lining is I met lovely Sara, who stayed with me the entire time, and the couple who was there in the ER and I are still in touch since then.  They attended the dress rehearsal of The Marriage of Figaro and I recently emailed them about The Italian Girl in Algiers, so I may see them again.  So, something very positive came out of the most negative travel experience! 

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three albums would you want on your iPod?
Oooh I don't think I could possibly narrow this down.  This would change all the time!  My three-year-old daughter and I have dance parties in her room all the time so we'd have to have some Michael Jackson, ABBA and Bob Marley on there.  Lately, I've been obsessed with the artists Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova.  I'm dying to see the musical Once on Broadway.  I loved the movie.   But, my goose bump music is Handel and Mozart.  So I'd have a very eclectic iPod mix, I think....

Sandra Piques Eddy will be singing the role of Isabella April 27, 30 and May 2 and 5, 2013 in the Atlanta Opera’s production of The Italian Girl in Algiers.  Visit for more information and to purchase tickets.

Sandra Piques Eddy works with director Helena Binder and assistant stage manager Gregory Boyle.

Usage of any images on this blog is restricted to The Atlanta Opera and approved news websites. Any other usage, particularly for professional purposes, must have written permission. For additional information, please contact The Atlanta Opera's Marketing Department at 404.881.8801.