Sound Bites spotlights up-and-coming singers and conductors in the world of opera.
Sound Bites: Elizabeth DeShong
Photographed in New York by Dario Acosta
Makeup and hair by Affan Malik
© Dario Acosta 2012
Elizabeth DeShong doesn’t consider herself a specialist in any particular composer’s works, but the Pennsylvania-born mezzo bids fair to become a world-class Rossinian. She has won raves in Toronto and at Glyndebourne in Rossini’s La Cenerentola, an opera that shows off both her lissome musicality and scrupulous accuracy. OPERA NEWS’s George Hall hailed her Glyndebourne Angelina this past summer as “stunning,” adding that “not so much as a demisemiquaver fell by the wayside, even in the most flamboyant virtuoso passages.” DeShong scored another knockout as Hermia in the Met’s 2011 world premiere of The Enchanted Island, in which she stopped the show cold with her gleaming traverse of “Where are you now?” at the top of Act II, her beautifully sunny and even voice hitting every note — even those taken at warp speed — dead center.
“I saw my aria, which was adapted from ‘Where shall I fly?’ in Handel’s Hercules, before I saw the full libretto and score,” DeShong recalls of The Enchanted Island. “I was asked to take a look at [the aria] and make sure it was something that I was really comfortable with. And I loved it. I was so thrilled to receive it — it’s a fantastic piece of music. Opening Act II was a big responsibility, but it was a lot of fun. I didn’t mind it. It’s nice to go out and wet your feet in the first act, take it all in — you know, just enjoy it, make your first mark in a group setting with your colleagues. There’s no nerves to that. And then, in Act II, to be given a very specific moment to just give it all you’ve got — the competitor in me really enjoyed that challenge. Certainly if you don’t deliver, that kind of moment can be a very scary place to be, but you make it your job to deliver.”
DeShong studied at Oberlin Conservatory and the Curtis Institute before beginning a three-year term at Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Ryan Center. She returns to Lyric in December for Hansel in Hansel and Gretel, a role she has also sung at Glyndebourne. “I love singing Hansel. The best thing about it is that you get the opportunity to be a kid again, to feel everything purely and fully, with no self-judgment. Children experience things in such a pure way — very simple and direct, and with every fiber of their being. When you’re Hansel, you don’t have the conflict that adults have with whether their actions and their feelings are okay, whether they’re justified. Kids are just present, and they’re right there. And there’s nothing better than being a kid again for a few hours onstage. Nothing better.”
F. PAUL DRISCOLL
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