Girls of Summer
AVA PINE, Mark Adamo's Lysistrata at Fort Worth Opera Festival this season, chats with WILLIAM V. MADISON.
Fort Worth's Ava Pine
© Ron T. Ennis 2012
Long before soprano Ava Pine started her professional career, Fort Worth heard her at weddings, funerals and other local events. "I've been a part of many audience members' lives," she says. She returns to the Fort Worth Opera Festival in the title role of Mark Adamo's Lysistrata (May 26, June 3).
While Texans love to boost their native daughters, it's not mere chauvinism that's brought Galveston-born Pine back to the company again and again, in repertory spanning three centuries. She may be a familiar face, but she's full of surprises. Hearing her first as the Angel in Eötvös's Angels in America (2008), with its dog-whistle range and jagged lines, left this listener unprepared for the creamy tone of her utterly charming Adina in L'Elisir d'Amore (2010) and the spinning brilliance of her Cleopatra in Handel's Giulio Cesare (2011).
Pine got her start as an early-music specialist, only later discovering what she calls "the other end of the spectrum." Early and contemporary music, she notes, "both require a certain brand of bold musicality. Baroque music needs someone who can tastefully and creatively ornament and mold the music to his or her voice, and new music needs someone who can take a piece that is new to the ears of most people and make it seem natural and organic, even in its newness." Still, after working on contemporary pieces, "I like to dip back into my Baroque roots and sing some Handel. It's like sorbet for the voice."
Pine brings another asset to the stage — eight years of ballet training, which she claims never destined her for a career. ("I was too tall and never had the flexibility.") It lent regal bearing to her Cleopatra, as well as sheer physical courage to her Angel, flying on wires while sweeping baritone David Adam Moore off his feet — and singing all the while.
To hear her tell it, however, dance was a mixed blessing. "I realized that I was imbuing all my characters with the same physicality," she recalls. "'Generic graceful' isn't particularly interesting or compelling. For the fix, I looked again to dance." Through it, she found specific, individualized traits. "Dancers are masters at assuming characters through physicality alone," she says, noting that, at the very least, dance "gave me something to do with my long, gangly arms!"
With recent appearances in Boston, New York and London, Pine's career is taking her far beyond Texas these days. But this alumna of Texas Christian University says Fort Worth has "seen a growth in me that goes far beyond what people usually see over the course of a young-artist program, and for that reason, they're incredibly supportive.
"Whenever I have family in the audience, I feel my performance has a special, extra layer to it. It's like the love in my heart for them adds a special sheen to what I do onstage. Performing in Fort Worth is like performing for family, multiplied many times over."
WILLIAM V. MADISON