Viewpoint: The Spice of Life


Viewpoint Racette sm 914
Variety artist: Patricia Racette
© Vern Evans 2014

P atricia Racette thrives on variety: she sings what she likes where she likes, preferring not to waste time with music that doesn't "ring her bell," as she puts it. She loves to sing jazz, French popular songs and American Songbook standards, as witness her CD, Diva on Detour and her sold-out appearances in cabaret venues such as 54 Below in Manhattan. In opera, her repertoire choices are entirely her own, her selection of roles unconfined by Fach — a word I've never heard Patricia use, except in jest, in the decade that I've known her and her wife, mezzo Beth Clayton. This season, Patricia's calendar mixes some familiar roles — Cio-Cio-San in Buenos Aires and Toronto, Nedda in a new Pagliacci at the Met — with characters that are brand new to her, such as Marie Antoinette in The Ghosts of Versailles , which she takes on at Los Angeles Opera, and the title role in Salome , which she sings in a fully staged production for the first time at Opera San Antonio. This month, she sings Carlisle Floyd's Susannah at San Francisco Opera — a company that has been part of her musical and dramatic DNA since the beginning of her career, when she was a member of San Francisco's Merola Opera Program. 

Patricia talked at length with OPERA NEWS in April 2014 while she was appearing at the Met in Andrea Chénier. On April 1, she appeared in a live "Singer's Studio," an excerpt of which is available on our website, A few days later, Patricia talked with me for this issue of OPERA NEWS, which marks the fourth time she has appeared on our cover. Patricia's first cover feature, in June 2002, was one of the most significant stories in the magazine's history: in the course of the interview with author Eric Myers, Patricia spoke in print for the first time about her relationship with Beth Clayton. The editors of OPERA NEWS were honored that Patricia chose to trust us with this story, which received an overwhelmingly positive response from our readers. In a 2010 video interview as part of the "It Gets Better" project, designed to inspire hope for young people facing harassment, both Patricia and Beth spoke about that OPERA NEWS cover story and the difference that it made in their lives. (The 2010 interview is available on YouTube.) In the course of our conversation last April, Patricia said, "I'm an open person. One of the most important things for me as a human being and as an artist is to be myself, which has sometimes posed difficulty in this profession. But one learns to live with it. And I celebrate it." 

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CORRECTION: Leonard Bernstein's 1985 studio recording of West Side Story used a specially assembled studio orchestra, not the Israel Philharmonic, as stated in "Recordings" (Aug.).

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Current Issue: September 2014 — VOL. 79, NO. 3