Sound Bites spotlights up-and-coming singers and conductors in the world of opera.

Sound Bites: Kathryn Lewek

The rising soprano shows off her sparkling high notes as Salzburg’s Ginevra next month.
by Louise T. Guinther.

Sound Bites Kathryn Lewek hdl 517
Dazzling and dramatic: coloratura soprano Kathryn Lewek
© Dario Acosta
Sound Bites Kathryn Lewek lg 517
  Photograph by Dario Acosta Hair and Makeup by Affan Graber Malik for Tom Ford Beauty  

KATHRYN LEWEK'S unusually dark, rich voice flashes through high coloratura as if born to the fach. But early on, singing soprano seemed a distant dream. “I had a very large range,” says Lewek, “but I had this gap from high B to D—and then I had a fifth or a sixth above it. Since my voice basically stopped at B-flat, everybody was like, ‘Duh! You’re a mezzo.’ I figured this high-note weirdness was more like a male’s falsetto, and I didn’t think anyone wanted to hear it, because it sounded like a chorus of dying cats.” 

Lewek sang zwischenfach roles during her studies at the Eastman School of Music. “As a singer, there are things you do for the audience and things you do for yourself,” she says, “and for me, what was fun was luxuriating in that middle voice. People kept saying, ‘Lighten up—I promise your voice has enough color.’ So I finally started taking their advice, and that gap started to fill in.” Her current teacher, Diana Soviero, set her on her true path. “Diana said, ‘This is one of those rarities in the opera business—you’re an actual dramatic coloratura. You need to embrace that.’ So I put my life and my voice in her hands, and she transformed me.”

Despite early advice against singing the Queen of the Night, it has become Lewek’s “passport role.” She calls the daunting assignment “the perfect definition of artist flow. It happens so fast, it’s almost like being in a car wreck. If you overthink things, you total the car, but if you let your instincts take over, somehow you make it through. The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do is teach myself how to sing Queen of the Night flat. In Aix, we did it with Baroque orchestra. Singing the Queen is sort of like playing darts with your eyes closed. If you’re an expert, you can close your eyes, and you know the exact momentum, the exact height—whatever. So this is like, you close your eyes, and they move the dartboard down a half inch.”

Lewek is looking forward to her July wedding to tenor Zach Borichevsky, and to a post-honeymoon stint at the Salzburg Festival as Ginevra to Cecilia Bartoli’s Ariodante—one of seven major new roles she has taken on over two seasons. How does she maintain her equilibrium?

“It’s a yoga thing to set an intention before every practice,” she says. “I do the same with my singing. Before I walk onstage, I set an intention—‘This is the message I want to get out.’ If you’re prepared, everything else takes care of itself. You don’t have to think about what position your left foot is in.” spacer



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