Erin Morley: There is so much that’s charming about opera! I have to say, I do think the roles I get to play as a coloratura are rather charming young ladies. Coloraturas have more fun.

A recipient of the Beverly Sills Award and a graduate of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program her performances have garnered huge critical acclaim worldwide and she regularly appears on the greatest opera stages and has been featured in five “Live in HD” broadcasts. During the 2021/22 season Morley makes a number of exciting debuts: the title role in Matthew Aucoin’s Eurydice which premieres at the Metropolitan Opera; her Teatro alla Scala debut with one of her signature roles, Zerbinetta (Ariadne auf Naxos); a role and company debut as Isabelle (Robert le Diable) under the baton of Marc Minkowski at the Opéra National de Bordeaux, which is also set for a CD release with Palazzetto Bru Zane; her first appearance at Staatsoper Berlin as Gilda (Rigoletto), a role she will also perform at the Metropolitan Opera; a highly anticipated debut in one of the most iconic coloratura roles, Lakmé, with Washington Concert Opera; and a return to Glyndebourne Festival with another new role, Norina (Don Pasquale). Highlights from last season include Tytania (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) in Santa Fe; Sophie (Der Rosenkavalier) at the Wiener Staatsoper and a show-stopping appearance during the Met Stars at Home Gala where she delighted the audiences by accompanying herself at the piano and singing an extraordinary rendition of “Chacun Le Sait” from La Fille du Régiment. On the concert platform, Morley joined Christian Thielemann and Staatskapelle Dresden on tour with a programme of Strauss’s Brentano Lieder and the world premiere of a newly discovered orchestral song by Richard Strauss, “Nacht,” completed by composer Thomas Hennig. Further recent performances include Tytania in a new production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Wiener Staatsoper; Gilda in Rigoletto at Bayerische Staatsoper; Konstanze in Die Entführung aus dem Serail and Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier at Opera de Paris; Gilda in Rigoletto, Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos and Sophie at Wiener Staatsoper; Fiakermilli in Arabella and Gilda at Bayerische Staatsoper; Lucia di Lammermoor in Nancy; Queen of the Night in Magic Flute, Roxana in Krol Roger, Mme Silberklang in Der Schauspieldirektor and Stravinsky’s The Nightingale all at Santa Fe Opera; Zerbinetta at Glyndebourne; and Sandrina in La Finta Giardiniera in Lille and Dijon with Emmanuelle Haïm. Morley has also performed the role of Cunegonde (Candide) in stellar company at LA Opera with James Conlon and actors Kelsey Grammer and Christine Ebersole; with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra with Bradley Cooper and Carey Mulligan; and at the Carnegie Hall Centenary with John Lithgow. Morley also appeared in the famous televised New Year’s Eve concerts with the Staatskapelle Dresden and Christian Thielemann, performing Princess Mi in Léhar’s Das Land des Lächelns. Morley was also invited to perform Gilda (Rigoletto) with Semperoper Dresden, Sophie in Massenet’s Werther with the Metropolitan Opera, Zerbinetta (Ariadne auf Naxos) with the Bayerische Staatsoper at the Hong Kong Arts Festival, and Handel’s Il delirio amoroso with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Emmanuelle Haïm. A dedicated recitalist, her appearances include recitals with pianist Vlad Iftinca (Salt Lake City’s Virtuoso Series, Carnegie’s Weill Hall, and Festival du Lied in Fribourg, Switzerland), and with pianist Ken Noda (at the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, Brigham Young University, and the Alice Tully Hall Vocal Arts Honors Recital).

Erin, we are so proud to have you on the cover of our 2nd/2022 issue! Thank you very much for having accepted our invitation! Congratulations for your recent house debut with your marvellous Gilda at the Staatsoper Berlin, where our conversion finds you and we are truly sorry for the COVID related news! We wish you lots of health, so you can continue this series of performances! How are you feeling? And how went the premiere? It must always be exciting to meet the public of a new opera house. 

Hi, Bianca! I’m so honored to be the cover girl for Opera Charm! Thank you so much. We had a wonderful premiere of Rigoletto. I’ve been wanting to sing at the Staatsoper Berlin for a long time, so it felt like a very special moment of arrival for me. I adore that house. It’s stunningly beautiful, the acoustic is perfect, and the Berlin public is so informed and invested. Gilda is a role I’ve been singing for a number of years now, and I love her. Of course we had a very short time to rehearse for this run, but I think that makes everyone focus more. I have to say that Christopher Maltman is an incredible colleague. He originated this production with Bart Sher a few years ago and has performed it several times since then, yet he was so willing to work and give attention to the details. He’s a great stage partner. I was just so pleased that the Berlin public seemed to be moved by our performance. That was a great feeling. Of course I’m very very disappointed that I caught Covid and had to cancel the second show, but I am grateful to have recovered in time for the third show. 

The breakthrough moment in your career came when you stepped in at the last-minute to sing Sophie in an entire run of Der Rosenkavalier at the Metropolitan Opera during the 2013-2014 season, which was hailed by critics as “a major success”. I guess you have already talked about this experience in many other interviews, but what I’d like to highlight was the fact that you were ready. How important is for an opera singer in the 21st century to be ready to step on stage and what exactly does it mean to be ready? How did you know that you were ready to do this?

I was as ready as one can be, I think! There are still things that will surprise you . . . but operatic performance is just like any other extreme sport. There are sicknesses and injuries, and replacements happen all the time. You simply have to plan as if you’re going to be thrown into the ring at any moment. That jump-in was literally years in the making. Sophie was a role I had studied in depth with the best German coaches and conductors, and I had lots of opportunities to perform the duet and trio. There are of course these sublime moments in the opera that everyone waits for, which are vocally challenging, but the rest of the role is extremely difficult too, and the language especially is very demanding for a non-native speaker. I soaked up as much information as I could, whenever I could. When Renee Fleming and Susan Graham sang the Nathaniel Merrill production at the Met in 2010, I was a young artist covering Sophie and I watched those rehearsals. So many great artists in that room. What a way to learn the piece! When I jumped in for the run in 2013, I had never rehearsed with the MET Orchestra. It’s a hard situation to be thrown into, but it’s something singers must anticipate. It’s important to know what to listen for, to know the orchestration, to see the big picture just as the conductor must. I had such a supportive team of cast-mates surrounding me, helping me through that first performance. Alice Coote was my Octavian, what a generous colleague. I had such an outpouring of love and support from the opera community during that time . . . Es war ein Traum! 

Read the entire interview here, in the 2th/2022 issue of OPERA Charm Magazine.

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