Photo credit: Steven Harris
Lisette does watch opera as a fan, as well as singing it, I actually ran in to them both a few days after this interview at the world premiere of Marnie at ENO. “I get in to YouTube black holes [of opera], I also go to the opera a lot, particularly if friends of mine are singing, I have a lot of friends who are wonderful singers that I admire greatly and I like to listen to other people sing. I love it, I learn something from it and I find it [opera] entertaining.”
I’m always curious how other people who enjoy opera explain why they love it, and with Lisette being not just a spectator but an opera singer, I was very curious. “I get inspired watching human beings do great things, which is one reason that I became a marathon runner because to me a human being that is doing something so grandiose is inspiring to me. [Regarding Opera] To see for a moment the organic bringing together of live theatre, the orchestra, human beings playing instruments, a human being leading a group of human beings creating a story about human beings, that to me is the perfect art form. I think it’s extraordinary and feel the same way about ballet in many ways. I don’t go to the ballet enough but when I have been and watch the dancers, this is a human being at peak strength and physique, what the human body is capable of extraordinary. I find it so fascinating. What’s not to love? The music is gorgeous too. You’re in the theatre, you’re away from your phone, it’s this energy.”
I asked Steven too what it is about seeing opera live, “youtube just doesn’t cut it. The sound, the colours is just so much bigger live. Nothing can really replicate being there, the sound, the experience.”
Lisette has now performed at both The Royal Opera House and the Met, so are there any tangible differences between them? “Well they’re both luxury houses and I’m extremely spoiled to be in either house. In both houses you get incredible amounts of attention, detailed work- musically, dramatically, the costumes, everything is just amazing, an absolute privilege, and I’m very aware of that. The only real difference is the size of the house, the Met is a much larger space. Acoustically, the Met is perfection and the Royal Opera House I think is the most wonderful, giving space that I’ve ever sung in. It just feels nice to sing there.
Audiences everywhere, in every house, they’re there because they love the art form, they’re rooting for you and it feels really nice to be on stage in any opera house. The Royal Opera House and the Met are the crown jewels but really everywhere that you go you find a public that’s passionate, people who are ardent fans of the art form, or connoisseurs of the art form, very discerning the way that they listen, that’s the thing about the ROH, even more than the Met sometimes, I feel like here [London], the tradition is even longer, more deeply rooted. Americans stand for everything, they love everything, everything’s awesome, that’s the American way, whereas I feel in Europe, Great Britain at least, it’s a much more discerning audience, ‘we want to see greatness this is the Royal Opera House so give us greatness’ which is a challenge, because you’re always thinking ‘I hope they like it, I want to please the audience.’”
As to causes that she is close to, “If I went down the political activist route I would end up giving up the arts and spending all my time on it as it makes me so angry. I’m pro-gun control.” Steven then suggested the most brilliant gun control slogan for opera fans: Shoot people with high c’s instead of bullets.
I thought a good way to end this interview would be to talk about downtime and how she does it. “I try and take downtime and worktime every day, I don’t feel like at the end of all this I need a vacation. Obviously, I do take vacations, we go hiking, out in the mountains, active vacations, I’m not a sit around on the beach type of person. I try and take time every day to enjoy myself, walk around the city, just enjoy life. You have to have a life on stage as well as off as you can get sucked in to the world really quickly and it’s not always the most healthy, psychological place. It’s very emotional, you can get really sensitive, it’s good to pull away, enjoy nature or whatever it is that you’re in to, we hike, that’s our thing.”
Thank you so much to Lisette and Steven for taking the time to talk to me.