The hundreds of concerts I have attended over the years have a way of blurring together in my memory, but I have no trouble recalling the first time I heard a live performance by soprano Elizabeth Futral
Although Opera Colorado consistently secures singers who are well-regarded within the field, its engagement of an artist as widely known as Futral
is a noteworthy coup by any measure, marking an important step in the growing national stature of the company.
Back in 1999, I was struck by Futral's down-to-earth, un-divalike candor and friendliness.All those qualities were again in evidence when I sat down with the striking soprano during a recent interview in a rehearsal room across from the Denver Performing Arts Complex.
Just as before, she
had no qualms about revealing her
age, something most performers, especially operatic divas are usually loath to do.For the record, she's
40.Since earning her master of music degree from Indiana University in 1988, Futral has performed at a dazzling array of the world's major opera houses.
In December she
appeared in the Metropolitan Opera's
new production of "La Juive."
other notable performances include Stella in the world premiere of Andre Previn's "A Streetcar Named Desire" at the San Francisco Opera, the title role in "The Ballad of Baby Doe" at the New York City Opera and Curley's wife in Carlisle Floyd's adaptation of John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" at the Houston Grand Opera.
As might be obvious from the diversity of these works, Futral
has performed in a startlingly broad range of operas and has never specialized in particular composers or operas.
"I would have thought," she
said, "given the nature of careers, maybe in the last generation, that I would have had three or four kind of main things that I do over and over, and it hasn't happened like that.
has sung the part in just one previous staged performance, a 1999 production with Opera Pacific, a company in Costa Mesa, Calif., just outside Los Angeles.Futral
has said in other interviews that the performance was a "milestone" for her
made that point again, calling it the "most all-encompassing role" she
had sung to that point - perhaps ever, in terms of the technical, dramatic and emotional demands it puts on a singer.
Because so many great sopranos have put their stamp on Violetta, including the legendary Maria Callas, Futral
had long avoided the role and was even afraid of it.
After finally tackling "La Traviata" in 1999, Futral
wanted to do more productions.And now, after returning to it with Opera Colorado, she
is even more eager to participate in additional performances of the work.
"It feels right," she
said."It fits well.I love it.I don't think I could ever get tired of it.So I really want to do it as much as people want to hear it in the next few years."
As might be expected of someone willing to tackle so many different types of roles, including many in significant contemporary operas, Futral
puts as much emphasis on the dramatic as the vocal side of her
"When I go to an opera, I want to really feel something," she
, who still reveals traces of a Southern accent at times, was born in North Carolina and moved near New Orleans with her
family when she
was 2.Besides taking piano lessons as a youngster, she
sang in her
father's Southern Baptist church, where she
first discovered she
could touch people with her
voice.After high school, she attended Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., intending to go into music education.
At the time, she
knew almost nothing about opera and had no idea that someone could make a living as a full-time classically trained singer.
But a voice teacher at Samford
had the talent for a successful operatic career and encouraged her
to consider it.After earning her bachelor's degree, she pursued graduate studies at Indiana University's prestigious music school.
encountered the first stiff vocal competition of her
had to learn how to come to terms with it and triumph on her
terms - something she
did then and has done since, as her
career continues to soar.
"My mantra has been - and you're going to think this totally simplistic, but it works for me - that I'm the only Elizabeth Futral there is," she