Of the many classical singing artists dotting the scene today, none stand out the way that soprano, Arianna Zukerman does. The Washington Post has lauded her, saying “Arianna Zukerman possesses a remarkable voice that combines the range, warmth and facility of a Rossini mezzo with shimmering, round high notes and exquisite pianissimos that would make any soprano jealous.” The soprano is also a highly acclaimed performer of chamber, concert, and operatic works. She is particularly famous for her interpretation of James Whitbourn’s oratorio, “Annelies“, which is a 14 movement oratorio highlighting selections from Anne Frank’s diary. (You can listen to Arianna sing a selection from the piece here.)
Recently, I was fortunate enough to be able to interview to soprano. Questions and answers are below, but Chicago residents will be happy to know that Ms. Zukerman will be performing the title role in “Anneliese” at the Harris Theatre on Sunday, June 9th. You can purchase tickets here. This will surely be a great performance.
How did you first get into classical music, in particular, opera?
My family was a musical family. My dad was a violinist (Pinchas Zukerman), and my mom, Eugenia, was a flautist and TV commentator. Classical music was part of their lives and careers, and it was part of their friend’s lives as well. I grew up with sounds around me. I played the piano and started liking singing in Nigh School. I loved chorus loved being in theater. In college, singing and theater meld. The most important part was that my voice was bent in a classical direction.
When did you decide to become a singer and what kind of a process was it?
I decided it at Brown University. I was in all the musicals. I would commute to Boston for lessons. The thing that I really wanted to do was singing. It was a quick decision to apply to Julliard, and I got in and went. I wish it was more profound, but that’s what happened. Living life in the arts is an evolving reality
What was it like to “create” an operatic presence like Anne Frank?
I think the way that that piece is that every single element is Anne Frank. The chorus is also singing her diary. The chamber version instruments echo and add to emotion of text. However, I didn’t feel pressure to be Anne Frank. I felt responsibility to tell story with dignity and respect, adding anything needs to be done with utmost care. I had a responsibility to be honest.
How much say did you have in Annelies?
None, as it was not written for my voice. It was written in 2005 and premiered at event to commemorate the 60th anniversary for end of war. Portions premiered at Westminster Abbey and the Chamber version premiered four years later at the Hague.
You sing a lot of concert and chamber music along with opera. Do you have a preference?
I love collaboration. My preference is to be in sharing and inspiring environment. For me, it doesn’t matter if it’s opera, concert, or recital. Performing is performing, especially when singing with text and music. It doesn’t meter if it’s religious or not. Whether it’s concert or opera, it still has to be imparted to an audience.
Do you consider yourself a classical music fan? If not, what do you listen to?
I’m totally a classical music dork of highest order. I’m a total band geek. Baroque era, in particular, lights my fire. In fact, I was just listening to a Bocarini cello concerto. That said, I was a child of eighties and I like eighties rock like Pat Benetar, Men at Work, and Elvis Costello. My daughter is nineteen months, so Justin Bieber will be her equivalent.
Do you have any exciting projects coming up in the future?
For me, every project is exciting. I have my London debut in Mahler 4 with Royal Philharmonic and my dad is conducting, to that’s super special. I’ll revisit Annelies in June at the Harris Theater in Chicago with the recording instrumentalists and The Chicago Children’s Choir.
What are your dream roles?
Definitely the Marschallin in Rosenkavalier. I’d also love to sing any of the Mozart ladies. I love how singing them is so dreamy. Traviata would also be amazing, and every time I get to sing the Verdi requiem is a happy day for me.
Your father is a famous violinist. What kind of musical influences were in your life while you were growing up?
I felt no pressure to be a musician. It was an expectation that music would be a part of my life, but my parents were very good about keeping their careers separate from their families. Their passion for their work was always evident. I found my way mostly through school music classes, but it didn’t connect in my head that that’s what parents did while I was in school.
As a performer, what is your strongest quality and why?
I’m a colleague. That’s my strongest quality. I got your back onstage.
Advice to people considering becoming singers?
Understand that there is time in the world to follow heart. Classical music, especially opera, just takes time. Give yourself breathing room. Band geeks unite! There’s a brave new world out there for you. The best part about classical music is that it can never be a bad water art form. A career as a musician requires hard work and discipline, but don’t listen to anybody who says it’s not a good career because it is good. The payoff is just a hard one.