Q & A with Catherine Cook, Mezzo-Soprano

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Mezzo-soprano Catherine Cook in Opera Colorado’s 2021 production of April in Paris. Photo: Opera Colorado/Rocky Mountain Public Media

By: Suzanne Whitney

Mezzo-soprano Catherine Cook is the star of the one-woman extravaganza April in Paris. We are so lucky to have such a captivating performer at the helm of our newest digital performance. Catherine has performed a wide range of roles at many leading opera houses including The Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and more, including performing in the much-beloved 2011 Opera Colorado production of Rusalka. Enjoy this opportunity to get to know this wonderful singer and learn what it was like creating a new digital program.

How did you get involved with April in Paris?

In September of 2020 Greg Carpenter, Opera Colorado’s General & Artistic Director, contacted me. He had the idea for a digital program called April in Paris, which would feature Lee Hoiby’s one-act opera Bon Appétit!. From there Greg gave me the amazing opportunity to choose my own repertoire.

What connection do you have to the music in this production?

I absolutely love all the music in this project, it was so much fun to put the program together. The first episode is some of my favorite French music. Some are new pieces I have always wanted to sing and some are pieces I have performed before. I tried to put together a variety of moods and styles, all centered around spring, love, and Paris.

Mezzo-soprano Catherine Cook as Wendy Barrie in Opera Colorado’s 2021 production of April in Paris. Photo: Opera Colorado/Rocky Mountain Public Media

The second episode is a set from Cabaret Songs by the American composer
William Bolcom. These songs tell stories in a whimsical, fun, and comical style. I’ve always wanted to do these songs staged as a character of some sort, so this was a great opportunity to play with that idea. The character we landed on for this episode is Wendy Barrie, a talk show host from the late 1940s.

Finally, we close out the show with Bon Appétit! by Lee Hoiby. It is a one-woman opera based on an actual episode of Julia Child’s cooking show in which she makes a chocolate cake. It’s such a joy to play Julia, and to do it while singing is so much fun! I almost feel like Julia is an extension of myself. The moment the wig goes on and I put on the shirt with the icon patch, I truly become Julia.

Join in on the fun and sign up for free access to April in Paris today>>

Tell us a bit about the rehearsal process.

To start with, this is the first project since the beginning of the pandemic that

The cast and crew of Opera Colorado’s 2021 production of April in Paris.

David, Sahar, and I had done. So, it was quite emotional to be in a rehearsal room for the first time in over a year and get to make live music! What a gift that was and to experience it with such amazing colleagues and friends.

The process was wonderful and collaborative. I’ve worked with David many times in the past, and love working with him. He is so brilliant and imaginative and although I’ve never worked with Sahar, I’ve known her for a long time. It was such a fabulous experience to make music together. She is such an incredible musician and pianist. We put the show together in less than a week and then had three filming days at Rocky Mountain Public Media. The whole process was so joyful and fun!

“It was quite emotional to be in a rehearsal room for the first time in over a year and get to make live music!”

What was it like to perform in front of a camera instead of a live audience?

It was definitely different but in many ways the same. The biggest thing about planning and creating this program was we wanted it to be something geared towards “TV” as opposed to trying to film something meant for the big stage. It felt very intimate and vulnerable in many ways. We wanted to tell stories in a way that felt personal.

One way we planned the medium of “TV” in rehearsal was setting up music stands where the cameras would be in the studio, so I knew where those cameras were. We planned which camera I would sing to or where I’d add a little wink to the audience. Ultimately, I still felt like I was on a stage. I didn’t hold back and I did the same things I would do in any live performance.

What are you most looking forward to as we get back to live performance?

I love the connection with the audience and feeling their collective energy. I also love making music with a live orchestra. It is magical. That is what I’m most looking forward to!

What are you most looking forward to when live performances are possible again? Have you seen Catherine Cook in April in Paris? What did you enjoy most?

One Reply to “Q & A with Catherine Cook, Mezzo-Soprano”

  1. Catherine’s whimsical Wendy Barrie was beautifully done, with winking, some great dance moves and subtle asides to the audience that engaged from beginning to end. I was ready to sample some of that cake by the time Julia Child finished, and I could follow every instruction. Another great performance.

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