Samson and Delilah 101: Q&A with Katharine Goeldner


A woman smiles at the camera and rests her chin on her hand

Katharine Goeldner makes her Opera Colorado debut with Samson and Delilah in May. While new to Colorado, Katharine is no stranger to the  mountains—she is based in Salzburg, Austria. She has already performed the role of Delilah and received high praise from The Virginia Gazette: “As Delilah, Katharine Goeldner regaled us with her rich, creamy mezzo-soprano that found lyrical luxuriousness in the opera’s two celebrated arias ‘Spring Blossoms’ and ‘My Heart Opens to Your Voice.’”

Before you see her live in Samson and Delilah, learn more about the mezzo-soprano behind this iconic role.

Learn more about Samson and Delilah, on stage at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House from May 4-12>>

How did you develop an interest in opera?

Two women, one in black, one in blue, smile at the camera
Katharine Goelder with her first voice teacher, Jocelyn Reiter, after winning the Midwest Regional Met Competition in the ’90’s

We had my grandfather’s antique copy of the Victor Book of the Opera at home in Iowa. It was, basically, a catalog for the old Victrola company. As a kid, the stories and the photos of the old singers fascinated me. I was hooked on Caruso, Garden, Schumann-Heink, the De Reske brothers, Tetrazzini, and Farrar! My parents took me to my first live opera when I was 14–Carmen at the University of Iowa. I loved it and it became one of my most-performed roles.

You’ve taught masterclasses all over the world. What interests you about teaching?

I have always loved teaching. In fact, I went into my bachelor’s at the University of Iowa fully expecting to be a vocal music teacher somewhere in Iowa and got my music education degree before heading to Salzburg, Austria for my master’s. I am lucky enough to have several colleges and programs ask me to teach masterclasses during my career. I also have an active private studio in Salzburg.

My students are professionals singing everywhere from the Metropolitan Opera, to the Dutch Radio Choir, to the Hungarian State Opera, and I am super proud of them! I absolutely love guiding them towards a solid technique and taking the long view. Our goal is the thirty-plus year career and not the five-year “sudden splash and then gone” that I see so often in this business. I’ve had a lot of wonderful mentors in my life, and I truly feel it is my responsibility to pass on to my students and mentees what I’ve learned and the guidance I’ve been given.

You were asked to teach a masterclass focused on American Opera. What are some of your favorite American operas and composers?

A woman with a brown haired wig and beige blazer jacket stands in front of a window
Katharine Goeldner as Jacqueline Onassis in JFK
Photo: Karen Almond Photography

I have been honored to have created several roles for new productions in the past few years: Tobias Picker and Aryeh Stollman’s Awakenings (Iris), David T. Little and Royce Vavrek’s JFK (Jacqueline Onassis), Jack Perla and Rajiv Joseph’s Shalimar the Clown (Peggy Ophuls), Peter Knell and Stephanie Fleischmann’s Arkhipov (Olga Arkhipova), and Ricky Ian Gordon and Michael Korie’s revised version of The Grapes of Wrath (Ma Joad).

It’s fascinating to be a part of the process of creating a new opera and a new character. It’s a huge honor to be the one to put my hallmark, as it were, on a role. I love the collaboration of discussing with composers and librettists how a certain line falls vocally. I can maybe suggest a change on a certain note or word to get the color I know they’re after. I get to discover a new character for the first time. It’s an exciting process!

The last time you performed this role, the opera was set in 1930s Germany. Will your performance change since this opera is more traditionally set?

A woman in a blue dress leans over a chaise to talk to a man with long dark hair
Katharine Goeldner as Dalilah with Virginia Opera
Photo: Ben Schill Photography

Of course, I come into a production with a strong idea of who my character is. When learning a role, I do a lot of research and reading. I listen and watch live recordings with famous singers and conductors of the past to get an idea of various tempi, colors, and interpretations. Then, I add my own stamp to it. But the final product really depends on the whole team. The director, conductor, chorus, soloist colleagues, and the costumes and wigs all help to inform and determine the character. The development of a character depends so much on the interplay among everyone on stage and in the pit! All that to say, I can’t really tell you how this performance will be different. It all depends on the whole team.

Congratulations on your Opera Colorado debut! What are you excited to do with your free time in Colorado?

A man and woman have their arms around each other's shoulders as they face the camera
Katharine Goeldner and Maestro Ari Pelto in Santa Fe, NM

I expect the rehearsal period to be pretty intense and I won’t have much time for “fun.” But I am looking forward to having a ton of friends and family come to the shows, including my first voice teacher, Jocelyn Reiter, who is the whole reason I have a career and live in Salzburg. I’m also really looking forward to working with Maestro Pelto again. This will be our third production together, after Salome and Aida. And to finally work with Stage Director Keturah Stickann again, after too many years! One of the best parts of this career is getting to work with old friends.

Now that you know more about Katharine Goeldner, are you ready to see her take on this iconic role?

Get tickets to Samson and Delilah for four performances only on May 4, 7, 10, and 12 at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House>>

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