Lyric Opera of Chicago

Q&A with soprano Ana María Martínez

Can you tell us about your relationship with Daniel Catán?

Daniel was always a bright light. He could fill the room with his most positive energy. He was my friend; to sing his music, and in particular, to be in the texture of Florencia en el Amazonas, is to feel his presence. It is a true gift.

How do you feel about Catán’s music and the music of Florencia en el Amazonas?

Like all brilliant composers, Daniel had his own musical language. In the case of Florencia, the entire score is a salute to the literary genre of magical realism; his score is the first time I have ever experienced what it feels like to hear magical realism. The genre and concept are very much Latin American, and those of us who are from this culture embrace that lens. Daniel did so with great imagination and beauty.

You have sung two roles in Florencia en el Amazonas: Rosalba and Florencia. What has it been like to sing two different roles in the same opera?

I think that in many ways, Rosalba and Florencia are two aspects of one woman. Florencia sees a lot of herself in the young Rosalba and in one scene, gives Rosalba sage life advice, much as if she were advising her younger self.

When Daniel Catán heard you sing Rosalba many years ago, he expressed his wish to have you take on the title role. You’ve shared that the role of Florencia is vocally challenging. Now that you’ve sung Florencia with Houston and Florida Grand Operas, has it become easier to perform over time?

Each role I have sung throughout my career has helped to establish a solid vocal-technical grounding, with several roles being the catalysts for growth and expansion. Once that vocal growth happens, it’s equivalent to going through a gateway to the “next level.” Once there, I can take on the vocal demands of a role that, prior to reaching that gateway, I may not have had the vocal tools to comfortably sing. Over time, and now singing the role of Florencia in my third production, the role feels much more in my body, like a gymnast performing a routine; the discipline, technique, repetition, and muscle memory is there.

This opera, and thankfully other works by Latin American composers, are now gaining greater exposure. What does that mean to you?

Opera is a gorgeous art form and the only one that unites all of the art forms. The fact that works by Latin American composers and opera in general are gaining greater exposure is wonderful! This solidifies the lasting power of genius, of classics, of beauty!

Do you have any favorite parts of this opera, be the music, words, or specific scenes?

I love every moment of this opera, every musical note, and every aspect of the story. Some of my favorite highlights are the quartet in Act l, Riolobo’s transformation, the duet in Act ll between Rosalba and Arcadio, and Florencia’s arias . . . each one is a gem of reflection and self-discovery. All the characters in this piece are in search of love, their true selves, and the deeper meaning of life.

Is there anything specific that you hope audiences will take away from seeing and hearing this piece?

I hope that our audiences will feel their own inner truth—that each one will see themselves represented in each character of this great work, and that they might embrace the power of love and remember that love truly is the source.

“Martínez has the type of down-to-earth and disarming personality that nearly belies her international opera diva status, and she’s totally unabashed about her love for Houston, where she’s lived since 2002.

Born in Puerto Rico and raised in New York City, Martínez arrived here in the mid ’90s as a Young Artist in the Houston Grand Opera studio, a platform that helped launch her now-monumental career. She later returned to play the role of Rosalba in HGO’s 2002 production of Daniel Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas. She knew then that Houston would become home base.”

“When you see her on stage, you feel that she is a true star: disciplined, impeccably prepared, professional in every sense of the word and thoroughly dedicated to each of her interpretations. But when I sat with her for this interview in a French café in Houston, I was pleasantly surprised to find a fun, human, warm, and vibrant woman with a contagious positive energy.”

The star of Lyric’s production of Dvorak’s Rusalka puts so much physicality and empathy into her portrayal, it’s as if Ana’s been left in the dressing room.

 

Soprano Ana María Martínez, who will sing the title role in Lyric’s 2013-14 production of Dvořák’s Rusalka, answers Lyric Opera dramaturg Roger Pines’s questions about the character.

Earlier this week, Grammy-winner Martínez spoke about her life, her career and her upcoming program of baroque works by George Frideric Handel and Henry Purcell.

Video: Jeffrey Brown talks to opera soprano Ana Maria Martinez about her work with the Houston Grand Opera.

Ana María Martínez remembers the struggle she went through to find — and commit to — her calling. Now she is becoming one of the world’s acclaimed operatic sopranos and, especially in the Spanish-language press, a star.

“Ten years ago this month, Martinez made her debut at Washington National Opera as Liu in Turandot. This week she returns to sing another Puccini heroine, Madama Butterfly, the love-struck geisha in 1904 Nagasaki who is seduced, then abandoned, by the U.S. naval lieutenant she marries. Martinez admits that playing Cio-Cio San is a challenge.”

“The vivacious Martínez has no problem expressing herself, whether in full operatic mode or simply posing for photos during our conversation… The very antithesis of a stereotypical diva, she’s known as one of the nicest singers in the business, generous to a fault toward colleagues. At the same time, she’s committed to searching out the musical and dramatic truth in every role she performs, and she’s realistic about what is required to be a long-distance runner in her field.”