Patricia Racette Interview
|It’s been 4 years since we last spoke to out Soprano Patricia Racette and she has been receiving acclaim all over the world from Milan’s La Scala to New York’s Met (where she was the “cover diva” for the Met’s Opera News Magazine devoted to Divas!).
Sit down with Kip Cranna of the SFOpera and Ms. Racette to find out what changes have transpired in her life—is there any glamour amidst all the hard work, rehearsal and travel? How do you shape an opera career by the roles you chose? How do she and her partner (opera singer Beth Clayton) carve out time together?
Acclaimed soprano Patricia Racette proudly traces the roots of her career to San Francisco Opera, where she participated in both the Merola and Adler Fellowship Programs. She made her main-stage Company debut in 1989 as Mistress Ford in student performances of Falstaff and celebrates her twentieth anniversary with San Francisco Opera this season. She has appeared in several leading roles with the Company, including the title roles of Luisa Miller and Jenúfa, Liù (Turandot), Desdemona (Otello), Violetta (La Traviata), Antonia (Les Contes d’Hoffmann), Mimì (La Bohème), Mathilde (Guillaume Tell), and Micaëla (Carmen). Most recently, she embodied her signature role of Cio-Cio San in the Company’s production of Madama Butterfly, a role she has sung at the Metropolitan Opera (in the celebrated Anthony Minghella production recently broadcast in HD to theaters across the globe), Chicago’s Ravinia Festival, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Los Angeles Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Munich’s Bavarian State Opera, and at Florence’s Maggio Musicale Festival. Racette takes on all three heroines of Puccini’s Il Trittico for the first time in this production.
A champion of new works, the soprano has created roles in several world premieres, the most recent of which was her portrayal of Leslie Crosbie in Paul Moravec’s The Letter for the Santa Fe Opera this past summer. Other creations include two works by Tobias Picker: the title role of Emmeline (televised for PBS from the Santa Fe Opera and recorded on Albany Records) and Roberta Alden in the Met’s production of An American Tragedy. She also created the role of Love Simpson in Carlisle Floyd’s Cold Sassy Tree (also recorded for Albany Records) for Houston Grand Opera. Recent engagements include Ellen Orford in the Met’s new production of Peter Grimes conducted by Donald Runnicles (available on DVD from the HD broadcast), her Chicago Symphony debut in an all-Dvořák program conducted by Mark Elder, Elisabetta (Don Carlos) under James Levine at both the Met and the Tanglewood Festival, the title role of Jenůfa with Washington National Opera, and a gala concert celebrating Plácido Domingo’s fortieth anniversary in Los Angeles, which was simulcast in HD nationwide.
Among Racette’s European credits are leading roles at La Scala, Covent Garden, Paris Opera, the Vienna State Opera, Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa, Bavarian State Opera, and the Maggio Musicale Festival. Upcoming highlights include her reprisal of Il Trittico’s three heroines for the Met, her first staged portrayal of the title role of Tosca for Houston Grand Opera, the title role of David Alden’s acclaimed production of Kát’a Kabanová for English National Opera, and her return to San Francisco Opera as Marguerite (Faust).
Dr. Clifford (Kip) Cranna is the Director of Music Administration at San Francisco Opera, where he has been on the administrative staff since 1979. In 2008 he received the San Francisco Opera Medal, his Company’s highest honor.
As Director of Musical Administration, he has overall responsibility for scheduling the San Francisco Opera’s seasons; he coordinates the work of the music staff, librarians, orchestra personnel, and backstage musical activity; he oversees rehearsal activities and schedules; he acts as liaison with conductors and directors regarding musical matters, participates in union negotiations, and coordinates the commissioning, co-commissioning, and development of new works. These have included the operas Harvey Milk (1996) by Stewart Wallace and Michael Korie, Gethsemane Park (1988) by Carman Moore and Ishmael Read, Dead Man Walking (2000) by Jake Heggie and Terence McNally, Doctor Atomic (2005) by John Adams and Peter Sellars, Appomattox (2007) by Philip Glass and Christopher Hampton, The Bonesetter’s Daughter, by Stewart Wallace and Amy Tan (2008), and the upcoming Moby Dick, also by Heggie and Scheer (2010. He also acts as staff musicologist and as editor-in-chief of the company’s “supertitles.”
Cranna has conducted a number of choral groups in the San Francisco Bay area. He has for many years been on the Board of Trustees of Chanticleer, a professional vocal ensemble, and is a member of the Artistic Advisory Board of the San Francisco Boys Chorus. He also serves on the board of Humanities West.
He is a frequent guest lecturer throughout Northern California in the field of music appreciation, and has presented programs for such diverse groups as the San Francisco Symphony, the Commonwealth Club of California, the Wagner Society, the Yung Institute, the Exploratorium, the National Opera Association, and the alumni groups of Stanford, Yale, and Columbia. He has written numerous articles on opera and teaches courses on opera and on career development business at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.