Marcellina, the role mezzo soprano Apprentice Artist Lindsay Kate Brown is taking over for the last two performances of “Marriage of Figaro” at Santa Fe Opera this summer, was also her first role in opera ten years ago. She was 19, hoping to get into the Music Performance program at Mansfield University after being turned down once. As a Music Education major, she had been assigned a voice teacher. He asked her, after the first lesson, “have you ever considered singing opera?”
“I had never really paid attention to opera. I was in third grade choir, then in the band and a few musicals in high school. I wanted to be a choral director.” Her new voice teacher sent her to the library to listen to CD’s. “I fell in love with it.” She also had no idea that a big voice was hiding inside her. “I was a quiet kid. I always wanted to be part of the crowd. I was afraid to let myself stand out. In college, I learned how to use the whole of my voice.”
That voice has been attracting attention. She has been signed by an agent, has a slick website and a lengthy, interesting resume, including opera roles, concert performances, and song recitals. She was a 2020 Grand Finalist in the Metropolitan National Opera Council Auditions, where she performed arias from Bellini’s “Norma” and “The Maid of Orleans,” by Tchaikovsky, with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra . She just finished a three-year Studio Artist contract at Houston Grand Opera. Last winter, she performed in HGO’s digital season as Gertrude in Humperdinck’s “Hansel and Gretel.” In 2019 she was a Filene Artist at Wolf Trap Opera where she performed as the Composer in Strauss’ “Ariadne auf Naxos.”
A problem with being 29 and having a huge instrument is that big voices take longer to develop. Brown said that colleagues In the Houston program with “smaller, nimble voices” have already gone on to achieve success as professionals. Patience, she admits, can be a bit of a struggle for her to. “Every voice takes its own time,” she said. “My teacher keeps telling me, ‘you need more birthdays.’ In 5-7 years they will tell me I’m not a child anymore.” She hopes to be ready for Wagner by 35.
“Fun fact. I’m not a huge fan of Mozart. He didn’t write a ton of music for me. I love Bel Canto, Wagner, Verdi. But my love of Mozart has grown because of this production.” Marcellina is (unknowingly) Figaro’s mother in the “Marriage of Figaro.” At 29, Brown is playing a role for a woman at least a decade older. “I asked the director (Laurent Pelly) if I could put a younger spin on the part. I want to play up her vivacious, sly aspects. This is an older woman who has spent her whole life climbing to the top. She has succeeded in some ways, but she’s not there yet. She is trying to manipulate Figaro to marry her in order to get higher status. Then she learns she is his mother.”
If Brown finds Marcellina’s character a bit uptight, her other role this summer, Hippolyta in Benjamin Britten’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream, ” is night-and-day, the opposite. “She’s a super hero–so cool! She’s the Queen of the Amazons–a powerful, badass woman.” “Marcellina is calculating. Hippolyta says, ‘I am here. This is who I am.’” Brown had just seen mock-ups of her costume for “Midsummer” and was excited. “It’s a full wedding gown with power shoulder pads, a train and a veil.” “Hippolyta doesn’t appear until Act IV, but when she does, she takes up the stage.”
Musically, the Britten score in “Midsummer” is challenging. “It’s scarey,” she said. “I’ve never sung Britten before. He is very particular, not straightforward. You have to be secure in every little thing, like chord analysis. You have to know what everyone else is singing.”
After her Apprentice summer in Santa Fe, the plan is for Brown to head to Europe to audition for State-Sponsored opera houses in Germany and Austria. “They have what they call Fest Contracts. You work with one house and sing a bunch of roles, maybe 14 in one year. They do 60 shows a season. Most of the local singers know the shows already, but as a newbie you may have a week to rehearse. I’m looking for the stability of that situation, and the opportunity to make my way into the Big Kid Rep.”