Alexandra Razskazoff, Cadie J. Bryan, and Gretchen Krupp on Wagner debuts, TAO debuts, and epic, highly choreographed fan-work
by Jennie Moser
Photo / The Atlanta Opera
The buzz for tonight’s opening of Das Rheingold at The Atlanta Opera has been palpable for the last few weeks. It brings debuts for all three of the cast’s Rhinemaidens: soprano Alexandra Razskazoff makes her house debut as Wellgunde, alongside soprano Cadie J. Bryan (Woglinde) and mezzo-soprano Gretchen Krupp (Flosshilde), who both make their Wagner debuts with this production.
Singing Wagner is a significant undertaking at any point during a singer’s career (not to mention a significant undertaking for any company, cast, and orchestra to mount), which made me curious to hear about the experience the Rhinemaidens were having with so many seminal career moments taking place for all.
I checked in this week with Gretchen, Cadie, and Alexandra to hear firsthand about their experience with Tomer Zvulun’s production of Das Rheingold in a cast of all-star Wagner veterans led by Arthur Fagen on the podium.
Jennie Moser: What’s your experience so far with Wagner? Can you share a bit more about this production?
Alexandra Razskazoff: This will be my third time performing the role of Wellgunde in Das Rheingold (previously with Minnesota Opera in 2016 and Academy of Vocal Arts in 2017) [and] my house debut with The Atlanta Opera in Tomer Zvulun’s production, among an all-star lineup of Wagner veterans!
Cadie J. Bryan: This is my very first Wagner opera, and it feels like the perfect intro into the world of Wagner as it's the intro opera to the Ring Cycle. This production is epic in its imagery: traditional elements are met with a modern-world take on the thematic human ideals which are revealed through a giant LED wall and fantastic projection designs, a perfect match for the likewise epic score.
Gretchen Krupp: This production of Das Rheingold marks my Wagnerian debut! But I’ve been looking forward to singing this repertoire since I was a teenager. It feels like the perfect piece to start my Wagnerian journey, while at the same time, apropos to complete my time as a Studio artist with Atlanta Opera.
Jennie: What has been unique about this process?
Alexandra: This is the first time in my history of performing this role where some highly-choreographed fan work is implemented. We dance, leap and sprint around the set carrying folding fans with long pieces of silk chiffon fabric attached. We’ve been told it looks EPIC from the house, which is very exciting!!
Cadie: As Rhinemaidens, we don't have a ton of facetime with our other cast-mates. The plus there is that once our scene is finished, we get to sit back and listen to them SLAY until our final ensemble from the pit. It's my first time to sing anything from the pit, and there's something pretty incredible about singing right next to five or six basses and harps!
Gretchen: I’ve never been a part of a cast with so many veteran singers. I feel like I am constantly absorbing knowledge from our older cast mates. It’s such an honor to be in the room with them.
Jennie: What has it been like working so closely as a trio?
Alexandra: The three of us clicked immediately, which has made the experience even more gratifying! We’re all moving together like a well oiled machine.
Cadie: I've had the most amazing time working with Gretchen and Alex! We each bring something different to our characters, and we've developed a very sisterly relationship and language with one another. I feel so much support from them throughout.
Gretchen: It has been a blast exploring our dynamic as sisters. The vocal writing is difficult for all three parts, so it requires us all to stay accountable. It’s so fulfilling to be a part of this fantastic trio.
Jennie: Tell me a little bit about the orchestra; how would you describe singing with this particular sound, size, and color coming from the pit?
Alexandra: The common misconception is that Wagner’s orchestration is notoriously difficult to sing over...however, Wagner was masterful at balancing textures. I’ve never felt like I’m fighting to be heard and am always riding a separate wave of thrilling vocal writing above the rich color and sound down below.
Cadie: The size of this orchestra was initially intimidating, but it's not a giant wall of bombastic sound the entire time. It's a machine with a lot of moving parts, but they complement one another and support each voice according to its character and color. There are moments that are absolutely striking in their soft simplicity and beauty. Voices are a part of the texture, so it's more about finding your lane and staying in it rather than trying to sing "over" it. It's written so genius-ly that my approach hasn't been very different from that of singing with any other orchestra.
Gretchen: The score is so incredibly lush and vibrant. There is a strong sense of depth and support coming from the orchestra pit that I do not ordinarily feel. Everyone seems excited to be a part of this production, resulting in an undeniable electricity radiating throughout the house.