Q&A with Bianca Andrew
Born in Wellington, mezzo-soprano Bianca Andrew is currently a member of the Opernstudio with Oper Frankfurt. She's is known for her engaging and creative performances both in operatic and recital repertoire.
Bianca joins contemporary music ensemble, STROMA in The Rest is Noise: An exploration of the history of chamber music in the 20th Century, with author and animateur Alex Ross.
Can you tell us a little about the differences between being part of an opera and recital singing as in this tour?
The majority of my recital experience has been singing alongside a pianist, which makes for a very intimate performance between two musicians. This is obviously quite different to performing in an opera, where you also add an enormous stage, a set, an orchestra and conductor, stage management, lighting, a chorus, several solo singers and sometimes also actors, dancers, children and animals (Thomas Adès’ new opera The Exterminating Angel requires several live sheep on stage)!
However, there isn’t too much difference between doing an opera and a recital tour such as this one – we will all be focused on presenting the work of each composer as accurately as possible, and we will be relying on our conductor, Hamish KcKeich, to guide us through the music as a team. We won’t have a set or costumes (or any animals!) but our repertoire is extremely varied and will require us to listen carefully to one another, and focus on what each piece is communicating to its listeners. As we are a small team, we will all be able to share our ideas and work closely to bring this music to life for our audiences.
As a mezzo-soprano you must often take the “trouser” roles – what is that like?
I really enjoy playing male characters on stage. I think we are all made up of our own individual mix of masculine and feminine energies, so when I’m playing a man I get to embrace my masculinity a bit more than in my everyday life. I notice that I use my body differently as a guy – the angle of my shoulders changes, my stance, and my centre of gravity.
Back to this tour - what are you most looking forward to?
I read The Rest is Noise when I was studying at the New Zealand School of Music, and it opened up a world of repertoire to me as a young singer. It will therefore be an enormous privilege to work with Alex Ross on this tour, and to deepen my own understanding of this music as we present our concerts across the country. I’m also pretty stoked to be coming home to New Zealand – my homesickness hasn’t gotten any better in the three years that I’ve been living overseas!
Usually, I work with a pianist or with a full orchestra at the opera house – I don’t often have the opportunity to perform with a chamber ensemble. I am looking forward to this a great deal, because there are certain tonal qualities and sound worlds that you can find within a chamber group that you just don’t hear in a larger ensemble. The repertoire we are presenting is particularly varied and really pushes the boundaries of the sounds you can create – especially with the human voice.