Month: February 2016

Ten Questions with Heather Johnson

Ten Questions With…

Heather Johnson, mezzo
Jo iLittle Women

1.  Where were you born / raised? 
I was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota and raised in White Bear Lake, Minnesota.  Go Bears!

2.  If you weren’t a singer, what profession would you be in?
Gosh, this is difficult, because I have several different interests, but probably at the top of the list would be a teacher.  I have done a tremendous amount of teaching artist work throughout my career and really miss working with kids.  They truly are my favorite audience.  I also happen to be the daughter of two music educators!

3.  The first opera I was ever in was…
Le Nozze di Figaro at St. Olaf College (I’m an Ole).

4.  My favorite opera is…
…oooh, that’s a toughy!  I never get sick of Madama Butterfly or Carmen (two of my favorite roles to sing are Suzuki and Carmen).  But two of my favorite productions that I’ve been a part of are The Long Walk, a world premiere I did this summer at Opera Saratoga, and Lizzie Borden at Boston Lyric Opera.  The Long Walk was thrilling, as I was part of the birth of an opera, so to speak…  I love working with living composers.  It didn’t hurt that the role was written specifically for me, which is such a luxury!  Lizzie Borden was one of the most difficult pieces I’ve done both dramatically and musically (next to Jo, that is), but boy was it rewarding and fun to play a crazy lady.….

5.  My favorite pre/post-show meal is…
Pre:  Something bland.  Let’s just say I don’t want to be reminded of what I ate while on stage.
Post:  Glass of wine… or two… or possibly even a Manhattan and a burger.


6.  People would be surprised to know that…
1.  I was basically asked to stop playing in 8th grade band because I was so terrible at the oboe.  In my defense, I was already studying piano and violin, so it was my third instrument.  I sounded like a sick duck!
2.  Even though I’ve lived in New York for almost 20 years, I’ll always be a Minnesota girl at heart.
3.  My Norwegian is pretty darn good.
4.  I fulfilled a dream of mine three years ago and was on A Prairie Home Companion.
5.  I have a nearly 2-year-old son.

7.  My favorite book to read growing up was…
Charlotte’s Web and The Pet of the Met.

8.  If we were to turn on your ipod right now, what five artists / songs would we see on you recently-played list?
1.  LITTLE WOMEN!
2.  Pharrell Williams – Happy
3.  Anne Sofie von Otter singing the “Laudamus Te” from Mozart’s Mass in C minor.  My son loves to dance and “sing” along!
4.  Swedish children’s songs.
5.  The study midi for Mark Adamo’s Becoming Santa Claus, which I just finished in Dallas.

9.  What is the worst costume you’ve ever worn?
Hands down the worst costume I’ve ever worn was as the Page in Salome.  Uff-da, it was not flattering!  A close second was as a Flower Maiden in Parsifal at the Met.  While it was an incredible production of which I’m so proud to have been a part, I didn’t love the white nightie I had to wear.

10.  Everyone should see Little Women because….
It is a beautiful, human story.  We can all relate to wanting to hold onto the past and resist change, and yet know that we must let go and move on.  It speaks to the richness of family and sisterhood in such a touching way.  It has quickly become a classic in the canon of American opera.


Don’t miss the chance to see Heather in Little Women, as this beloved American classic comes to vivid musical life!  Performances are February 5 and 7 in the Capitol Theater.  Tickets start at $25; visit madisonopera.org for more information.

Ten Questions with Laura Muller

Ten Questions With…

Laura Muller, mezzo-soprano
QuartetLittle Women

1.  Where were you born / raised? 
Cuba City, Wisconsin.

2.  If you weren’t a singer, what profession would you be in?
If being a singer in a rock band still counts, then I’d do that.  If I can’t sing at all, then I’d be an astronaut (seriously).

3.  The first opera I was ever in was…
I played the role of the Secretary in Menotti’s The Consul my freshman year of college.  Definitely a memorable experience.

4.  My favorite opera is…
The ones that are the darkest and most disturbing.  Salome is a good one – it doesn’t get much better than a chick making out with a dead dude’s severed head.

5.  My favorite pre/post-show meal is…
My favorite pre-show meal is ice cream.  My favorite post-show meal is ice cream.  Always ice cream.

6.  People would be surprised to know that…
I will be a licensed massage therapist in May 2016.

7.  My favorite book to read growing up was…
Polgara the Sorceress by David and Leigh Eddings.  Yes, I was / am a fantasy geek.

8.  If we were to turn on your ipod right now, what five artists / songs would we see on you recently-played list?
Quiet Dog – Mos Def; Could I Be – Sylvan Esso; Ideal Husband – Father John Misty; Sister – She Wants Revenge; Suck My Kiss – Red Hot Chili Peppers.

9.  What is the worst costume you’ve ever worn?
Probably the itchy, bright-orange 70s-era polyester shift dress I had to wear for a production of Gianni Schicchi.  I think my whole body broke out in a rash.

10.  Everyone should see Little Women because….
It tells a wonderful story that is near and dear to my heart.  (Jo March was totally my idol as a kid.)

Bonus:  One question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer):
Q:  Wanna go to a dance party?
A:  Heck yeah.

Don’t miss the chance to see Laura in Little Women, as this beloved American classic comes to vivid musical life!  Performances are February 5 and 7 in the Capitol Theater.  Tickets start at $25; visit madisonopera.org for more information.

Ten Questions with Eric Neuville

Ten Questions With…

Eric Neuville, tenor
Laurie iLittle Women



1.  Where were you born / raised? 
Born and raised in Waupaca, Wisconsin.

2.  If you weren’t a singer, what profession would you be in?
Although it’s not too far a departure, I’d love to be a music history professor.  I have always loved and appreciated the music I knew the most about, so naturally, my studies in music history have expanded the boundaries of the music I love.

3.  The first opera I was ever in was…
A student-composed opera at St. Olaf College called The Binding of Isaac by Matthew Peterson.  The work went on to win the National Opera Association Chamber Opera Competition.  It was a fun introduction to the operatic stage.

4.  My favorite opera is…
Billy Budd by Benjamin Britten.

5.  My favorite pre/post-show meal is…
Oatmeal.

6.  People would be surprised to know that…
I am a published author.  I wrote a book on the English World War I-era song composer Ivor Gurney.  I combed through his many unpublished song manuscripts in the Gloucestershire Archives and went on to edit and record the ones I liked.  It was a fun project.  

7.  My favorite book to read growing up was…
Jurassic Park.

8.  If we were to turn on your ipod right now, what five artists / songs would we see on you recently-played list?
Kings of Convenience – The Weight of my Words
Fritz Wunderlich – Live on Stage (Deutsche Grammophon)
Gerald Finzi – Till Earth Outwears (John Mark Ainsley, tenor)
Conspirare – The Poet Sings:  Pablo Neruda
The Beatles – Magical Mystery Tour

9.  What is the worst costume you’ve ever worn?  Or if no such costume, what was the best costume?
For me, a costume is only as good as it is comfortable.  So… without question the worst was the hipster ultra-skinny jean-wearing Harlekin in Ariadne auf Naxos.  The best… was definitely the Zandra Rhodes-designed Magic Flute which was basically a pair of linen pajamas!

10.  Everyone should see Little Women because….
No matter how well you know the story, the musical lens through which Mark Adamo realizes this tale offers a million unique facets.  His writing is brilliant in the truest sense of the word.

Bonus:  One question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer):
Q:  What got you started in music?
A:  My Grandma is prodigiously gifted on the piano, particularly at realizing songs without music.  She has fantastic ears and used to play for us all the times as kids.  My first real venture into singing, however, came thanks to my high school choir teacher, Dan Wolfgram.  He too was prodigiously gifted at getting his young students excited about singing.  I credit my career in music most directly to his initial encouragement and the opportunities he provided me as a young singer. 

Don’t miss the chance to see Eric in Little Women, as this beloved American classic comes to vivid musical life!  Performances are February 5 and 7 in the Capitol Theater.  Tickets start at $25; visit madisonopera.org for more information.

Ten Questions with Brenda Harris

Ten Questions With…

Brenda Harris, soprano
Aunt Cecilia iLittle Women




1.  Where were you born / raised? 
I was born in Highland, Illinois, about 20 miles from where I was raised, which is a town called New Douglas, Illinois, which boasts a population of 400.  Yes, 400.  Now, my husband claims that’s a lie as he’s never seen anything close to 400 people there and thinks the census bureau must have been counting livestock.

2.  If you weren’t a singer, what profession would you be in?
I’d probably be a realtor or a home stager.  LOVE all that stuff!

3.  The first opera I was ever in was…
Menotti’s Help, Help, the Globolinks!  ….Not making this up!

4.  My favorite opera is…
The one I’m currently singing.  ALWAYS.  I love my repertoire and am madly passionate about almost everything I sing!

5.  My favorite pre/post-show meal is…
Pre:  Usually pasta.
Post:  Anything that goes with beer!

6.  People would be surprised to know that…
Between family and friends, I have probably over a dozen nicknames.

7.  My favorite book to read growing up was…
Black Beauty or The Wizard of Oz; hard to decide.

8.  If we were to turn on your ipod right now, what five artists / songs would we see on you recently-played list?
Ella Fitzgerald, Ottmar Liebert, Jacqueline du Pré, Taylor Swift, and Patsy Cline.

9.  What is the worst costume you’ve ever worn?  Or if no such costume, what was the best costume?
I sang Rosina in The Barber of Seville exactly once in my life with a rag tag company and my costume didn’t actually meet in the bodice in the back!  The best costume?  WAY too many to mention!

10.  Everyone should see Little Women because….
It‘s a classic.

Bonus:  One question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer):
Q:  Do you feel lucky?
A:  Beyond belief!!! 


Don’t miss the chance to see Brenda in Little Women, as this beloved American classic comes to vivid musical life!  Performances are February 5 and 7 in the Capitol Theater.  Tickets start at $25; visit madisonopera.org for more information.

Ten Questions with Craig Verm

Ten Questions With…

Craig Verm, baritone
Friedrich BhaerLittle Women

1.  Where were you born / raised? 
Born / raised in Houston, but I’ve been living in Pittsburgh for 11 years.

2.  If you weren’t a singer, what profession would you be in?
Mountain / adventure / hunting / biking / skiing / rock-climbing guide.

3.  The first opera I was ever in was…
The Consul by Menotti.

4.  My favorite opera is…
The Marriage of Figaro.

5.  My favorite pre/post-show meal is…
I’m not picky.  Anything that will fill me up and give me energy.  I hate performing hungry.  I also usually keep a crisp and tangy apple on either side of backstage to fight off dry mouth and keep some sugar in my system.

6.  People would be surprised to know that…
My eyes are different colors.  Some people notice right away, others never notice.

7.  My favorite book to read growing up was…
Where the Red Fern Grows.

8.  If we were to turn on your ipod right now, what five artists / songs would we see on you recently-played list?
Currently Sufjan Stevens, Chris Tomlin, Jars of Clay, U2, and always several recordings of the upcoming operas I’m working on.  I’m a classical, NPR, and sometimes 80s/90s rock kinda guy.

9.  What is the worst costume you’ve ever worn?
My father-in-law has never been a big fan opera, but he’s been a pretty good sport about it.  A few months after I married his daughter Karen in 2004, I was in an old, dusty production of Faust.  My costume consisted of pea-green corduroy tights and a tunic that didn’t cover the tights below my waist.  (Everyone else’s tunics came down mid-thigh).  In addition to some unfortunate comments I received from the chorus, my poor father-in-law became quite suspicious of his daughter’s choice of a husband.  Not a great first impression of opera for him, and mostly because of a hideous and embarrassing costume.

10.  Everyone should see Little Women because….
I’ve been fortunate to perform several operas that use American literature as the source material (Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, Elmer Gantry, Our Town, Everest [from Into Thin Air], and Angels in America), and there are many more I haven’t had the chance to do yet (check out usopera.com!).  I have found that modern operas that draw upon famous novels and plays often prove to be very popular with audiences.  Little Women is no different.  Movie versions of books are nice and all, but I feel that opera can be an even more impressive and moving format.  Live theater is always more intimate, heightened, passionate – add to that the orchestra and powerful, fully acoustic singing?  There’s not much that’s more emotionally powerful and cathartic than that in my opinion.  (And it’s in English!!!)


Don’t miss the chance to see Craig in Little Women, as this beloved American classic comes to vivid musical life!  Performances are February 5 and 7 in the Capitol Theater.  Tickets start at $25; visit madisonopera.org for more information.