“An outstanding actress as well as a singer of extraordinary grace and finesse” (The New York Times), soprano Corinne Winters talks about self-care and favorite rep in our Artist of the Month interview. Corinne will return to NYFOS’s Mainstage series in García Lorca: Muse and Magician on April 24, 2019.
You are especially known for your performances of Violetta in La traviata, which you have sung in opera houses around the world. How do you keep the role fresh when you return to it? What are the particular challenges of singing such an iconic role, one that is so familiar even to casual fans of opera?
Creating Violetta is like peeling back the layers of an onion. Each production reveals something new, whether it be through my own growth and experience, or through the interpretations of each cast and team. Daring to be flexible in my interpretation keeps the role fresh. There’s nothing worse than seeing a stock performance, especially when it comes to iconic roles more prone to cliché. While I have a deep reverence for the great interpreters of the past, the biggest challenge of performing Violetta is trusting my own interpretation. When I’m working from an authentic place, the vocal and dramatic challenges tend to sort themselves out.
Like many singers, you are very thoughtful about how you take care of your body. What elements of your routine do you feel contribute the most to your health and stamina as a singer?
Sleep is my number one self-care practice. I insist on my eight hours—no exceptions! When I’m rested, everything else is flexible. I eat a mostly vegan diet, which keeps me feeling light and energetic, and I move my body daily. I don’t subscribe to any particular exercise regimen, but my favorites are long walks and yoga. I meditate most days, but any activity that gets me off my devices and into the present moment works. I also vocalize at least five days a week, which, for me, is necessary. The vocal folds are muscles, and like any type of physical training, they need to be in shape before any art can happen.
You’ll be appearing with NYFOS in April 2019 in García Lorca: Muse and Magician, continuing your streak of singing primarily Spanish music with NYFOS. What is it about this repertoire that suits you so well as a performer?
Steve Blier introduced me to this repertoire and I’ve been in love ever since. Romance languages come naturally to me and fit well with my vocal aesthetic. Spanish music, in particular, has a certain uninhibited passion that makes me feel totally alive. I’m lucky to revisit Spanish repertoire twice this season, with NYFOS and the Tucson Desert Song Festival.
You work as a mentor with the organization Turn the Spotlight. What brought you to that organization and what do you tend to focus on with your mentees?
My publicist Beth Stewart is the founder of Turn the Spotlight, and when she shared her vision with me, I was so inspired that I immediately signed on as a mentor. Our mission is to “identify, nurture, and empower leaders—and in turn, to illuminate the path to a more equitable future in the arts.” Turn the Spotlight embodies its mission from the ground up through its mentorship program, which is by and for women, people of color, and other marginalized groups in the arts who are interested in service and social justice. My mentee, soprano Anush Avetisyan, is creating opportunities to perform music from her Armenian heritage. I’m honored to support her in building her career while she simultaneously uses her art to connect with immigrant communities.
When you aren’t making music, what is your favorite way to spend your time?
Doing anything simple and grounding! Reading in coffeeshops, watching Netflix with my husband, connecting with loved ones, cooking, and exploring cities by foot are some of my favorite pastimes.
NYFOS is devoted to ‘song’ and the wide variety of styles that term encompasses. What is special about ‘song’ to you? Is there anything about this particular form that is significant to you?
Unlike opera, which is almost always set to a narrative libretto, song is poetic. I love the challenge of coloring the poetry and using my voice in a delicate, spoken way. In opera, I’m often unable to use extreme colors because of the limitations of a large acoustic. The intimate nature of song brings out the subtlety in my artistry and allows me to connect on a more personal level with the audience.
What is your favorite song? (Qualify your answer to this possibly impossible question as needed.)
My favorite art songs are “Beim Schlafengehen” by Richard Strauss, “Le Spectre de la rose” by Berlioz, and “Maig” by Eduard Toldrà, which is featured on my album with Steve Blier, Canción Amorosa. I also love the songs of Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Rachmaninoff. The Russian repertoire speaks to my soul! My taste in pop music has changed a lot over the years, but songs by The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, and Amy Winehouse consistently rank among my faves.