Meet the Artists: The Italian Straw Hat’s Lisa Marie Rogali and Danielle Beckvermit
On Saturday, January 26, The Italian Straw Hat will take its ever first bow on the Ordway stage with two of our amazingly talented Resident Artists in leading roles. Soprano Lisa Marie Rogali sings Elena, the bride who’s big day is nearly ruined by the hilarious hunt for that elusive hat, and soprano Danielle Beckvermit takes on Anaide, the wandering wife whose special chapeau leads to all the trouble in the first place! Both recently sat down with us to talk about the show, what advice they’d give to other young singers, and the best part of being a MN Opera Resident Artist.
MNOp: Describe your character in three words?
Danielle Beckvermit: Dramatic, fickle, and sexy.
Lisa Marie Rogali: Passionate, devoted, virtuous.
MNOp: What are some of the joys and challenges of performing this role?
LMR: Elena has some of the most beautiful, lyrical moments within the show. However, for a comic opera, she isn’t much of a comedic role. As a young soprano, I often have to portray innocent, ingénue stock characters like these. For myself, I find it difficult to initially relate to these types of roles. It challenges me to dig deeper and find truth within the character to motivate my actions. My goal is always storytelling. I aim to make Elena as believable and engaging as I can for the audience.
DB: I love having the opportunity to be over the top and use my voice in different ways to express Anaide. That being said the joys and the challenges are the same for this show! It’s difficult sometimes to get out of my comfort zone and to not sing every note beautifully, but at the same time it’s quite liberating!
MNOp: What about this opera do you think will resonate most with audiences?
LMR: The humor and film-like atmosphere is very prominent in this opera. Being a prolific composer of cinema, Rota combines a variety of sounds and styles into The Italian Straw Hat. It’s unique in that sense; I’d say it’s a hidden gem. Since it’s not frequently performed in the US, I feel like the audience is in for a once in a lifetime experience!
DB: I think this opera is pure joy and laughter. If I had to describe this opera in one word it would be EXTRA!
MNOp: When did you first fall in love with opera?
DB: I first fell in love with opera during my undergraduate studies. I never really liked opera, but that’s because I didn’t actually understand what it was. I was originally in college to study music education, but quickly switched to performance after my first opera chorus experience.
LMR: I first fell in love with opera during my undergraduate years at Penn State. Although I was pursuing a Music Education degree, my voice teacher encouraged me to audition for the opera productions. My first major role was Blanche de la Force in Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites. Although I had performed a variety of musical theatre and choral works prior, I had never had such a visceral, intense experience on the stage before. I was so enamored by the character’s vulnerability and powerful vocal lines throughout the opera. This production truly opened the doors for me into the operatic world and the idea of performing as a career.
MNOp: What’s the strangest or most surprising thing that has happened to you during a performance?
LMR: I’ve luckily not had any crazy mishaps occur to me during a performance thus far. (Fingers crossed!) However, one of the strangest things I’ve had to do on stage was during a performance of the musical Gypsy. If you aren’t familiar with the show, Gypsy Rose Lee was an American burlesque entertainer in the 1930s. Performing a burlesque act towards the end of the show definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone!
DB: I was singing Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni with The Hawaii Performing Arts Festival. We did this production on scaffolding (and in heels), but I had no mishaps until my one and only performance. I was working my way down the scaffolding and jumped off at what I thought was the last rung, but I actually jumped from 4 feet in the air. I was trying to regain my balance for what felt like an eternity. I backed up into the scrim, it was silent and all eyes were on me. The conductor was waiting for my entrance into the next recitative and I somehow didn’t fall over, and the show went on without a hitch. This felt like a solid five minutes, but in actuality probably happened in about 10 seconds.
MNOp: What advice would you give to a young singer starting their career?
DB: Always stay true to yourself. The more you try to please everyone the easier it becomes to lose yourself in the process. At the end of the day, what is most important is that you are YOU and that you tell a story with your instrument! You have so many beautiful things to say with and believe me, the audience wants to hear it!
LMR: Yes, always sing YOUR truth. Every singer has their own unique artistry to bring to the table. Find your strengths, use them to your advantage and people will notice. Don’t try and please every person you encounter. You will drive yourself insane! Everyone’s opinion is subjective. Accept advice, work hard, but don’t take everything so personally.
MNOp: What is the best part of being a MN Opera Resident Artist?
LMR: I’d say my favorite part of being a Resident Artist is knowing that MN Opera truly cares about our individual growth as artists. They challenge us in the best ways possible. It’s comforting to be able to try new things as we continue to grow and develop through coachings and stage experience.
DB: So many things! Mostly having actual stage experience, receiving the absolute best guidance from the staff, and the amazing sense of community. MN Opera is a very special place.
Don’t miss it when The Italian Straw Hat trots across the Ordway stage for 5 performances, January 26-February 3. Get your tickets today at mnopera.org/straw-hat.