Sunday, May 29, 2022

Carrie Hennessey in Conversation with Christian Baldini

On June 4, 2022 I will share the stage with soprano Carrie Hennessey, who has been a frequent collaborator of mine. She will sing arias by Verdi and Dvorak, and duets by Offenbach and Delibes with mezzo-soprano Sarah Fitch. All of this will be with the Camellia Symphony Orchestra in a program that includes Holst's masterpiece The Planets

Christian Baldini: Dear Carrie, I am always delighted to work with you and to share your amazing voice and musicality with our audience here in Sacramento. This time we get to do a couple of duets with you and Sarah Fitch, as well as two wonderful arias by Verdi, and one by Dvorak. Tell me, what is special to you about this program, these pieces, this collaboration?

Carrie Hennessey: Well, two of the arias are ones that I performed and advanced in the Metropolitan Opera Auditions, Merce dilette amiche and Rusalka's Song to the Moon. The Dvorak holds a special place in my heart.  I am currently in the process of writing a one woman show about my singing life, the devastating 12 years away from singing and the coming back to it. This aria has its own tender scene in the show retelling the other worldly experience of my very first Met Audition. I also, of course, love singing with my dear friend Sarah Fitch, so the two duets will have me smiling from the inside out!

CB: How were your beginnings with opera? How did it all start for you?

CH: Growing up in MN, we were exposed really early on to choral, symphonic music and opera. My mother accompanied many local choirs and as a small child I was already memorizing all the parts! In high school I sang in the choirs, the musicals, solo competitions, and one year a famous conductor from the MN Bach Society came to our school to coach our school choir. My choir teacher had me sing a little Italian aria for him and he decided I should work on Handel’s “Let the Bright Seraphim” for the next competition. He accompanied me, brought in a professional trumpet player, and needless to say helped me develop some rather flashy ornamentation! The more I learned about opera, I loved the playful, collaborative nature of it all and the depth of the storytelling that was possible. 

CB: Why do you think opera is relevant nowadays? What would you like to convey to people in the audience with your wonderful artistry?

CH: Opera, by its nature, conveys deep emotional content. It’s larger than life and can truly house the tremendously big  emotions we all feel. Opera allows for the force of these emotions to move through us in a way that everyday life doesn’t allow. The release is visceral. The depth and breadth of storytelling in this tradition is vast and needed, especially now. My intent is always to connect first to the text and music, to find the universal truth and to take risks vocally and dramatically in order to serve it as best as I can. I intend to be the vessel for our communal, musical experience that we have been lacking during the pandemic. To feel the shared vibrations in these concert halls is a moving way to connect as humans. 

CB: Do you have any advice for young singers who are starting out? What are some helpful considerations? How does one deal with frustrations, failure, and hard decisions? (we have all gone through those!)

CH: Oh my goodness, do I! Seek advice and support from those who are doing the work, those you admire. Communicate clearly with mentors and teachers when things are getting frustrating and you find your needs are shifting. Only YOU know the kind of career you want, the only path is yours. Seek teachers who encourage you to look outside their studio, to be curious, to have questions. Don’t be afraid to ask, even if it seems like a risk. Artists want to support one another, and often we forget that.  I left singing for over 12 years because I didn’t have the tools to communicate as clearly as I needed, so I am a huge advocate in teaching my young vocal students to truly advocate for what they need, even if they think that the powers that be might shut them down, embarrass them or never hire them again. It is still so important to communicate needs so that we can be vulnerable in this rehearsal and performing space.

CB: Thank you so much Carrie. I very much look forward to our upcoming performance. I know that people will be in for a treat, as is always the case with you!

CH: Thank you, Christian! This will be a full and satisfying program indeed!

Carrie Hennessey - Photo by @cymberella

Known for her soaring voice and richly nuanced characters, soprano Carrie Hennessey is consistently thrilling audiences and critics in opera and concert appearances around the world. As Kát’á in Kát’á Kabanová,  “in a vivid star turn in the title role...brought a wondrous blend of silvery tone and sinuous phrasing to her assignment...Hennessey’s performance touched perfectly on Katya’s anxiety, joys and uncertainty, all through a surge of Puccinian lyricism.”- Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle


The 2022/2023 season kicks off with Opera and Interstellar Voices with the Camellia Symphony, the Brahms’ Requiem and Happy Birthday, USA! with the Music in the Mountains Chorus and Orchestra, and appearances with the Bear Valley Music Festival and the Auburn Symphony.


Recent engagements include the title role in Kát’á Kabanová by Leoš Janáček and her illuminating the comic, awkward, and vulnerable Rose in At the Statue of Venus accompanied on piano by composer Jake Heggie. Ms. Hennessey performed the  inaugural season of the Capitol Public Radio Garden Concert Series, as soloist of operatic arias with the Cleveland Philharmonic, the world premiere of Bones of Girls by librettist, Cristina Fríes and composer, Ryan Suleiman, with The Rogue Music Project. And Yet She Persisted” is a visceral and heartfelt recital with long time collaborator Jennifer Reason of all female composers. Debuting as Estelle in a sold out run of an immersive production in the opera The Stronger was a highlight in the Sacramento restaurant Magpie.  Song of Sacramento , a benefit that also amplified the voices of local composers.


Notable opera highlights include Blanche Du Bois in A Streetcar Named Desire, Sarah Miles in the Bay Area premiere of Jake Heggie’s The End of the Affair and Elle in La Voix Humaine in NYC. Concert highlights include Strauss’ Vier Letzte Liedercollaborating in the development and performance of a world premiere ballet “On the Rocks, Please!”, “Bernstein 100” with the Colorado Symphony, Britten’s War Requiem, Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 as well as debuts at the Concertgebouw in Bruges, in Ypres, Belgium and at the Liederhalle in Stuttgart, Germany singing the soprano solo in the Verdi Requiem. Alongside the world-renowned composer Ricky Ian Gordon in the fall of 2016, Ms. Hennessey gave Master Classes and performed a recital of his original art songs. 


Hennessey has also performed with the Houston Symphony, at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Budapest, Reduta Hall in Bratislava, Rudolfinum Hall in Prague, and at the International Mahler Festival in the Czech Republic.


Ms. Hennessey continues to actively support music education through lectures, workshops and Master Classes in the communities in which she works, as well as nurturing a thriving private vocal studio. She is currently in the process of writing a one woman show about her early life in singing, walking away from a singing career for 12 years and coming back to create a unique, versatile and vibrant performing and teaching career. Subscribe to her email list and follow on social media @carriehennessey for updates in the creative process!