Violetta was never intended to be the signature role for Corinne Winters. The American star soprano is well-established as one of the world's most impressive Violettas but she never imagined being able to perform the lead role in La traviata.
"What is interesting about this role is that it requires everything possible from the soprano voice," Winters says. "The first role that put me on the map was Mimì (from La bohème), which is wonderful but it's all in the same vein vocally and dramatically. La traviata is three different voices."
She goes on to explain that the first act calls on the elaborate coloratura voice, the second demands the more edgy spinto voice and the third is light and lyrical.
"Being able to do all of these voices and acting them as well is something I never thought I'd be able to do," she says. "It's really not a role for someone starting out, even though you have to be young to be believable. I didn't even start studying it until my mid-twenties and started performing it in my late twenties when I was more adult as a person and a singer."
Winters, 34, credits Violetta with changing her life. She recently had a camellia blossom (symbolic of Violetta) tattooed on her shoulder blade to mark the role's significance. She is about to perform in her 10th production of la traviata for Opera Australia in the Elijah Moshinksy production, and during the season will make her 50th performance as Violetta.
While she has also performed ina range of other roles, from Mozart to Verdi and even Chinese opera Dr. Sun Yat-sen, Violetta is in her soul.
"I gravitate toward things I really feel and that comes across in my voice," she says.
It has been an abiding principle of her life, to do whatever she feels called to do. As a student in Maryland near Washington, her life was more about pop and rock music than opera. She enjoyed classical music but it was not a common part of life in suburban America. Her voice was admired when she joined choirs but it wasn't until a college teacher heard her sing that her life took a new direction.
"She said I had an operatic voice and I had to be doing it," she says. "I explained opera wasn't really my thing but I began studying music and sang as a mezzo-soprano. I liked it and was getting better but when another teacher heard me sing and suggested the soprano repertoire, I really fell in love with it."
"The personality type and the voice needs to align. The pants roles that tend to come with mezzo-soprano just didn't suit me at all and I didn't feel authentic. When I sang soprano it was more about the characters and the way the voice and the soul connects."
She approached her marriage last year in a similar way. After having her share of long-term relationships, it took only a year of dating her now-husband to become engaged.
"There are times in life where there just isn't a question that it's the right next step to take," she says. "With opera and my husband it has felt like that – like I don't have a choice. It's that strong of a pull. In all the arts, if there is anything else you can do, you should."
"Because as rewarding as a career in the arts can be, you also take so much rejection and criticism. So if you don't have to absolutely do it within your soul, do something else."