American soprano Corinne Winters is currently in Zürich, gearing up to sing Mélisande in Dmitri Tcherniakov's production of Pelléas et Mélisande, opening on May 8 at Opernhaus Zürich. Roles like Mimì, Violetta, and Desdemona fill her schedule these days, and she has a deep love of finding the truth about any character she plays.
We had the chance to speak with Winters about the "intense and subtle" Mélisande, her offstage creative outlets, and how she stays happy and healthy on the road. Frankly, we'll take wellness tips from any soprano who can run a half-marathon.
CAN YOU TELL US WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING FORWARD TO ABOUT PERFORMING MÉLISANDE IN ZÜRICH?
Pelléas is both intense and subtle, perfect for an intimate theatre like the one here in Zürich. The public will experience both the excitement of live theatre and the realism of cinema. Between conductor Alain Altinoglu, a stellar cast, and the famously innovative Dmitri Tcherniakov directing, I think we've got a winning team. Plus, what's not to like about Swiss chocolate??
YOU’VE HAD THE CHANCE TO SING SOME OF OPERA’S MOST COVETED WOMEN. WHAT KIND OF CONNECTIONS HAVE YOU FOUND WITH THESE CHARACTERS? DO YOU FIND THE REHEARSAL PROCESS CHANGES WITH THE TYPE OF CHARACTER YOU SING?
I can relate to all of these iconic heroines (and this is probably why they're iconic!): Desdemona loves bad boys, Mimì is a practical girl with an artistic soul, Tatiana is a bookish romantic, and Donna Anna is a Daddy's girl. That pretty much sums me up! In all seriousness, I think it's the performer's job to be true to the source material while still portraying the contrast and humanity of a character. I vow never, ever to play an archetype.
I don't find that the process changes based on the role, but rather the cast and team. Each production is its own living, breathing entity, and the team dynamic really sets the tone for the process. I love that I can never go on autopilot – I'm forced to stay present with how the process unfolds in that particular moment.
YOU’VE ALWAYS BEEN VERY HEALTH-CONSCIOUS, BOTH ON AND OFF-STAGE. HOW DOES THIS CONNECT WITH YOUR SINGING, AND DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED SHOW-DAY WORKOUT/DIET ROUTINE?
Five years ago, I would've said that a healthy person eats mostly plants, exercises regularly, and sleeps at least seven hours a night. Those things are all still true for me, but health and wellness goes way beyond diet and exercise. We are all more stressed out, overbooked, and plugged-in than ever, and no food or workout or supplement can singularly counteract all of that stress. I love my job more than anything, but the constant travel and variability wears on me. To sing consistently, stay focused, and be an openhearted colleague and performer, I commit to my daily self-care rituals. I spend time every morning in meditation/contemplation, take walks in nature, read, stop between tasks to do deep breathing, and listen to inspiring podcasts. All of these practices can be done anywhere, and they provide me with a sense of routine, even in unfamiliar environments.
On a typical show day I sleep in, drink my coffee, do my morning routine, practice yoga, eat tons of nourishing whole foods, and hydrate! I also walk briskly to the theatre to get my heart rate up and my blood moving before I vocally warm up.
YOU’RE A WRITER AS WELL, WE HEAR. WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR WRITING, AND WHERE CAN WE READ SOME OF IT?
Writing was my first creative outlet...before I knew I had a voice, and before I had ever even heard of opera. Putting pen to paper helps me make sense of myself and the world. I journal every morning, and also authored a health and wellness blog called The Artisan Traveler. I said goodbye to the blog to focus on all things opera, but it was my beloved pet project. A few of those blog posts have just been shared via a new Writing page on my website. Stay tuned for some new opera-related content as well!
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND WITH OTHER STYLES OF MUSIC, BESIDES OPERA?
My Dad is a lawyer, but his first love is music. He played in several acoustic rock bands and actually hitchhiked all the way to Woodstock from Duke University in North Carolina! He was my first musical influence, so needless to say I was rocking out to The Beatles and Joni Mitchell, not Callas and Pavarotti. I'm obsessed with opera and listen to it often, but there's nothing that feels more "home" than a piano ballad or an acoustic guitar.
WHAT’S ON YOUR WORKOUT PLAYLIST THESE DAYS?
I ran a half-marathon in London in September, and I'm still totally in love with my "13.1" playlist. It includes selected songs from "Back to Black" by Amy Winehouse, "Talking is Hard" by Walk the Moon, "Picture Show" by Neon Trees, "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix" by Phoenix, and last but not least, my favorite symphony, Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5.
WHAT ROLES ARE LEFT ON YOUR "BUCKET LIST" THAT YOU’VE NOT YET HAD THE CHANCE TO SING?
I have sung – or am scheduled to sing – almost all of my dream roles! I'm beyond grateful. Rusalka, Amelia in Verdi's Simon Boccanegra, and the Massenet heroines (Manon and Thaïs) are at the top of my list. The holy grails for me are Madama Butterfly and Manon Lescaut, but they are definitely a bit further off!