Soprano Corinne Winters is in the midst of building an important career, and she credits Opera Theatre of St. Louis for making it possible.
Winters, who stars as Vendulka in Smetana’s “The Kiss” at OTSL, was chosen as a Gerdine Young Artist in 2009 and returned in 2010.
She’d already been signed as Micaela in 2012’s “Carmen” when another opportunity presented itself. Soprano Kelly Kaduce (who’s also back this season, in the role of Nedda in “I Pagliacci”) was to sing Melisande in Debussy’s “Pelléas and Melisande” in the 2011 season. When Kaduce became pregnant, Winters was offered the role, and had a success.
Her work confirmed the opinions of the artistic staff at OTSL. She won the first Mabel Dorn Reeder Foundation Prize, with a purse of $10,000 to be applied to continued artistic and professional development. Music director Stephen Lord recommended her to the English National Opera for an upcoming production of “La Traviata,” and she was off.
“In this business, it really can happen, and does happen, overnight,” Winters says.” A lot of it’s luck; if you don’t get the opportunities, you never get heard. Opportunities can come your way, but if you’re not ready for them, if you haven’t had the preparation, it doesn’t matter. I can’t control who hears me, or the opportunities that I have, but I can control my preparation.”
The ENO “Traviata” in February changed her life, she says. “It opened so many doors; it was kind of a free audition for people all over the globe.” Winters discovered that “London gets more press than anywhere else in the world. I had 40 reviews.”
Those reviews had plenty of raves for the young American soprano. “A lot of great things came out of it. I have debuts in a lot of really great places in the future; I’m on a lot of people’s radar. And I wouldn’t have had that opportunity without Opera Theatre.”
She’s enjoying the present opportunity. The role of Vendulka “fits my voice really well, but aside from that, I can really bring something to this character. She’s a lot like me: she’s got a good heart, but she’s got this stubborn streak. I know (stubbornness) is part of who I am; it’s gotten me where I am in life.” In doing things her own way, “She’s really revolutionary for her time. She’s not like Carmen, doing it through her sexuality. Vendulka does it through sheer will.”
Winters calls the music “sublime. I have to admit that when I first looked at this story, I thought it was a little like (Bizet’s) ‘Pearl Fishers’ — beautiful music with a really stupid story, but I’m finding depth in it. It’s touching.”
There’s lots more on her calendar, including debuts at Washington National Opera and the Opernhaus Zurich. Next year she’ll return to ENO for Berlioz’s “Benvenuto Cellini,” then make her Santa Fe Opera debut in “Dr. Sun Yat Sen,” by Huang Ruo. OTSL artistic director James Robinson will direct the opera, which is in Mandarin. Winters, who was in Hong Kong when she got the call and looked over the score, says, “I’m definitely going to need to study Mandarin more to make it authentic.”
She has an album of Spanish songs coming out next season, and she’s booked (mostly in roles and at houses that she can’t discuss until the companies in question announce them) for the foreseeable future. She’ll be back at OTSL in 2015. “I can’t say for what, but I will be back.”
Some singers get a start at OTSL and then move on. Winters promises that she won’t do that. She praises the company’s artistic leadership and its patrons, and says, “This really is my home. They’ve shaped my career and helped me and believed in me from the beginning. I would not be where I am without them, and I will keep coming back here as long as they will hire me.”
--Sarah Bryan Miller