From LJ Country Day to SD Opera (with a long layover in Germany)
Patch.com La Jolla
Stephanie Weiss spent most of her childhood in San Diego, attending La Jolla Country Day School from 5th grade through high school.
An avid student of piano from age 5, she played flute in her elementary school band. But at the time she entered Country Day, there was no instrumental program. So she went into the chorus, and auditioned for the selective Madrigal Singers (“kind of an Honor Choir,” she explains).
“I really wanted into the Madrigals,” Weiss recalls, “so I took private voice lessons.”
At first, Weiss was most interested in singing Broadway show tunes, but her teacher, recognizing Stephanie’s love of classical music on piano, suggested she do the same with voice. And that’s how it all began.
She went on to study at the Mannes College of Music, the New England Conservatory, Tufts University and the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
For the past seven years, she’s lived in Berlin, thanks to a competition she won from the American Berlin Opera Foundation. That scholarship brought her to the Deutsche Oper Berlin, where she’s been a guest artist ever since, performing in “La Bohème,” “Carmen,” “Aida,” and other operatic masterworks. She’s sung all over Europe, in Israel, China and the U.S.
Now, the soprano is back in her hometown to make her San Diego Opera debut as Marianne in “Der Rosenkavalier” (April 3-12).
But she hasn’t forgotten where it all began. So, as part of the Opera’s free program of “Community Conversations,” she’s returning to Country Day on March 11, to perform five solo pieces (three arias, an art song and one musical theater number – “I Said No” by Frank Loesser) and to sing with the current Madrigals (the Habanera from “Carmen”).
One piece of advice she can offer young singers is “Study as many languages as you can.”
Weiss took French at Country Day, studied German and Italian in college, and enrolled in a Russian class prior to performing a piece in that language.
Living in Germany helps enormously with “Der Rosenkavelier,” Richard Strauss’ 1911 comic masterwork of love and loss (performed in German, with English supertitles). It also helps that she’s played the role of Marianne five other times.
In 18th century Vienna, Marianne is the duenna (chaperone) to lovely, young Sophie, who’s engaged to her coarse, philandering country cousin, Baron Ochs. The Baron arranges to have a young man be his Knight of the Rose (‘Rosenkavalier’), to present a silver rose to Sophie on his behalf, as a traditional symbol of courtship. When Octavian arrives to deliver the rose, he and Sophie fall instantly in love; havoc ensues as they try to prevent her arranged marriage.
Weiss loves the character of Marianne. “I like her spunk, her excitement about the arrival of the Rosenkavalier. She’s a fun-loving character.”
At the beginning of Marianne’s big scene (Act II, scene 1), Sophie is lamenting her marriage to a man she’s never met.
“She’s sad and morose,” says Weiss. “Marianne’s enthusiasm changes the tempo of the music — and her mood.”
Weiss is likely to lighten the mood at La Jolla Country Day as well.
Soprano Stephanie Weiss will appear on Friday, March 11 at 7pm in the Four Flowers Theatre on the campus of La Jolla Country Day School. The event is free and open to the public, but an RSVP is required (www.sdopera.com/CommunityConversations).
The San Diego Opera’s centennial production of “Der Rosenkavalier” runs from April 3-12 at the Civic Theatre, 1100 3rd Ave, downtown San Diego .
Tickets ($35-$220) are available at 619-533-7000 or www.sdopera.com.