Soprano Meghan DeWald is thrilled to be making her Pittsburgh Festival Opera debut in Intermezzo as Christine Storch. She most recently returned from the Lucerne Festival in Switzerland, where she performed in Luciano Berio’s Coro under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle as a member of the prestigious Lucerne Festival Academy.
What sort of character research did you have to do for your role?
Well, because this opera is autobiographical, the first research I did entailed reading as much as I could about the relationship between Richard Strauss and his wife Pauline (the inspiration for my character, Christine). Pauline was quite an interesting woman: she was a soprano as well, and extremely outspoken, especially for a woman of that time and in her role as wife to a famous and successful composer. This character is so multi-faceted, however, that I can find glimpses of her in some of the women in my own life, who I also drew inspiration from.
What are some of the strengths and weaknesses of your character?
Christine is so human and dynamic. She’s strong-willed and outspoken, and often comes across as a snob, with a hint of judgment and condescension in how she treats others. She’s quick-witted,charming, and sharp. But she feels deeply, cares tremendously for her husband, and is desperately in need of true love and attention. I believe Christine gets in her own way, pushing away those closest to her to test them.
What was the rehearsal process like?
It has been wonderful to work with Maestro Brent McMunn and director Jonathan Eaton as a team as we find what makes these characters do the things they do, using music (both vocal and orchestral) and text as our guides to shape this world and the people that inhabit it. Words and music must work completely in tandem simultaneously, and that’s how we’ve structured our rehearsal process, ensuring that one is always informing the other.
What was the most challenging thing about the rehearsal process?
Most characters that I’ve played have had a few, maybe three or four, primary colors that they show throughout the opera, but Christine displays hundreds, and her moods change on a dime. I’ve said it before, but playing someone so human and real has been a joy and also a great challenge. The character shifts happen more quickly than in other works I’ve performed. There are also some very complicated phrases both musically and textually that add some challenge to the mix, but that’s in line with her character as well!
What’s your favorite part of the show?
There are so many wonderful scenes and I work with some fabulous colleagues. I have not one but two wonderful leading men I get to sing with, and each relationship finds its own unique chemistry so that has been fun. My favorite music to sing is the final scene, where Strauss finally pulls together all of the main themes and writes some of the most beautiful and lyrical music in the piece. But I also have to say that I’ve never ridden a sled in an opera before, so that scene is also quite fun!
What do you do in your spare time when you’re not performing?
I’m also a yoga instructor and I love being active: yoga, running, and weight-lifting. My husband and I enjoy wine and cooking together.
On your days off, where do you like to visit in Pittsburgh?
I enjoy running through Schenley and Frick Parks—it no longer feels like a city, and yet it’s right in the middle of great neighborhoods. I’ve enjoyed stand-up paddleboarding on the Allegheny and the Monongahela rivers, and I just love exploring some of the great restaurants and shops in the Strip District, Lawrenceville, and Shadyside.
More about Meghan DeWald
Meghan has been the recipient of several awards including Second Place Regional Finalist (Upper Midwest Region) and is a three-time District Winner in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. She is also the first place winner of the Opera San Nicola Competition and the Lansing Matinee Musicale. DeWald earned her Doctor of Music in Vocal Performance and Literature at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, where she also earned her Master of Music degree. She currently resides in Pittsburgh with her husband.