OPERA NEWS - Sound Bites: Hongni Wu
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Sound Bites spotlights up-and-coming singers and conductors in the world of opera.

Sound Bites: Hongni Wu

A mezzo from Jingdezhen, China, has a new artistic home in London.
By F. Paul Driscoll 

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Photograph by Dario Acosta
Hair and makeup by Affan Graber Malik
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Mezzo Hongni Wu, now a Jette Parker Young Artist at Covent Garden
© Dario Acosta

HONGNI WU, who will make her Covent Garden debut this season as Flora Bervoix, has had a whirlwind year. In April 2018, while completing work for her Professional Studies Certificate at Manhattan School of Music, the twenty-three-year-old mezzo sang her first Rossini role—Angelina in MSM’s spring production of La Cenerentola—and was named a winner in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Grand Finals concert. After her MSM graduation, Wu departed for Portland, Maine, where she made her professional debut as Cherubino in Opera Maine’s July performances of Nozze di Figaro. She is now in London, a new member of Covent Garden’s prestigious Jette Parker Young Artist Program. In addition to Flora in a January run of La Traviata, Wu is scheduled to sing Mercédès in Covent Garden’s early-summer performances of Carmen.

Wu’s adroit, sparkling phrasing and neat, fluid movements make any stage seem like her comfort zone, but she says she finds opera performances “not as simple as singing a competition. A competition is not easy, O.K., but in opera I am so much more nervous than in a contest. Even for the Met competition, I just need to do the very best I can do on that day. In opera, a lot of people have a part of my performance—when I sing, I must remember, ‘Oh, he wants that.’ and ‘She wants this,’ and I need to do my best for so many others.

“When I am onstage, even in the competition, I cannot think about winning or about being a success just so that I will be famous. What I must think about is sharing my music with everybody. If you are to be a good singer, you must share something of yourself—not just share the voice, but share the story of the character. That is how it becomes enjoyable for me—to share with others. This is the point.”

Rossini’s music is a natural fit for Wu’s firm, amber-toned voice, and she cites Cenerentola’s Angelina as her favorite “of the roles I have sung so far. It was the first Rossini opera of my life, and when I first looked [at the score], I thought, ‘My god, she sings very high, she sings very low, how can I do that?’ But then I rehearsed, and the character took me over, and I loved her. And the opera has such a happy ending—who doesn’t want to be a princess?” spacer 

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