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Sound Bites spotlights up-and-coming singers and conductors in the world of opera.

Sound Bites: Avery Amereau

A contralto from Jupiter, Florida, sings Handel this month in Lille.
By F. Paul Driscoll

Sound Bites Amereau hdl 1018
Photograph by Dario Acosta
Hair and makeup by Affan Graber Malik
Sound Bites Amereau sm 1018
© Dario Acosta; hair and makeup by Affan Graber Malik

AVERY AMEREAU sings her first professional performance of a Handel opera this month, as Eduige in a new staging of Rodelinda at Opéra de Lille. The role of the king’s lovelorn sister was created by a favorite colleague of the composer—Anna Vincenza Dotti, an Italian contralto. The designation of a female singer as contralto is increasingly rare these days, but it is a label Amereau embraces. “I consider myself a contralto, as opposed to a mezzo-soprano, because the real richness of my voice is in the lowest reaches. The special part of my voice blossoms just below where a mezzo-soprano’s would. I believe the reason that fewer contraltos are working right now is because people tell young singers that contraltos don’t exist—as if we were extinct. I’ve had so many people tell me that I should never call myself a contralto because I would never get hired—that sort of stuff. Look at the score of Barbiere—wasn’t it written for contralto? People have the idea that if you’re a contralto you can’t sing high notes. That’s just not true.”

Amereau studied at Mannes and Juilliard, where she established herself as an artist to watch with her richly sung, poignant performances as Olga in Eugene Onegin and Benjamin Britten’s Lucretia. She made her professional debut at the Metropolitan Opera, as the Madrigal Singer in a 2016 revival of Manon Lescaut. “The first opera house I ever sang in was the Met! Brian Zeger from Juilliard made a joke about it. He said, ‘Oh, I suppose you gotta start somewhere.’ It was kind of my local theater, after all. But the experience was amazing—the acoustic is so good, and my colleagues were so generous and kind, especially when they all found out it was my first opera outside of school. All I had to do was sing, and I truly enjoyed it. I never felt as if I were struggling.”

Amereau, who is now based in Europe, made her Salzburg debut this past summer as the Page in Salome. She’s preparing for future engagements as Rosina in Barbiere, Angelina in La Cenerentola and Malcom in La Donna del Lago. “Rossini asks a lot of a singer, but those roles are wonderful. Rossini knew exactly what he wanted. The color of a low voice brings out the playfulness of his female characters. They are witty, and crafty, and use their brains to get what they want. And I can’t wait to sing them!” spacer




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