Spotlight on: Caitlin WoodInterview
Versatile and unforgettable, Canadian soprano Caitlin Wood is currently onstage as Susanna in the Vancouver Opera Festival’s production of The Marriage of Figaro, running at the Vancouver Playhouse until May 18. A favourite on Canada’s west coast, you might have heard her as Johanna in Sweeney Todd, or as Frasquita in Carmen, both at Vancouver Opera; she also sang a sassy Despina in Against the Grain Theatre’s productions of A Little Too Cozy in Banff and Toronto.
We spoke with Wood about the kind of singing that makes her feel “free”, and the value of being a sponge for all things artistic.
What does “good singing” mean to you? What does it feel like when you achieve it?
Good singing to me is the marriage of technique and dedication to the text. Proper technique allows me to express whatever I need with my voice. It is having the facility to choose from a myriad of colours, dynamics, phrasings, and all with clear diction. When these musical choices are made based on the text and emotion of the text, great singing occurs.
When I’m able to achieve this it feels like I am free. There is nothing blocking or inhibiting what I am trying to express.
Why do you sing, and why are you doing it professionally?
I sing because I adore music in all genres, but especially in opera. Music has a way of capturing emotions in such a precise and clear way; it speaks directly to the soul. Currently I am working on Le nozze di Figaro; it’s a masterpiece filled with one exquisite moment after another. Being able to sing such incredible music brings me immense joy and I hope that the audience will share in that.
The reason I’ve chosen to pursue singing professionally is because I feel that music and opera can make an impact on the world. As an artist it is my responsibility to take an audience on a journey and make them feel something. This summer I’m joining Bicycle Opera on their tour of Sweat by Juliet Palmer. It is a new opera about sweat shop workers. I hope that this piece will bring awareness to this issue as well as making the audience feel connected to the people that are affected by it.
What do young singers need to do more of? What should they do less of?
More: Get out and see more art! Whether it be opera, theater, ballet, musicals, concerts, visual art, movies, random street performances, whatever, any and all of these things can help you with your art. We all know we have to hone our craft by practicing countless hours alone in a practice room, but that alone does not make an artist. By searching out art outside of my little practice room I’ve learned stage craft, musicality, and have been inspired by other performers to strive to become better. I cannot tell you how often a piece of personality and physicality that I’ve observed in another piece of art has inspired me when building an opera character. Imitation is the highest form of flattery, so get out there and fill your artistic tool belt.
Less: Comparing themselves to others. There are a million and one ways to make a career in this business, so don’t feel like you are failing or falling behind just because you aren’t following the same exact same path as others. Your time and energy is precious so use it to find your path instead of wondering why yours isn’t identical to someone else’s.
Do you have any “bucket list” roles you’d like to sing (realistically or otherwise)?
There are many roles I have on my bucket list, some I hope to sing in the near future, a few years down the line, and some I will never get the chance to sing. Two roles that I absolutely adore but haven’t had the opportunity to perform professionally are Marie from Donizetti’s La fille du régiment and Cunégonde from Bernstein’s Candide. Both roles are filled to the brim with thrilling music and the comedic but endearing personalities of both of these leading ladies would make them incredibly fun to perform.
A role that I’m not quite ready for, but would love to sing in five to ten years is Lucia from Lucia di Lammermoor.
Ok, so full warning I am very aware that I will never get to sing this last one, but if I could switch out my voice with another fach for the night I would definitely sing the Commendatore from Don Giovanni. Lucky basses, they have in my opinion one of the most epic scenes in opera with the Commendatore dragging Don Giovanni to hell. Maybe in my next life!
What have you learned about your career as a singer, solely through professional experience?
Being a good colleague will get you much further and faster than being just a “good singer”. People want to work with talented singers but they also want to make the experience as pleasant as possible. Be on time, know your music, be respectful in rehearsals, and be generous with your colleagues. If you are covering a role, know it backwards and forwards because if you are given the chance you can really make a mark by showing a company just how dedicated and prepared you are.
I am certain it was the impression I gave when I was a cover who had to step in for a few rehearsals, that has landed me a few current contracts. I know it sounds simple but I have been given great opportunities by following these simple rules.
For more with Caitlin Wood, follow her on Twitter! For full details and ticket information for The Marriage of Figaro at the Vancouver Opera Festival (which features two stellar Canadian casts!), click here.