Spotlight on: Whitney MatherInterview
Soprano Whitney Mather is a rising singer based in Toronto. Currently in Los Angeles to participate in Songfest, where the likes of Martin Katz, Margo Garrett, and Roger Vignoles offer high-quality masterclass training to young artists, she’ll head next ot the Toronto Summer Music Festival in July. She’ll begin her graduate studies at the University of Toronto, and she’ll appear as Cupid in Opera Atelier’s production of Charpentier’s Medée in spring, 2017.
She chats with us about the roles she covets, and the young singer’s much-needed “sense of play”.
Why do you sing, and why are you doing it professionally?
I sing because I can’t imagine doing anything else. Singing is such a deeply personal experience that has the incredible ability to become a personal experience for someone else as well. The texts and the characters that I have had the chance to become really force you to look at yourself and others in a really interesting way and I think it really enriches the way you interact with other people. You get a rare opportunity to look into someone else’s mind and heart and see the world how they do and it helps me to live with a little bit more grace than I may otherwise. It is also constantly a practice of bettering one’s self, not only technically and musically, but personally, and I think that the grit required to look at yourself in such a critical way can only help you to be a better person in your every day life.
I sing professionally because I have had the incredible fortune of being asked to! It is always such a surprise to me to do what I do and love it so much and have such incredible experiences with it and then to get a pay cheque at the end. It always kind of blows my mind that I have the opportunity to do this for a living. The other part which makes it so unbelievable is my incredible colleagues who are so loving and supportive; like no other business I know. The arts are an amazing thing!
What does “good singing” mean to you? What does it feel like when you achieve it?
This is a tough question, and one that I am still discovering for myself. Good singing to me is that moment when you are able to forget about your technique because the text is so much more important. I don’t mean that technique shouldn’t be a part of your plan for that moment, but that the text and music pulls your technique to where it needs to be in order for you to achieve what you have set out to achieve. It’s the moment when everything is working so well that you can just be in the moment and really commit to the text.
What do young singers need to do more of? What should they do less of?
Young singers need more of a sense of play. This is something that I have a really hard time with and something that I really admire in some of my colleagues. The ability to play with technique and experiment and be 100% in the moment is hugely important to what we do. We spend so much time trying to get things just right and worrying about being watched and evaluated, and what I enjoy most about a performance is when someone has the courage to just play for a moment and let themselves not worry about the product, but the process.
Do you have any “bucket list” roles you’d like to sing (realistically or otherwise)?
I would really love to sing Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro. She is just so smart and womanly and bad ass! Tytania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream is also pretty amazing and has some amazing music. I think my favorite character to have sung thus far though, is Queen of the Night. It is fun to be so scary! I need to grow into the role a bit, but she really stretched my mind and gave me some new areas to work in.
How do you explain your job to non-music folks?
I usually come right out and say that I am an opera singer! They are always really interested and intrigued want to know more, which is a perfect introduction to the art form. They often don’t understand that it is as much work as it is, but they see pretty quickly once they get to know me!