Fishtown soprano sings her tune in Ava opera

The Academy of Vo­cal Arts presents “Pelleas et Mel­is­ande” by De­bussy fea­tur­ing Fishtown­er Chloe Moore.

ChloŽ Moore, sop­rano

On Sat­urday even­ing, Feb. 25, the Academy of Vo­cal Arts presents a fully staged pro­duc­tion of Claude De­bussy’s only op­era, Pelleas et Mel­is­ande, fea­tur­ing a cast of sing­ers who are the fu­ture stars of the op­era world.

Per­form­ances con­tin­ue through March 3 at AVA’s theat­er at 1920 Spruce St.

The res­ti­gi­ous Cen­ter City con­ser­vat­ory ac­cepts only the most gif­ted sing­ers. All re­ceive full schol­ar­ships and vo­cal train­ing in a four-year pro­gram pre­par­ing them for pro­fes­sion­al op­er­at­ic ca­reers. Many go on to achieve na­tion­al, and even in­ter­na­tion­al, status. 

Chloe Moore of Fishtown is one of those gif­ted sing­ers and already has won her share of pres­ti­gi­ous awards. Now in her second year at AVA, the lyr­ic sop­rano has one of the lead­ing roles as Mel­is­ande.

“I love De­bussy’s mu­sic and I’ve sung many of his songs,” she says. “But this was his only op­era — and it’s beau­ti­ful!”

Moore plays the role of a young wo­man who is lost in a forest un­til a prince finds her, mar­ries her and brings her to a castle. But she be­comes at­tached to the prince’s young­er half-broth­er Pelleas. This stirs the prince’s jeal­ousy and cre­ates the drama.

The role is a de­mand­ing one, both vo­cally and dra­mat­ic­ally. “The mu­sic is some­what lower than a typ­ic­al sop­rano role, so it can be vo­cally tir­ing,” she says.

Then, too, there are sev­er­al scenes with tricky stage ac­tions.

For ex­ample, there’s a scene in which her jeal­ous hus­band is very angry. So he pulls her hair — “and it’s quite vi­ol­ent,” she says. She’s wear­ing a wig, so the hair-pulling isn’t a pain­ful mo­ment. But it had to be prac­ticed and staged very care­fully.

The op­era is sung in French — and that comes eas­ily to Moore. She grew up in Toronto, which is the Eng­lish-speak­ing part of Canada, but her fam­ily is French.

At home, every­one spoke French, and Moore at­ten­ded an in­ter­na­tion­al French school. “So I learned Eng­lish as my second lan­guage,” says the bi­lin­gual sing­er, who speaks Eng­lish flu­ently. “I love the French lan­guage, and whenev­er pos­sible, I like to sing French rep­er­toire.”

She has sung op­er­as in oth­er lan­guages be­sides French. AVA stu­dents are re­quired to take for­eign-lan­guage courses be­cause many op­er­as, like this one, are sung in the ori­gin­al lan­guage. Be­sides French, Moore has sung op­er­as in Itali­an and Ger­man, and she’s sung arias in Rus­si­an, Span­ish, and even Czech.

She’ll sing in two of the five AVA per­form­ances, on Feb. 25 and March 1, al­tern­at­ing with two oth­er sop­ranos who also take on the role for oth­er per­form­ances.

All of them prac­ticed di­li­gently. For Moore, the pro­cess began in Au­gust, when she got the score and also read the play on which the op­era is based.

“I star­ted learn­ing the notes and I also listened to re­cord­ings of the full op­era from be­gin­ning to end,” she said.

She listened to per­form­ances by sev­er­al op­era com­pan­ies — but she listened to each just once.

ldquo;If I listen to a sing­er too of­ten, I’ll start to copy her al­most auto­mat­ic­ally,” she ex­plained. “But it’s very im­port­ant to make my own choices and give it my own in­ter­pret­a­tion.”

Once the school year began, the cast mem­bers had one-on-one coach­ing. This was fol­lowed by re­hears­als that in­volved only singing but no stage ac­tions. The cast worked with Luke Hous­ner, the mu­sic dir­ect­or and pi­an­ist for the op­era.

ldquo;He’s very good about col­lab­or­at­ing. He wants us to make our own choices,” says Moore, who has worked with him twice be­fore.

Next there were sta­ging re­hears­als with AVA’s artist­ic dir­ect­or, K. James Mc­Dow­ell. That’s when Moore and the oth­ers prac­ticed their stage ac­tions as well as their mu­sic­al roles. He too en­cour­ages col­lab­or­a­tion.

“He really wants us to bring our ideas to the table,” she said.

Sta­ging re­hears­als were in the morn­ing. Af­ter­noons in­volved mu­sic re­hears­als. On a typ­ic­al day, the sing­ers were in re­hears­als from 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., with brief breaks for lunch and din­ner.

“It’s a very long day, but it’s won­der­ful,” says Moore. “We’re here to learn, and work­ing with these pro­fes­sion­als is the best way I can learn.”

By the first day of per­form­ance, the prac­ti­cing is over. Moore has a fa­mil­i­ar routine on per­form­ance days. First, she ex­er­cises at the gym. She also does lots of stretch­ing and eats well — “to give my body en­ergy,” sheex­plains, not­ing that singing a ma­jor role in an op­era is a strenu­ous en­deavor.

She’ll stretch again a few hours be­fore per­form­ing, and do a brief warm-up to get her voice ready. “But I don’t want to do too much,” she says. “I want to save my voice for the per­form­ance.”

Then she’s off to AVA to put on her makeup, wig and cos­tume. When it’s time to per­form, she’s ready and eager.

“I love it!” she said. “It’s al­ways ex­cit­ing. The audi­ence adds a dif­fer­ent en­ergy. They’re all go­ing on this jour­ney with you.”

One loy­al audi­ence mem­ber for all her per­form­ances is her hus­band, Jason Moore. He, too, has a per­form­ing-arts ca­reer: He’s mu­sic dir­ect­or at Phil­adelphia Uni­versity and at the New­town Pres­by­teri­an Church.

“We’re both do­ing what we love, so we’re very happy and very lucky,” says Moore.

So she’s eagerly look­ing for­ward to Sat­urday — and to bring­ing to life the char­ac­ter of Mel­is­ande.

“She’s a rather com­plic­ated char­ac­ter, and as the per­former, I have to fig­ure out how to por­tray her,” Moore said. “She’s fas­cin­at­ing, and for me, that makes the ex­per­i­ence even more ex­cit­ing.” ••

If you go …

The Academy of Vo­cal Arts presents “Pelleas et Mel­is­ande” by De­bussy for five per­form­ances —  Feb. 25, 26, 28, March 1 and 3 — at AVA Theat­er, 1920 Spruce St. Tick­ets range from $60 for adults to $10 for stu­dents, with dis­counts for seni­ors and those un­der 30). Vis­it www.ava­op­ or call 215-735-1685.


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