In 2016, soprano Chelsea Shephard sang the role of The Soul in a chamber version of The Prison with Cantori New York, Maestro Mark Shapiro’s other chorus.
“It was an honor for me to sing that role. Soprano voices are often used by composers to portray ethereal, otherworldly characters. Last year I sang the role of the angel in Brahms’s Requiem—my Carnegie Hall debut, with the Cecilia Chorus of New York—and in The Prison, The Soul is a calming, soothing voice which comforts The Prisoner in a very dark time of despair.”
Now repeating that role, but in its fully orchestrated garb, Chelsea has had the time to learn more about the composer, Dame Ethel Smyth.
“What a fascinating person! It’s amazing how resonant the struggle that she went through over a hundred years ago—as a strong woman, as an artist trying to make it in a man’s world, as a woman determined to live her life on her own terms—is with us today, in our current moment of reckoning. Women today—and men, too!—need examples of her devotion and determination. No matter how harshly she was judged, no matter how much her achievements were ridiculed, she continued to create the most beautiful music. She was a perfect example of “Nevertheless, she persisted!”
Born and raised in Michigan, educated at DePaul University in Chicago, and having performed extensively in Chicago and Madison, Wisconsin, Chelsea is acutely aware of her native Midwestern accent. Through rigorous training she has learned to neutralize her English when singing or playing a role. Recently, though, she was cast in an exciting new opera in a role that required a Midwestern accent.
“At the Metropolitan Opera I recently workshopped the title role in a new opera, Eurydice, by Matthew Aucoin. It is based on a 2003 play, set in the present day, by Sarah Ruhl, who also wrote the libretto to the opera. Ms. Ruhl is originally from Chicago, and when she heard me talking offstage, in my Midwestern speaking voice, she said “Yes! That’s what I want for the role!”
BIO Chelsea Shephard:
Soprano Chelsea Shephard has been praised by Opera News for her “pure leggero soprano—with surprises to come,” and her “rich and vibrant artistry” (The Isthmus). Her performances during the 2017-2018 season include the title role in a workshop with the Metropolitan Opera of Eurydice by Matthew Aucoin, concert appearances with the New York Festival of Song in celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s 100th Anniversary, and a role debut as Purcell’s Dido with the Madison Bach Musicians. Other recent engagements include: joining the roster of the Lyric Opera of Chicago for their new production of Das Rheingold; her Carnegie Hall debut last season as the soprano soloist in the Brahms Requiem; a world premiere by Syrian composer Zaid Jabri entitled A Garden Among the Flames (Cecilia Chorus of New York); as well as leading and supporting roles with Madison Opera, Opera Grand Rapids, and Haymarket Opera Company, Chicago’s only dedicated Baroque opera company. More information can be found at chelseashephardsoprano.com.