HILLSIDE — Kean Stage will present Grammy Award ® winning American soprano, Christine Brewer on Saturday, March 24 at 7:30 p.m. in Kean University’s Gene & Shelley Enlow Recital Hall.
Brewer epitomizes the quintessential American soprano. When, in 2007, BBC Music Magazine asked 20 critics to name the top 10 sopranos of the recorded era, Brewer not only made the list; she was one of the four alive and one of only three Americans on the list.
Born and raised in Illinois, where she still lives with husband Ross and daughter Elizabeth, Brewer is the anti-diva par excellence. She is a compassionate and intelligent woman fiercely committed to her art and the world. She was a music teacher before embarking on a professional music performing career, and educating children remains a passion.
“I work with a group of sixth graders in the little school where I used to teach in Marissa, Ill., about 60 miles southeast of St. Louis: a coal-mining town where the mines are now shuttered,” Brewer explained. “The project is called ‘Opera-tunities,’ where I visit the classes a few times a year and I bring my friends from the St. Louis Symphony to play.”
Eventually, the students were invited to attend rehearsals of upcoming performances at the symphony, where they learned not only about opera, but also theatre etiquette and composition. Nancy Wagner, the Marissa school teacher would play CDs of recordings of the pieces for the students, and Brewer would spend time talking with them about the words she would be singing.
“One of my favorite ‘Opera-tunities’ experiences came when we were studying the War Requiem,” Brewer said. “I thought perhaps the piece might be a bit of a stretch for 12-year-olds, but was I ever wrong. A few days before the rehearsal, I found the kids had a complete list of questions and discussion points. At one point, a boy told me that he and his friend had been discussing the part of the Requiem where Abraham kills his son Isaac.
“’You know that isn’t the real story from the Bible,’ he told me. ‘They changed it for this piece!’ I asked him why he thought the story had been changed. He said he thought Abraham represented the old men who start wars and Isaac represented the young men who were killed in wars. Oh yeah, they got it!”
Brewer realized that many of these kids had brothers and sisters fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. “This subject was very near to their hearts. Music has the power to touch their lives in a real way and I’m so happy to be able to witness it in a small way.”
Brewer is most famous for her interpretations of roles by Wagner, Strauss and Britten including Isolde, Ariadne, Färberin (Die Frau ohne Schatten), Ellen Orford (Peter Grimes) and Queen Elizabeth I (Gloriana). She made her debut at the San Francisco Opera in 2006 singing the title role in Beethoven’s Fidelio and returned the following season singing the role of Isolde in Tristan und Isolde.
Tickets to Christine Brewer at Enlow Hall are $35 standard, $20 senior, student or child and can be purchased by calling Kean Stage Box Office at 1-908-737-7469, online at http://enlowhall.kean.edu, or in person at Kean University’s Wilkins Theater Box Office. Enlow Recital Hall is located at 215 North Avenue in Hillside.
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