Kalamazoo native and Grammy Award-winning opera singer Meredith Arwady will come home to give a concert for Fontana Chamber Arts on Dec. 7 in Western Michigan University’s Dalton Center Recital Hall.
“She’s a local girl who’s done quite well for herself,” says David Baldwin, executive and artistic director of Fontana Chamber Arts. “In addition to having won a Grammy Award, she regularly sings at some of the most important opera houses around the world, including the Metropolitan Opera in New York.”
Recently she performed in San Francisco, as Mistress Quickly in Verdi’s Falstaff. But she loves giving recitals too. “Performing recitals is truly one of my favorite things,” she says in an email interview. “ … You get to create the entire experience and control the ups and downs, the discoveries and failures of your character.”
For her Kalamazoo recital, Arwady will be accompanied by her longtime musical partner, Mikael Eliasen, dean of vocal studies at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where Arwady earned her Master of Music degree.
“The theme of the program is a relationship and its progression from crush to first meeting, through dating ups and downs, marriage satisfaction and tribulations, and a conclusion that looks back upon all that had happened and then looks beyond all that has occurred,” she says.
After considering various ideas for presenting this theme, Arwady settled on an eclectic collection of songs. The recital will include pieces by Henry Purcell, Gabriel Fauré, Stephen Sondheim and William Bolcom.
“I found I could not be limited by one genre of music nor one language,” Arwady says. “My recital partner … and I are both very comfortable in a wide range of styles and feel that we have created a recital in which a song can take a leap of over 100 years and a different language from one to the next without losing connection of story line nor of flow.”
Baldwin notes the somewhat unusual nature of the song choices. “What’s nice about the program,” he says, “is it’s somewhat of a departure. It’s not your typical arias and art songs, but rather it’s a more casual and informal setting, … more like a cabaret.”
Arwady has performed with many major U.S. opera companies as well as several abroad. She made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 2008 in John Adams’ Doctor Atomic. In 2012 she won a Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording for that production.
“One of the most interesting things about a life in opera is that throughout the course of my career I will often repeat the same role all over the world,” she says. For example, her most recent role, Mistress Quickly, was one she first performed in 2008 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Despite many similarities between the two productions, her approach to performing has evolved.
“My voice and I have become better acquainted as the years have passed, making me feel more comfortable in the chances/dynamics/dramatic choices I’m willing and able to make live on the stage. Dramatically, a character shifts with each portrayal. Not just from production to production, but from show to show. That is the magic of live theater.”
Arwady’s career has its roots in Kalamazoo. “I attended KAMSC (the Kalamazoo Area Mathematics and Science Center) and Loy Norrix (High School) and spent my formative years exposed to everything from the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra to Kalamazoo Civic shows,” she says. “I first learned about creating characters onstage and how a show comes to life while performing in the Loy Norrix musicals with such brilliant instructors as Marie Kerstetter and Ben Zylman.”
Arwady has made Kalamazoo her permanent home. “It is so special to be able to sing in a location that allows me to reconnect with so many friends and a community that is so important to me.”
While in Kalamazoo, Arwady will share some of what she has learned in an informal discussion with vocal music students at Western Michigan University. “Advising young singers is something I have always found to be very enjoyable,” she says. “When meeting with a group, I can only speak from my own experiences. But the questions I am asked and the discussions that take place can be unexpected, and hearing new voices and ideas is always exciting for me. The passion and dedication of young performers is infectious.”