As Echo in Ariadne auf Naxoz at Washington National Opera

Interview by Keith Waits

Entire contents are copyright © 2020 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.

KPA at Home: UofL School of Music with Emily & Peter Albrink is Monday, April 27 at 8:00 pm.

Soprano Emily Albrink’s career has been graced by collaborations with such conductors as James Levine, Robert Spano, Marin Alsop, and Plácido Domingo and composers such as Jake Heggie and John Musto. Lauded by the New York Times as “delightful and vocally strong and versatile”. She has performed at Carnegie Hall, with the Colorado Music Festival, Opera Boston, the Phoenix Symphony, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Ms. Albrink’s performances of works from the classical canon include Knoxville: Summer of 1915 with the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte with the Baltimore Symphony conducted by Marin Alsop, Despina in Così fan tutte and die Vertraute in Elektra, both under the baton of James Levine. With Kentucky Opera she has been seen as Adina in L’Elisir d’Amore, Musetta in La Boheme, Kitty Hart in Dead Man Walking, Yadwiga in Enemies, a Love Story, and this coming fall she will be seen as Micaela in Carmen.

1. What is the next performance you are/were scheduled to do?

I was supposed to be singing a concert in California next week at Stanford Live with Rob Kapilow. We were going to do a whole Cole Porter concert. 

2. Some of the talk about “opening up” includes limited sizes for gatherings. What adjustments do you imagine might come into play for opera?

What is most thrilling about opera is hearing the human voice unadorned and without amplification so I don’t really know how it will translate onto a screen during this time. I am so hopeful that there will be a way for innovations to come about that will make it possible for opera to remain viable during this time. What remains constant to me is the need for music and how important live music is at a time like this. It is, after all, the universal language. 

3. When did you know you had to sing opera?

I grew up singing with my mom who was a pianist and exposed me to all sorts of choral and solo repertoire at an early age. I was also obsessed with theatre: Shakespeare, Ibsen, Chekhov, etc, and Musical Theatre and didn’t really even begin to pay opera any attention until college when I fell in love with this art form that is storytelling at its best by remarkable composers, told through the human voice. 

4. What is your training?

Like I said, I started learning piano and singing with my mom at a very early age and learned most of my innate musicality from her. I then went on to get a BFA in Musical Theatre from the University of Michigan and Master of Music and Professional Studies degrees from Manhattan School of Music. I was then a young artist at the Washington National Opera at the Kennedy Center. 

5. How important is your experience studying theatre at Walden Theatre?

It was life-changing and shaped who I am as a performer. Walden gave me a love for words and telling stories and taught me how to be authentic on stage. I think it is something that has set me apart in my career and given me opportunities I may not have had otherwise. 

6. What roles are on your bucket list?

Anne Truelove in The Rake’s Progress by Stravinsky 
Don Elvira in Don Giovanni by Mozart
Norina in Don Pasquale by Donizetti
Governess in Turn of the Screw by Britten 
Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady by Lerner and Loewe 
Maria in the Sound of Music by Rodgers and Hammerstein 

7. Besides Louisville, what other places have you worked?

I’ve worked in Chicago, Boston, NYC, Washington, DC to name a few. 

8. How is working in Louisville different?

Of course Louisville is home… I grew up here and it is where I am raising my children so it is a very special town to me. When I get to make music in the place where I live it is pure magic and I feel so very lucky to be able to share art with my loved ones and our incredible community of artists in Louisville. There is quite a support system of nurturing humans here and that is probably what sets it apart for me. 

9. What would you tell people who say “opera is not for me”?

I would ask them if they like stories…. when it comes down to it, operas are simply stories set to music and told through the most vulnerable of sounds: the human voice. I tell everyone to give it a try just once and I dare you not to be moved. 

10. What music have you been listening to?

One positive aspect of this pandemic has been the amount of gorgeous music-making online from people in their homes. Yesterday I watched the incredible Metropolitan Opera Gala At Home featuring 40 of the world’s most wonderful opera singers. It was unbelievably moving and reiterated to me how very essential and important music is right now. 

11. What book is on your bedside table now?

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens 

12. What is the first thing you will do when you can come out of quarantine?

Take my two little boys to hug and kiss their grandparents. 

Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX 97.1 FM /, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in LEO Weekly, Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for