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A photoshoot and interview with soprano, Molly Netter

On February 13th at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Manhattan, House of Time will perform A Baroque Valentine: Dr. Handel's advice on love and heartbreak. (You can get tickets at this link). Celebrate the Feast of Love with House of Time and guest soprano Molly Netter, with a voice described as “crisp and clear, white yet warm” (Seen and Heard International) stars in this all-Handel extravaganza featuring cantatas, trios, and arias. Early in his career, Handel made a specialty of solo cantatas, exploring human relationships. "Un'alma Inamorata" and "Mi Palpita il Cor" give voice to the joys, pains, uncertainties, and thrill of love. Also included is incidental music from "Il Pastor Fido", (The Faithful Shepherd) full of dances both rustic and elegant, including the famous "Passacaglia". We will serve chocolates and bubbly to complete this early Valentine's celebration.

The other week I had the pleasure of photographing our guest soprano, Molly Netter. Photography, specifically portraiture, is my other love, aside from music and it is what I do when I'm not performing, practicing for the next concert, or dealing the with logistics and planning with House of Time. I've photographed many musicians and artists, however, my work is not limited in that scope. You can visit my photography website at When Molly and I scheduled our photoshoot, I thought what could be better than capturing her unique, alluring personality, and use some of those photos to entice all of you to come to our concert! You won't be sorry, she's fantastic and a beauty to look at! In addition to the wonderful photos we captured together, I had the opportunity to ask Ms. Netter some questions about what its like to work as a singer. I think you'll be amused by her responses and you'll want to meet her in person! She'll be with us at the reception after the show to mingle and chat over champagne and chocolate! Click this link to buy tickets.

TD: I know you love singing both modern and early music. What’s it like as a

singer to go back and forth between styles? Do you have a preference?

MN: First, I’d like to say a huge thank-you to House of Time for having me as a guest! HoT is an amazing ensemble of the highest-caliber musicians and I am thrilled to be invited to collaborate! I think the fundamentals of good vocal technique should always be present, but I do find that there can be room for variation in vocal approach, color, and phrasing depending on the style. For example, singing contemporary music with a microphone gives you more freedom to choose subtle, quieter colors which otherwise wouldn’t carry in a large hall. On the other hand, late Baroque music is incredibly good for making sure you check in with and improve your technique because the difficult and often virtuosic repertoire demands it. As for a preference, that’s tough to say. What I enjoy about both worlds is that they involve improvisation, a chamber music mindset, and a fast-paced working collaboration to make interpretative choices. Most importantly, I love the community of genuinely kind and creative people who I meet in both worlds.

TD: To be a great singer, you also have to be an actor/actress on stage. Its amazing to me when one has the natural ability to do both. What’s the first thing you do when learning a new role? How do you get into character and does it change depending on what kind of music you are performing?

MN: I am grateful to my acting teacher at Oberlin, Matthew Wright, who introduced me to the Stanislavski method and the basics of crafting character. Also, to Marc Verzatt in grad school for applying critical acting skills to oratorio and art song. Basically, I start with a series of questions beginning with - Who are you? Who are you talking to? Why? Answering those questions tells me what kind of character I am playing. Then I look at the information in the text, music, words, and the specific context of the composition. For any remaining character questions outside of all that, I use my imagination and past experience to decide how to convey the character vocally and physically. And to speak to your question of changing this with style – I think that the process of discovering and creating character is similar across all repertoire.

TD: I can sympathize with the travelling free-lance musician. Do you have any tips for fellow musicians on staying healthy during the season, which may include endless trips to the airport, train station, etc.?

MN: Hahaha, that’s quite a hot topic these days as this flu season has been particularly rough! Some of my singer friends have resorted to acupuncture, cold showers to build immunity (look up a man named Wim Hof), and other extremes in order to not lose work/time/money to illness. Fighting the cold and flu seems to be about two things: building immunity and managing symptoms.To build immunity, I try to get enough sleep (8hrs), exercise, and eat well –the basics. If you want one weird tip, I also go to my local deli and have them make a juice that my housemate recommended: raw garlic (one house), ginger (one hand), turmeric (any amount), and lemons (five or six), then I’ll also sprinkle cayenne and drops of oil of oregano on top and take it as a shot in the morning. Managing symptoms: at the first sign of illness, if my schedule allows, I’ll take Nyquil to sleep as many hours as possible (twelve is great). Sleep is the biggest help and the earlier, the better. Airborne, zinc, echinacea, Umcka, elderberry, Tylenol, traditional medicines or not, you name it and I’ll take it because placebo (and even a false sense of control) can be a powerful tool.

TD: Every singer I know always has the best outfits! Also, the red dress you're wearing in this photo is stunning! I’ve always wanted to go shopping with my singer friends because they seem to have all this insider knowledge on where to buy the best gowns for concerts. Do you have a favorite place?

MN: The question of what to wear for any given performance is one that I put some thought and stress into, maybe more than necessary! It helps to have a lot of options, because the way I see it, clothing is a powerful communication tool in performance. My friend David Dickey put it perfectly this summer – what you look like when you walk out on stage is like the presentation of food on your plate before you eat it. Before I sing a note, what I am wearing will prepare the audience for what they are about to hear – whether it’s glamorous or a T-shirt and jeans. This helps whenever I run into trouble agonizing over which dress, shirt, jewelry, etc. to choose. When I remember to consult the purpose of the music, I know what to wear. As for what I stock in my closet—for formal gowns, I love the designer, Tadashi Shoji, very powerful and beautiful feminine designs. You can find his formal wear in most department stores, hopefully after they’ve gone on sale. Most of my cocktail-length dresses come from consignment shops that carry designer labels. I also love Anthropologie. There are some online Facebook groups where performers offer gowns to each other at discount prices, and Rent the Runway can be another good source.

TD: Could you tell me about some of the other exciting projects you have on the horizon?

Yes, thank you for asking! I am very excited about the projects I have in next few months.

In March, the Trinity Wall Street choir will record the Monteverdi Vespers of 1610. Like Trinity’s performance last May, we will record a version of the arias for non-traditional voice parts as well as a version with the traditional assignments. This means that I will get to sing one of my favorite solo arias, Nigra Sum (historically performed by a tenor, although the speaker is a woman). If you’re interested in this non-traditional version, click here to watch a video of the May performance, in which House of Time members are also playing. On April 2nd I’ll be collaborating with composer Amy Beth Kirsten, in the premiere performance of Savior, a new work commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for their MusicNow series. I’ll be working with two other singers, Eliza Bagg and Hai-Ting Chin, to perform this piece which explores the life and visions of Joan of Arc. As a bonus for me, my Illinois friends and family are able to attend! I am also really looking forward to joining Apollo’s Fire in Cleveland for their semi-staged production of Monteverdi’s Orfeo which will also tour in California in mid-April; and in late April, I am thrilled to be joining an alumni choir from Yale in a performance of Bach’s B minor Mass under the direction of Masaki Suzuki.

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