How did you first come to opera?
I was into pop and choral singing, so I took a voice lesson to prepare myself for college auditions. I had every intention of minoring in music – just because I loved it – and majoring in psychology. I began my studies as a mezzo-soprano, singing mostly pants roles and comic characters that didn’t resonate with me. When I switched to soprano at the end of my time as an undergraduate, I found my niche in the tragic heroines. Since then I’ve been hooked!
Soprano Corinne Winters. Photo © Fay Fox
Who would you consider to have been your most important musical influences to date?
First my dad, who has a great ear and a deep love for music. Singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell and great divas from the past like Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi have shaped my aesthetic as an artist. Their voices are both beautiful and raw, always serving the text. I approach my work with the same ethic. Beautiful tone draws people in, but primal emotion breaks hearts – an easy thing to forget after years of higher education and trying to ‘get it right’.
Violetta is one of your calling cards. What was your first encounter with La Traviata and which interpreters do you cherish?
I didn’t hear Traviata in its entirety until my first year at Philadephia’s Academy of Vocal Arts. That was only ten years ago! It’s crazy to think Violetta wasn’t part of my life until then. As soon as I dove into the score I was mesmerised –by the music, yes, but the character fascinated me even more. And favourite interpreters? Maria Callas. No one does it better.
What do you look for in a director when you tackle these great leading roles?
Ideally, the leading lady/director collaboration is a partnership. My favourite directors have a clear vision, but they’re willing to adapt their ideas to fit my temperament and style. Rehearsals are magical when there’s space to play and experiment. I live for those “aha!” moments when we stumble upon a new insight that gets to the heart of the piece.
You’ve made a number of role debuts in the last two years. Which have you most enjoyed?
I couldn’t pick just one, so I’ll say three: Desdemona in Verdi’s Otello, Tatyana in Eugene Onegin, and the title role in Kát’a Kabanová. These roles have heartbreakingly beautiful scores, well-written libretti, and ladies who are both delicate and fierce. Like Violetta, these heroines are multi-faceted. I love sinking my teeth into complex characters.
Corinne Winters is Violetta in Opera Australia’s La Traviata, which plays at Arts Centre Melbourne, April 17 – May 11