Sara Duchovnay will be making her Odyssey Opera debut in the upcoming one night only performance of Die ägyptische Helena as First Servant. Get to know a little more about her; from how she prepared for this role, what she would do if she wasn’t singing, her favorite TV shows to binge watch and some words of wisdom for aspiring singers.
As an added bonus, you get to find out a little bit about our Menelas, Clay Hilley, as well!
What sort of work did you do to prepare for this role? When performing a role that is so rarely done, do you prepare for it any differently?
I’ve been performing a lot of contemporary compositions and world premieres this season, so it was actually a really nice change to work on something that’s been around for a little while and has at least some performance practice already in place. I really enjoyed listening to recordings because most of them were recorded live and had a kind of raw quality to them! Since this opera is rarely performed, most people in the audience will be hearing it for the first time! It’s an honor to be the audience’s introduction to the piece and I always keep that in mind when I’m preparing something new or rare. I want to communicate very clearly and deliberately and I want their experience to be exciting and memorable.
What is unique about singing Strauss’s music?
Learning Strauss is like bending your mind around a million twists and turns. It can be very frustrating and tedious at the beginning…but then one day you wake up and it feels like second nature! Once it’s in your body, it feels like you’re riding this really fun roller coaster or water slide and you get to twist your voice around all these bends and turns…I don’t know if that makes any sense…I feel like my answer would be better expressed through interpretive dance or something. But really, I love how Strauss writes for sopranos. His music is definitely some of my favorite to sing.
What aspect(s) of your character can you relate to?
I think we’ve all been in that position where someone in your life, (in this opera, my character’s employer), is going through some pretty serious stuff, but your relationship and status to each other is such that you have to walk that line between being helpful and staying in your own lane.
What are three qualities that got you where you are today?
I’ve always been headstrong and stubborn when it comes to doing the things I want to do, I really like connecting with people, but I’m also good at spending time by myself.
Any words of wisdom for young opera singers?
Work on really loving yourself for who you are as a person, instead of making that self-love conditional on your accomplishments and success. Prioritize your friendships and relationships, take time for things that you really enjoy outside of work, and be proud of what you bring to the table. Those truly confident and happy people make such generous and wonderful colleagues.
If you weren’t singing, what would you do?
I’d own an antique jewelry store or I’d be a therapist.
Any pre show rituals you have that you would care to share?
I generally like to have a lazy day…sleep in, drink my coffee at a leisurely pace, watch something funny on TV, and then eat a big lunch with lots of protein. I like to get to the theater early so nothing about the day feels rushed.
TV show you binge-watch?
Ohhhh good question. I absolutely love TV. I think there’s such amazing writing, acting, and other creative work being done in that medium…which is great, because then I can tell myself that it’s all creative research and not feel so bad about how much TV I watch. My most recent binge-watches were Russian Doll and the latest seasons of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Schitt’s Creek. Clay and I (my fiancé/that guy singing Menelaus), live in our RV full-time and sometimes stay at RV Parks where the wifi isn’t great…meaning no streaming…so we just go to Goodwill and buy old box sets of series that were popular back in the day when people actually bought DVD box sets. As a result, we often binge Weeds, Lost, and Friday Night Lights. The Office is always our default binge though….that show is always hilarious, no matter how many times we’ve seen it in its entirety.
What is something you are exceptionally good at/a hidden talent?
I possess a crazy amount of knowledge about diamonds and fine jewelry, specifically from the Edwardian and Art Deco periods. It’s always been something I enjoyed researching in my spare time. I have an Instagram account that’s devoted to antique and vintage jewelry (@songbirdsarajewelry) and I love getting geeky with other antique jewelry lovers. It’s this magical intersection of art, history, fashion, and science. I love to figure out what operas were written around the time when my favorite pieces were being worn.
What superhero power would you want to have?
I’d love to be able to teleport from place to place…Imagine how useful that would be in this industry! The ability to be in more than one place at a time would be pretty useful too!
What do you do in your downtime?
Right now I’m doing a lot of wedding planning stuff for our wedding in June and I’m also currently working on my photography skills! I’m learning how to shoot manual…I’m really not great at it yet, but It feels nice to have an artistic hobby that’s just for fun and doesn’t have any high stakes attached to it. I think as professional artists, it’s good to be reminded that art can just be something that we do for enjoyment! We don’t have to be a professional at everything we do! It’s humbling to learn a new skill. I also just finished making a very cool crocheted baby blanket for a friend!