Sharon Carty | Interview

Irish mezzo-soprano Sharon Carty is admired by audiences for the high quality of her singing as well as her innovative musical programming. Performing a wide repertoire that draws in music from the Renaissance to the present day, in recital, oratorio, and opera, in Ireland Sharon was most recently seen on stage in last autumn’s Agrippina (Handel) for Irish Youth Opera. She is currently a member of OTC Opera Hub, Opera Theatre Company’s professional development programme.

As an Opera Hub artist, last year she co-devised and also performed in the successful Irish premiere of Handel’s early oratorio Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno (1707) in Christ Church Cathedral – a collaboration between Opera Theatre Company, the Irish Baroque Orchestra and Dublin’s MusicTown Festival. This spring the combination returns to give a concert performance of Handel’s opera Ariodante at St Patrick’s Cathedral on April 15. We spoke to Sharon about this upcoming event.

SharonCartyAriodanteReflecting on last year’s Il Trionfo, Sharon points out that the opportunity to present it came from the platform provided by Opera Hub, as well as MusicTown’s interest in promoting Handel’s legacy in Dublin. Il Trionfo was something I’d wanted to do for a long time, and it went well – it was nice to see such an obscure, baroque work so well-attended, and to bring in the connection with [nearby] Fishamble Street, the fact it was Handel’s first oratorio, and so interesting with all the material in the piece that re-surfaces in later operas.”

When the opportunity arose to produce another similar concert this year, for Sharon the choice of work – the opera Ariodante, with its powerful title role – seemed obvious: “someone called it ‘the baroque mezzo’s Carmen’ which I think is so apt – it’s been top of my list since I began to pursue singing full-time, it’s been my dream role. It has so much beautiful music, and the role sits perfectly in my voice… it’s just a matter of getting it ‘sung in’, rather than having to grapple technically with stuff that’s very high or very low.”

Sharon is full of praise for the OTC Opera Hub programme as a means of putting ideas into action: “it’s an amazing vehicle – I’m so passionate about baroque music, and the Irish Baroque Orchestra is so incredible, that we should make every opportunity for the Irish public to get to hear them, and to hear what world-class period performance sounds like. To hear a Handel opera as well is very exciting, especially with an expert conductor like Christian Curnyn.”

CartyAriodantestairsConcert performances of opera are less common in Ireland, but even without the staging and costumes they can still present something special for an audience: “It’s a pity not to do a fully staged performance, but it [a concert presentation] certainly has its merits.” Within the format there could still be some stage movement: “it depends on what time we have in the rehearsals, but yes I hope there can be a little bit. Luckily all of the singers are experienced stage performers so hopefully we will be able to do that, but making it absolutely top-class musically will be the number one priority, obviously!”

Sharon is very happy with the cast that she will be working with: “I’m really excited about the other singers. Particularly Hilary Summers who is someone whose singing I really admire, she’s excellent, so to have her as [Polinesso] the arch-enemy of Ariodante is, for me, really exciting. I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing Majella [Cullagh, singing Ginevra] perform so that will also be very special, and then of course Kim [Sheehan], another Opera Hub artist, will be singing Dalinda. The tenor Francisco [Brito, singing Lurcanio] is a former colleague of mine from the opera studio in Frankfurt and he is a wonderful baroque and Rossini tenor… it’s a very exciting team.” English baritone Edward Grint [the King] completes the cast.

carty_sharonIn the months ahead, Sharon is looking forward to concerts with Musici Ireland, and then a concert programme called ‘Witches, Bitches and Britches’ that she’ll be performing with a small baroque ensemble in the summer – “it’s a fun take on the typical view on the ‘secondary’ mezzo roles – witches and ‘trouser roles’ – but there’s some amazing material there. We’ll be including arias like ‘Lascia la spina’ from Il Trionfo and also ‘Quel prix de mon amour’ from Charpentier’s Médée, such an incredible piece.”

The experience of working in early music continues to be important for Sharon. Looking back a year to Il Trionfo: “I always overwhelmingly feel at home rehearsing or performing with an ensemble like the Irish Baroque Orchestra, it resonates so much with me; it’s an area I feel really comfortable in and the coloratura is easy enough for me, so it reiterated that I just feel really at home in this repertoire and feel really comfortable and I hope I get to do lots more of it.” It’s hard not to imagine her audience feeling the same way.

Handel’s Ariodante is performed at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin on April 15 at 8:00pm.

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