A red-haired Texas soprano delights Moscow opera buffs

Laura Claycomb, a vocalist with a rare coloratura soprano voice, is probably better known and more beloved in Moscow than her native Texas. Her lyric abilities and popular master classes for young soloists at the Bolshoi Theater have led to a cult-like following among opera fans and even its virtuosos.

The fiery-haired beauty performed at the Russian National Orchestra Festival to rave reviews in Moscow in September when she sang “Concerto for Coloratura Soprano (1943),” a masterpiece of Soviet-era composer Reingold Gliere. Claycomb was back in town the first weekend in October to join the Symphony Orchestra of New Russia. She played every heroine in Offenbach’s “Les Contes D’Hoffman” in this rare performance.

The artist, who spends much of her time touring Europe, has a special affinity for Russia. After studying at the San Francisco Opera, she launched her career in Moscow by earning the silver medal at the Tchaikovsky Competition in 1994. Since then, she has earned may prizes and accolades, including two Grammy awards.

During a dress rehearsal, Claycomb spoke with Russia Beyond the Headlines about her recent performances and upcoming master classes.

RBTH:What can you say about the Gliere Concerto you performed?

LC: I met with Gliere’s grandson, he took a copy of the Concerto from the Gliere’s library and said: “I hope that one day you will able to sing this” and dedicated it to me. So that’s the score that I’m using for the concert. It’s very special to me that I’m able to do that. It’s very accessible music, I really enjoy this piece. It’s very high romantic.

RBTH: How do you like the Moscow audience?

LC: The audience is wonderful, I mean I’m always inundated with flowers, I guess I’m easily impressed but I love it! I think the audience is here is very warm, they believe their own taste and they trust their own taste. I’ve never heard anything booed here. If they don’t like something they just don’t clap much. Thant’s why I keep coming back. They appreciate what I do.

Almost no one can sing all four female roles in from Offenbach’s
"Tales of Hoffman," but Moscow favorite Laura Claycomb is an exception
who embraces an uncommon and rare repertoire.

Sofia Dymova, Kommersant

RBTH: Will you do more master classes here?

LC: After my recital on Oct. 3, I’ll stay and work more with the artists because they are immensely talented. I didn’t realize I had much to say until I got into these master classes. One of the girls brought Tchaikovsky’s “Snow Maiden” to me and we worked on that and I said: “Quit thinking that this is a Russian aria and sing it like it is Italian art song and bring the voice little more forward, focus it!” And she sang beautifully. Another one had no legato in her voice. I think that she might have practiced all night because she came out the next day and sang legato for me.

The young Bolshoi artists are not what I would expect at least from a typical Russian singer. I hope that they will not only stay here; I think it’s very good for an artist to have a breadth of experiences. Because here you can get a little bit stuck outside of the circuit I would say. Sometimes I hear: “Why are you going to Moscow?” Actually it’s quite international. People just don’t know. This is a totally valid place to come and there are wonderful musicians to work with here. I’m always pleased to come here.

Only thing I could say is there’s always a little bit disorganization here, I have to say it is the same thing working in Italy. But you know people don’t stop going to Italy. … I think it’s interesting for us as artists to put Moscow on the map.

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