(Dan Rest/Lyric Opera of Chicago photo) International
opera stars and University of Iowa graduates Katharine
Goeldner and Kyle Ketelsen (center) star as fiery Carmen
and dashing toreador Escamillo in Bizet's "Carmen" at
the Lyric Opera in Chicago in October. The two, who also
are Iowa natives, will perform a benefit recital for the
Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre's Young Artist Program on
Friday (11/19/2010) in Cedar Rapids.
By Diana Nollen/ SourceMedia Group
Katharine Goeldner has graced the most celebrated opera
halls around the world, but her favorite place to perform is
The Sigourney native and University of Iowa alumna says
singing with the Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre is “just fun.”
“As I tell my colleagues when I’m suggesting people to
(director Daniel Kleinknecht), ‘You will never have a better
audience or have a more fun on a gig than in Cedar Rapids.’”
she says, singing the praises of the organization she
considers her home company.
“The colleagues are great, it’s not stressful, and
with so many friends around, I love singing in Cedar Rapids.
“After that, I love singing in Spain, particularly in
Oviedo, with the beauty of the area and the people. For
acoustics, there’s nothing like singing at the Met” in New
York City, she says. “Singing on the Met stage is as huge a
thrill as there is for an American opera singer. That stage
is very grateful vocally.”
Goeldner will be voicing her gratitude at home Friday
(11/19/2010), as she joins with UI alum and Clinton native
Kyle Ketelsen in a benefit concert for the Cedar Rapids
Opera Theatre’s Young Artist Program. The event begins at
7:30 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, 310 Fifth St. SE,
and will be broadcast live by Iowa Public Radio.
Both have performed with the Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre over
the years — Goeldner in “Carmen,” “The Barber of Seville”
and “Salome,” and Ketelsen in “La Boheme” and the world
premiere of “Too Many Sopranos.”
For Friday’s concert, they will perform a mixed program
accompanied by Shari Rhoads from the UI on piano.
Katharine Goeldner, mezzo-soprano
“We’ve put together a program of arias that we love or want
to try out,” Goeldner says. “I’ll have some ‘Carmen’ arias
and some German songs. Kyle will do some French songs he’s
performing in a New York recital on (Nov. 14).”
They also will sing art songs and duets from “Cosi fan tutte,”
“Mignon” and “La Gioconda.”
Both are big believers in what the opera company adds to the
fabric of Eastern Iowa.
“Opera is hard to come by in smaller, non-major metropolitan
areas,” Ketelsen says. “Everyone should have exposure to it.
It allays the fears some people have of opera being an
elitist, snooty art form. After shows, first-time viewers
are always saying, ‘Wow! I didn’t realize how accessible it
would be. It’s a lot like musical theater.’”
Goeldner says “there’s no comparison” between seeing opera
live and on film.
“You get an immediate physical reaction to the voices going
on. You’re part of the action,” she says. “You don’t get
that through television or movie screens. Being onstage puts
you through an emotional journey and the audience is part of
that whole production.”
The two starred last month in “Carmen” at the Lyric Opera in
Chicago, with Goeldner in the title role and Ketelsen as the
toreador who captures her wandering gypsy heart.
Both have risen to international stardom since their
undergraduate days at the UI, but have never forgotten their
Goeldner, a mezzo-soprano who is in her mid-40s, lives with
her husband and 16-year-old daughter in Salzburg, Austria.
She is staying in Chicago, however, to perform in “The
Mikado,” which opens Dec. 6.
Kyle Ketelsen, bass-baritone
Ketelsen, 39, lives in a suburb of Madison, Wis., with his
wife and their young children, a daughter age 7 and son age
5. The bass-baritone once called London’s Covent Garden his
home stage, but now is performing more often at the Lyric,
which will suit him just fine in the long run.
“I have a voice type with a lot of longevity,” he says. “A
lot of bass roles were written with an older person in mind
— king, father, old man. As a bass-baritone, I have less
wear and tear on my vocal chords than a soprano and tenor.
“My wife tells me I’m done at 60,” he says with a laugh. “If
after all that time I’ve said the Lyric Opera of Chicago is
my home, I’ll be happy. It allows me to see my family, and
that’s the most important thing to me.”
Both performers know the loneliness of life on the road.
“This is the longest period I’ve ever been away — four
months, nearly five by Jan. 22,” says Goeldner, whose family
recently came to Chicago for 10 days during “Carmen.” “It’s
not easy being an itinerant singer. … Skype has been a
blessing for this business. All the singers I know depend on
Skype, not just to talk on the phone, but to see your
Goeldner and Ketelsen were introduced to opera by their
families. Goeldner attended productions at Hancher
Auditorium in her youth, while Ketelsen’s mother played
recordings of opera’s best-known arias.
Neither intended to study opera as undergrads. Goeldner was
aiming to be a teacher, but was steered toward performance.
Ketelsen joined the National Guard and took two years of
general education classes in Clinton before transferring to
the UI, where he just wanted to take some voice lessons, but
ended up on a performance path.
He still didn’t take it all seriously until he started
succeeding in grad school at Indiana University.
“When you study music in the U.S., if you’re going to
formally study, it’s geared toward the classical scene, and
that means opera,” Ketelsen says. “I slowly realized I might
be able to make a living at this. In my early 20s I didn’t
get it. I didn’t study a whole lot. I didn’t practice enough
and didn’t show up for voice lessons warmed up.
“When I was accepted at Indiana, I was still kind of naive
and had no expectations. At Iowa I became a big fish in a
small pond. Indiana’s the largest music school in the world.
When I became a big fish in a big pond, I realized maybe I
could to it.
“Every new achievement was a complete surprise to me,” he
says. “Maybe it’s my Iowa roots — if you stay modest and
work hard, the cream will rise to the top.”
Up: Katharine Goeldner and Kyle Ketelsen in Concert”
p.m. Friday, Nov. 19, 2010
Presbyterian Church, 310 Fifth St. SE, Cedar Rapids
adults, $20 students college age and under, at the door
or in advance at (319) 365-7401 or www.cr-opera.org
for Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre’s Young Artist Program;
champagne and chocolate reception follows; concert
broadcast live by Iowa Public Radio