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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Camille Zamora, Soprano Extraordinaire, Co-Founding Director of Sing for Hope

“A singer blessed with intense communicative ability who blazes with passion” (Opera Magazine), Soprano Camille Zamora balances a vibrant career of opera, recital and concert performances. She has appeared with ensembles including the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, the Rochester Philharmonic, the Guadalajara Symphony, the Aberdeen Festival Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Festival Orchestra, the Apple Hill Chamber Players, and in live recital broadcasts on National Public Radio, BBC Radio, and Deutsche Radio. Her operatic roles include Pamina (Die Zauberflöte), Blanche (Dialogues des Carmélites), The Governess (The Turn of the Screw), and the title roles in Carlisle Floyd's Susannah and Handel's Alcina. Recent highlights include Ermione (Oreste) at the Spoleto Festival di Due Mondi, Despina (Così fan tutte) at Glimmerglass Opera, Rosita (Luisa Fernanda) at Los Angeles Opera, Amore/Valetto in L’Incoronazione di Poppea at Houston Grand Opera, Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni) at Anchorage Opera, and Echo (Ariadne auf Naxos) at Utah Opera. The 2009/2010 season includes Ilia in Idomeneo at Boston Lyric Opera, Elle in La Voix Humaine at Auckland (New Zealand) Opera, and recitals with Carnegie Hall’s Musical Connections series and New York Festival of Song’s NYFOS Next series. 

Other highlights include music of Schubert for the American Ballet Theater Opening Night Gala, in a performance The New York Post called “one of the best received moments of the evening… quiet, monumentally serene Schubert art songs, beautifully rendered by soprano Camille Zamora.” She has sung Brahms’ Liebeslieder with Leon Fleisher at the Aspen Music Festival, Beethoven’s Mass in C at Alice Tully Hall, Handel’s Dixit Dominus with the Boston Festival Orchestra and the Chorus of Westerly, the Bach Magnificat with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s at Carnegie Hall, and, also at Carnegie Hall, the premiere of Prix de Rome winner Christopher Theofanidis’ Song of Elos, a performance she repeated at the American Academy in Rome. She performed Pulitzer Prize winner Aaron Jay Kernis’ Simple Songs for Soprano and Orchestra at the Bowdoin Festival under the baton of the composer, made her Lincoln Center Festival debut with Poems from the Sung Dynasty for Soprano and Orchestra by Bright Sheng in a performance praised by The New York Times as “dramatic and nuanced,” and joined pianist Steven Blier for Spring Will Come Again at Lincoln Center’s Stanley Kaplan Penthouse.  

A champion of the zarzuela (Spanish opera) genre, she has sung the title role in Pablo Sorozábal’s La Tabernera del Puerto with New York City’s Alta Classica Zarzuela, and was featured in An Evening of Tango and Zarzuela with the Connecticut Grand Opera and Orchestra. Ms. Zamora has performed and recorded principal roles in La Verbena de la PalomaLa Revoltosa, and Luisa Fernanda with the Jarvis Zarzuela Orchestra under the baton of Pablo Zinger. Other recordings include The Music of Christopher Theofanidis with the Rochester Composers’ Ensemble, Circles of Stone with the Celtic duo Ceili’s Muse, and H.M.S. Gilbert and Sullivan with Sir Mark Elder and the Rochester Philharmonic. Her next recording, Tienes Mi Corazón: Music of Graciano Tarragó, with guitarist Cem Duruöz, will be released in 2010. 

Ms. Zamora is the Co-Founding Director of the Sing for Hope charitable organization, which mobilizes performing artists in volunteer service to benefit communities in need. In recognition of her contribution to the field of arts activism, Ms. Zamora has been honored to perform at the United Nations and the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit.  We met her at the Sing for Hope Gala.  Whom You Know is pleased to present Camille Zamora as our latest Mover and Shaker!

Peachy Deegan interviewed Camille Zamora for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: What is your first singing memory and what were you singing?

Camille Zamora: My first singing memory is of performing at age 4 or 5 for the captive audience of my poor little brother... I had made up a song based on two pieces that I felt were heartbreakingly beautiful: No me mates con tomates, matame con bacalao (a song about tomatoes and salt cod) and You Light Up My Life.

What do most Manhattanites not understand about opera that they should?
Opera does not mean fancy-shmancy! Opera is visceral and honest and raw. The art form has been done a disservice by the mantle of "high cul-chah" that has been bestowed upon it. Mozart and Puccini and Britten and Handel and Verdi -- these people were/are shamans, and when we really sing their creations to life, we activate light and dark energies -- archetypal stuff -- that can speak to anyone.

Who have you enjoyed performing with the most and why?
My favorite colleagues tend to be whomever I am singing with at the moment. Recent notables include Plácido Domingo (whose incredible energy just electrifies all the performers around him), Lester Lynch (one of the most generous artists anywhere, onstage and off), and of course the children in Sing for Hope's education partner programs, like the amazing Young at Arts Ensemble, with whom I have had the honor of sharing the stage upon occasion!

What opera is your favorite?
The Marriage of Figaro is my "desert island" choice.  In those characters (through the divine alchemy of Mozart/DaPonte), we see ourselves at our most human -- ridiculous, beautiful, clever, petty, open-hearted, hopeful, and above all, innately lovable. That essential truth, plus an endless parade of sublime tunes that begins with the best overture anywhere, is why Figaro is my be-all-end-all.

Other than opera, what kind of music do you like?
I love salsa, plainchant, bluegrass, jazz, nueva cancion, chamber music, and anything that my 5-year-old son sings.

What inspired you to begin Sing For Hope?
Sing for Hope is the positive flip side of a very sad thing in my life, which was the loss of my best friend from high school, Frank Logan, to AIDS. A benefit concert for the hospice in which he died, Omega House, has become, 15 years later, a non-profit organization that is a go-to resource for professional artists who wish to use their art for charitable outreach. In times of sadness and in times of happiness, to be able to use one's art form to make a difference is a privilege and a joy.

What makes Sing For Hope successful?
Artists are innately generous, and the very act of sharing a performance is a gift to both artist and recipient. Sing for Hope further channels this generosity on behalf of people -- hospital patients, underserved children -- who can benefit most from art's healing power. Sing for Hope does this with integrity and intensity, and people are drawn to that.

What have you not done professionally yet that you would like to do?
Roles I would love to sing include Mimi, Violetta, Liu, Ellen Orford... we'll see!

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence?
I have had a lot of great teachers in my life; my parents (former Peace Corps volunteers, and teachers by profession and personality) are clearly my biggest influences and greatest teachers.

What are you proudest of and why?

My son Landon, because he hung the moon (really, he did -- I am totally unbiased on that). 

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan?

I love walking on any NYC streetscape at dawn or at dusk, after a rain, when you can feel the air changing and people switching modes (in the morning, gearing up; in the evening, slowing down)... there is a sort of peaceful anticipation in the air as the light shifts. Love that.

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan?

Ted Muehling on Howard Street in SoHo. It's a little sanctuary. Marie Belle, the chocolate shop in SoHo, is another perfect little world in itself.

What is your favorite drink?

I cannot live without really yummy coffee. 

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan?
I love Cafe Frida on the Upper West Side and Petrarca in TriBeCa -- two spots that are honest and good and true to their roots.

What is your favorite Manhattan book?

My favorite NYC book may well be my earliest one: From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler.

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience?

Nothing beats good runner's high in Central Park.

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else?
Walk forever.

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience?

Of course, I have to say any and all Sing for Hope events! I also loved our opera productions when I was a student at Juilliard (The Marriage of Figaro, Dialogues of the Carmelites, Turn of the Screw) because those were such formative experiences, and because we student performers were such a close-knit group (the closest thing to a repertory company that most American singers experience). Other mountain top experiences include my Carnegie Hall debut in Bach's Magnificat with Orchestra of St. Luke's, and our recent Sing for Hope gala at Lincoln Center with our Sing for Hope students from Young at Arts.

What do you think is most underrated and overrated here?
Underrated - our newspapers
Overrated - our newspapers

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it? 

Nightlight, bien sur! Love the coverage, love what's covered :)

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
I type quickly for someone who only uses two fingers.

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?
Through the Sing for Hope website! Check out our latest news while you are there!

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