Soprano Peggy Kriha Dye has been one of the keys to Opera Atelier’s successes in Toronto, in the title roles of Armide (Toronto, Versailles, Glimmerglass Festival) and L’Incoronazione di Poppea, as the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro, Ilia in Idomeneo, and as Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni.
Elsewhere, Peggy created the role of Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire written and conducted by Andre Previn at the San Francisco Opera, repeating the role with the Pittsburgh Symphony and again with The Washington National Opera. Over the course of her career, she has also performed with the Houston Grand Opera, San Francisco Opera, Washington National Opera, Shanghai Opera, and many others. She recently worked with Opera Atelier’s Marshall Pynkoski and Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg on their production of Lucio Silla at the Salzburg Festival.
Currently, Peggy is the Artistic Director of Opera Columbus.
Opera Atelier’s revival of Armide opens next week with Peggy again in the title role. I had to ask her ten questions: five about herself, and five more about the portrayal.
1-Are you more like your father or your mother?
Although I have more traits from my dad, I am more like my mother. She is a free spirit and an artist. I look just like her also. Truthfully, I wish I was more like her. She is generous, gracious, opinionated and kind. I hope she reads this.
2-What is the best thing or worst thing about being a singer?
The best thing is the environment in which I work. I’m surrounded by incredible talent and passion every day! I am steeped in beautiful music and have some of the world’s best singers singing directly to me! And I absolutely revere the ballet.
The worst thing is being apart from my kids. I miss the everyday stuff and it’s hard not to be with them if they’re hurting. I live with a continual ache on the road.
3-Who do you like to listen to or watch?
I love the ballet. I’m amazed at how they can command their bodies to communicate emotion or skill and seemingly to not be self-conscious. I never tire of it.
4-What ability or skill do you wish you had, that you don’t have?
I wish I was an amazing cook! How great would that be?! I call myself a survival cook. I can keep you alive if you’re willing to eat it.
5-When you’re just relaxing and not working what is your favourite thing to do?
Sit and listen to my kids and learn about their world! Go to Nick’s meets and Annie’s band competitions… and, yes, I wear the buttons. I also love to read. I usually read something related to the roles I’m studying or the classics.
Five more concerning the portrayal of the title role in Opera Atelier’s production of Armide
1-What are the dramatic challenges in the character of Armide?
Armide’s emotions are strong and they change quickly and constantly. It takes emotional stamina to perform this role. I’m always trying to find new ways to express what she feels either with my singing or movement. There are times I’m sure I will cry and not be able to sing, and at the last moment I pull it together while keeping the expression on my face. This role has taught me how to do that. When I am alone and practicing I do sometimes cry. It gives the music and text deep meaning and teaches me my boundaries.
2-What’s it like balancing the precise stylistic requirements of the voice & movement for Opera Atelier?
The style musically and physically sets the parameters for me to work in. These both must stand alone and be accurate and appealing. Only then will I add more drama unless it is a clear decision, usually made with David and Marshall, to stray outside of those parameters. Physically, to say I am challenged is comical. I take a hot bath and ice my joints nearly every night. In Marshall’s productions I have sang on my back, on my stomach, while running, curled up in a ball… you name it! And always for a very good reason. He is ridiculously demanding. I love it. David lets nothing go. Every vowel and every ornament. In performance he is my biggest ally and he has yet to let me down. He is so respectful of the decisions I make in performance and a wonderful person to make music with. Some of my best moments on stage have been with him!
3-What is your favourite moment in Armide?
My favorite moment is when Renaud is being put to sleep. At one point a beautiful dancer is on stage alone to enchant the place where he will be trapped in dreams. She is in a small pool of light with glitter falling from above her. The music is so delicate and beautiful. It is absolute magic!
4-Please put your feelings about historically informed performance & the preservation of period approaches to opera into context for us.
No one tells these stories the same way Opera Atelier does. There is a reason Salzburg and La Scala, Glimmerglass and Houston have engaged them. They have never swayed from their specific style and we are all so much better off for it. What they do is so special and important. I am so proud to be a part of it.
5-Is there a teacher or an influence you’d care to name that you especially admire?
I have many influences and I’m constantly collecting more. Recently I have reconnected with Stephen Wadsworth. He was my acting coach in grad school. His talent and knowledge is extraordinary and his ability to communicate and motivate… I strive to emulate.
While I usually close with a little plug for the upcoming show, I’ll let Peggy have the last word about Armide, opening Oct 22nd at the Elgin Theatre.
Armide is an artistic feast!!! The beauty of the production is endless. Coming to the Elgin on October 22-31 will leave you with impressions you will be so glad you had. If you really want to impress someone bring a date!
Looking forward to opening night