Opera star Angela Brown, who made her debut at New York City’s Metropolitan Opera in 2004, has performed in prestigious concerts halls with acclaimed orchestras all over the world. For the Indianapolis native, however, nothing compares to the opportunity she will have to perform in front of her entire family when they come to see her in the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s Duke Energy “Yuletide Celebration,” which opens Friday, Nov. 30 and runs through Sunday, Dec. 23 at Hilbert Circle Theatre in downtown Indianapolis.
Recently, rootshed.com enjoyed a brief chat during a break in rehearsals with the gregarious Brown, who was dressed casually in her Indiana University sweatshirt (she did graduate work at the IU Jacobs School of Music) as she sat in her backstage dressing room.
“This year will be the first year that my entire family, including my husband and children, will be together. It will be my family and my brother’s family. My parents passed in 2008, so it is just me and my older brother, George. Now his family and mine can be together, so it makes the holidays much warmer,” says Brown.
“It will also be my children’s first time in America,” says Brown. She is now stepmother to Royce, 25, Darshan, 16, and Chakur, 10, who have nicknamed her “belle mère” (“beautiful mother”). “It’s been wonderful. Of course I would like to have had my own children, but the Lord knows best. He has given me bonus babies — babies from my heart — and they give me so much joy. I have always been a nurturer and they just love me.”
In April 2011, Brown married Anselme Blaise Arglier, a native of Guadeloupe, French West Indies. Brown met him when she performed in the role of Amelia in “Un ballo in maschera,” at the Opera Bastille in Paris, France. Arglier was a mime and a dancer in the production. Though Indianapolis continues to be her base, Brown says she goes back to Paris whenever her schedule allows it. “Anselme is my biggest cheerleader and he says, ‘Angela, you go do what you have to do, and I’ll be here waiting on you, baby.’”
Brown will be doing what she does best when she joins Broadway star and co-host Ben Crawford for the 27th annual holiday production, which is produced and directed by ISO Principal Pops Conductor Jack Everly. Also featured is the Cirque de la Symphonie, consisting of juggling, contortion, gymnastics and aerial acts, along with popular and traditional music and audience favorites such as the re-enactment of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” and the Tap Dancing Santas.
As far as making the transition from opera to musical theater, Brown says, “When I first saw ‘Yuletide,’ I thought ‘I think I could do that.’ I haven’t done musical theater since I cut my chops here at the Civic Theatre years ago. It’s been a bit of a challenge to get out of my opera head, but knowing that I have a mic and that I don’t have to blow my wad makes me feel confident. In musical theater it’s about the words being understood. In opera there are a lot of lofty high notes and you have to modify vowels so that you can get the notes that you are required to hit. It’s been a challenge, but it’s been fun to know that I can still do it.”
Regarding the presentational style of “Yuletide,” Brown says, “Not only do I have to learn all the music, making sure that it is in my voice properly so that I can sing when all of this is over, but there is also the patter, scripted for me and my fabulous co-host Ben, that has to come off sounding very natural. I have to relate to the audience and be real. It’s all about entertainment and I am glad the Indianapolis Symphony thought enough of me to offer this opportunity. I was so shocked and honored at the same time. It is such a blessing.”
When asked how her career as a whole is going, dramatic soprano Brown says, “I am very happy to report that I am a working performer and I don’t have too many empty dates. I am doing great. My prayer for my career has always been, ‘Lord, I don’t want to be rich and I don’t want to be famous, but I want to be comfortable.’ The Lord has made me comfortable (laughs), and He has given me some fame along with it. Riches do come and that ebbs and flows with the economy (laughs). I feel very good about my career. I am very hopeful for the future because I do want to segue into some other things.”
Could “Yuletide” be an audition, perhaps for a Broadway show? “It’s funny that you would ask that because I was teasing Jack (who is a Pops conductor for several other orchestras besides the ISO) the other day when I said to him, ‘I realize this is an audition, honey, and I want you to take me with you somewhere’ (laughs). Like I said, I hope this will lead to something else.”
For now, however, Brown is focusing on giving her best to “Yuletide” and to audiences, whom she promises “can expect a lot of fun, some sass, some panache, great singing and dancing and some warm cuddly feelings. They’ll have a smile on their faces when walking out the door. It’s going to be exciting.”
For tickets and information about the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s Duke Energy “Yuletide Celebration,” call (317) 639-4300 or visit www.IndianapolisSymphony.org.
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