Christine Brewer Sings at Enlow Hall
(Hillside, NJ) Kean Stage presents Grammy Award ® winning American soprano, Christine Brewer on Saturday, March 24 at 7:30 pm in Kean University’s Gene & Shelley Enlow Recital Hall. At once warm and brilliant, Ms. Brewer combines her vibrant personality with an emotional honesty that distinguishes her opera and concert performances. Her range, golden tone, boundless power and control have made her a favorite of the stage as well as a sought after recording artist.
Brewer epitomizes the quintessential American soprano. When in 2007, BBC Music Magazine asked 20 critics to name the top 10 sopranos of the recorded era, Brewer not only made the list; she was one of the four alive and one of only three Americans on the list.
Born and raised in Illinois, where she still lives with husband Ross and daughter Elizabeth, Brewer is the anti-diva par excellence. She is a compassionate and intelligent woman fiercely committed to her art and the world. She was a music teacher before embarking on a professional music performing career, and educating children remains a passion.
“I work with a group of sixth graders in the little school where I used to teach in Marissa, Ill., about 60 miles southeast of St. Louis: a coal-mining town where the mines are now shuttered,” Brewer explained. “The project is called ‘Opera-tunities,’ where I visit the classes a few times a year and I bring my friends from the St. Louis Symphony to play.”
Eventually, the students were invited to attend rehearsals of upcoming performances at the symphony, where they learned not only about opera, but also theatre etiquette and composition. Nancy Wagner, the Marissa school teacher would play CDs of recordings of the pieces for the students, and Brewer would spend time talking with them about the words she would be singing.
“One of my favorite ‘Opera-tunities’ experiences came when we were studying the War Requiem,” Brewer said. “I thought perhaps the piece might be a bit of a stretch for 12-year-olds, but was I ever wrong. A few days before the rehearsal, I found the kids had a complete list of questions and discussion points. At one point, a boy told me that he and his friend had been discussing the part of the Requiem where Abraham kills his son Isaac.
"’You know that isn't the real story from the Bible,’ he told me. ‘They changed it for this piece!’ I asked him why he thought the story had been changed. He said he thought Abraham represented the old men who start wars and Isaac represented the young men who were killed in wars. Oh yeah, they got it!”
Brewer realized that many of these kids had brothers and sisters fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. “This subject was very near to their hearts. Music has the power to touch their lives in a real way and I'm so happy to be able to witness it in a small way.”
Brewer began her career in St. Louis Symphony Chorus. She started her career in opera with the chorus of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis (OTSL). Her first OTSL work was in the chorus of "The Beggars Opera" in 1982 and her first major role with OTSL was as Ellen Orford in Peter Grimes in 1990.
In 1989, she participated in a masterclass with the renowned Birgit Nilsson, and was one of the 10 winners of the National Council auditions sponsored by the Metropolitan Opera. While her daughter Elisabeth was in school during the academic year, Brewer deliberately limited her work in staged opera productions. She returned more actively to the opera stage after her daughter's high school graduation. She began to accept roles including a debut in the title role of Richard Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos at the Metropolitan Opera in 2003, which has become a signature role for Brewer.
Brewer is most famous for her interpretations of roles by Wagner, Strauss and Britten including Isolde, Ariadne, Färberin (Die Frau ohne Schatten), Ellen Orford (Peter Grimes) and Queen Elizabeth I (Gloriana). She made her debut at the San Francisco Opera in 2006 singing the title role in Beethoven's Fidelio and returned the following season singing the role of Isolde in Tristan und Isolde.
For the last 28 years the Brewers have hosted a back yard “hootenanny” around Labor Day, an informal folk music session so titled when Ross discovered that Webster’s Dictionary was about to drop the old-fashioned word because it had fallen into disuse. The Brewers’ hootenanny has grown year by year and taken on the appearance of a sort of international festival, with people flocking to it from around the world and guests numbering over 200. The musicians share a daylong session of jazz, gospel, blue grass, flamenco and even Middle Eastern music (“It’s a must to sing with my daughter and brothers… and I can play violin and harmonica too!”), exemplifying the American melting pot of which Brewer is so proud.
Whenever she sings abroad, whether in the UK (where the Brits have made her a favorite adopted daughter), Sao Pablo, Madrid, Berlin or Rome, Brewer likes to be seen as a musical ambassador showing America’s best face. A natural messenger of hope, she adds: “I feel the obligation to give priority to my mother’s teaching: Leave the world a little better than you found it. If not, everything I do would have no meaning.” In every sense, Christine Brewer belongs to a grand tradition of singers and teachers.
Tickets to Christine Brewer at Enlow Hall are $35 standard, $20 senior, student or child and can be purchased by calling Kean Stage Box Office at 908.737.SHOW (7469), online at http://enlowhall.kean.edu, or in person at Kean University’s Wilkins Theater Box Office. Enlow Recital Hall is located at 215 North Avenue in Hillside, NJ.
WQXR is a media sponsor of Gene & Shelley Enlow Recital Hall. For complete Enlow Hall 2011-12 Season information, please visit the website or contact Ms. Cory Ransom, Director, Operations (908) 737-5932, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Paul Whelihan * email@example.com * 908.737.4077