20 QUESTIONS WITH: Soprano Danielle de Niese

Classic Arts Features   20 QUESTIONS WITH: Soprano Danielle de Niese
At only 29 years of age, soprano Danielle de Niese regularly graces many of the world's most prestigious opera and concert stages. She wrapped up her seven-city recital tour Feb. 27 at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall.

Australian-born to parents of Sri Lankan and Dutch heritage, de Niese grew up in Los Angeles. Her career got off to a prestigious start when, at age 18, she became the youngest singer ever to enter the Metropolitan Opera Young Artist Program. This January, she returned to the Met stage for a run in the title role of Orfeo ed Euridice opposite Stephanie Blythe. The young soprano recently released her first solo album, Handel Arias, as part of her exclusive contract with Decca Records.


1. A few works of classical music that you adore:

Dvorak's Symphony No. 8, Grieg's Holberg Suite, Stravinsky's Rake's Progress, all of Hugo Wolf's lieder, and everything Mozart.

2. Classical music recordings that you treasure:

RCA's recording of Manon with Beverly Sills, Nicolai Gedda, and Julius Rudel, and a rare Marlboro Recording of the Brahms's Liebeslieder Waltzer with Benita Valente, but it was stolen while I was at the Marlboro Festival!

3. Favorite non-classical musicians and/or recordings:

Dave Mathews Band, Coldplay, Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, John Mayer, Simon and Garfunkel

4. Music that makes you cry _ any genre:

Music I studied with my mother, movie soundtracks, a lot of classical music, some patriotic American music, and the John Williams composition they played at President Obama's Inauguration!

5. Definitely underrated work(s) or composer (s):

Grieg and Respighi.

6. Possibly overrated work(s) or composer (s):

I don't want to pass judgment on something that someone worked so hard to write.

7. Live music performance (s) you attended _ any genre _ that you'll never forget:

I'll never forget watching Maestro Riccardo Muti rehearsing Respighi's Pini di Roma in Italy. It was spellbinding.

8. A few relatively recent films you love:

Jeux D'Enfants, The Dark Knight, Spanglish, Garden State, The Notebook, Sex and the City, Secretary, and all Clint Eastwood's recent films.

9. A few films you consider classics:

An Affair to Remember, Sleepless in Seattle, The Notebook, American Beauty, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and Braveheart

10. A few books that are important to you (and why):

F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby because from the moment I opened the book I was transported _ it is so captivatingly written, and I always wanted to play Daisy Buchannan. Yann Martel's Life of Pi because in reading it, I saw how positive my faith is.

11. Thing(s) about yourself that you're most proud of:

I'm most proud that I speak three languages, because I studied so hard to acquire them: two months in Sienna, two months in Paris, and two months in Vienna, over three consecutive summers. I'm also a bit nerdy in that I'm pretty proud of how organized I am _ I love making lists!

12. Thing(s) about yourself that you're embarrassed by:

I crack my neck and I've been trying to quit forever! I hate that about myself! I'm also embarrassed by the list-making _ it's so nerdy, and the only time I don't make a list is when I'm on vacation, but even then it's a strain not to get a piece of paper out!!

13. Three things you can't live without:

LOVE, my loved ones, my notebooks/lists, and my iPod.

14. "When I want to get away from it all I..."

...watch Sex and the City or any romantic movie, go on vacation, or turn my phone and computer off.

15. "People are surprised to find out that I..."

...won an Emmy as a television show host in Los Angeles when I was sixteen and appeared in the Ridley Scott movie Hannibal.

16. "My favorite cities are..."

Los Angeles where I grew up, Paris, Amsterdam, Lyon, Berlin, San Francisco, New York City, and Chicago.

17. "I have a secret crush on..."

Brad Pitt, Robert Redford in Barefoot in the Park, Ryan Gosling in the Notebook, and Roger Federer.

18. "My most obvious guilty pleasure is..."

...my favorite science fiction show FARSCAPE! I find it difficult to watch the Sci-Fi channel since they cancelled the show!!

19. "I'd really love to meet..."

President Obama, Roger Federer, Tiger Woods, Whitney Houston, Meryl Streep, Clint Eastwood. If deceased people can be included I'd need more space to respond because there are loads of people from the past who I'd love to meet...

20. "I never understood why..."

...people litter in the movie theaters. There are big bins outside precisely for the disposing of your food and drinks after the film, and yet people always leave their food and trash all over the theater!


Next, de Niese will travel across the pond to sing the role of Galatea in Acis and Galatea at London's Royal Opera House.

For more information and performance schedules, visit www.danielledeniese.com

Past installments of 20 (PLUS) QUESTIONS:

New-Music Sextet eighth blackbird

Composer and Violinist Mark O'Connor

Composer Jake Heggie

Composer Ricky Ian Gordon

Pianist David Greilsammer


Albert Imperato, a music promoter who co-founded 21C Media Group in January 2000, writes frequently about the arts for various publications and blogs.

His new series, 20 (PLUS) QUESTIONS, is his take on (and nod to) Vanity Fair's "Proust Questionnaire."

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