Soprano Kirsten Chambers has her hands full in I Am A Dreamer Who No Longer Dreams, playing the gangsters who threaten Singa and Rosa’s families, their mothers, and Rosa’s prosecutor. Kirsten took a break from juggling so many roles to talk about being in Dreamer.
Q: How do you relate to your character(s) in Dreamer?
In Dreamer, I play three different characters and they are ALL so challenging to play, as I don’t relate to any of them! The first character is the Gangster who was abused and now is the abuser. I can relate in a way to the Gangster, as I remember the purity of youth and how it affects the way I relate to children. The second character is the Mother and she has the incredibly difficult task of explaining to her children that their lives are in danger and that’s why they must leave their home. My Mother never had to worry about our lives being in danger. Yet she protected me just like any mother would by singing songs and telling favorite stories when I was scared, just like the Mother in Dreamer. Looking into child Singa and child Rosa’s eyes telling them that they will die if they stay in their home brings tears to my eyes every time in rehearsal. I think of all the mothers in the world who seek asylum and have no choice but to ruin their children’s innocence by telling them that they will die if they don’t leave their home. The third character is the Prosector and the hardest to play. She clearly hates, fears, and finds less-than anyone different from her. It’s her ugly truth and necessary to play in a genuine way, as she feels what she is doing is right.
Q: The cast of Dreamer is entirely female. Mother and daughter bonds, as well as strong female friendships, are portrayed. How does this resonate with you?
This is my very first time in an all-female cast and I absolutely love it! We collaborate and support each other so well! We became an immediate opera family workshopping Dreamer. I have lectured on gender problems in opera, as traditional opera often has heavy male casts with maybe one female leading character. The leading female is often completely helpless without a man coming to her rescue. These characters are extremely uncomfortable for modern artists and audiences, and not always fun to play if directed traditionally. I believe it’s important for modern productions to not shy away from showing the ugliness of this objectification.
Q: What drew you to participate in the production of Dreamer?
I have been following White Snake Projects since their inaugural Ouroborous Trilogy. I have a passion for social activism and the way it can be integrated with opera. I also love how they’ve integrated mythology and fantasy into their imaginative productions. Dreamer will have a very different look to it—more sterile and institutionalized, as we show the ugly reality of our failing system. We are a nation built on the immigrant’s dream and our government is killing that dream by separating and imprisoning families. Opera cannot change our nation, but it can change hearts.
Q: Who inspires you, in the performing arts scene or otherwise?
I am most inspired by whatever opera I am working on currently. Very attracted to works that “put you in the moment.” Especially works with huge orchestrations, soaring melodies, and characters on the verge. Composers and librettists who write with such detail that you can’t help but get lost in the action and completely inhabit the character body, mind, and soul. I want what every audience member wants—to be moved and transformed!
Q: What do you think of White Snake Projects commitment to being an activist opera company?
Opera was created to be an expression of the political times of the era. I can think of no better commitment to the opera world than being an advocate for social change and the betterment of humanity. I believe so strongly in White Snake Projects’ mission!