Saturday, January 19, 2013

Interview with Mako Nishimoto

In the first part of our two-part SLO Madama Butterfly exclusive, we bring you an exclusive interview with Japanese soprano Mako Nishimoto, an outstanding young Japanese soprano who will bring her unique take of the role to Singapore. Here's more information about her:

Mako Nishimoto was born in Shizuoka, Japan. From her  childhood,  she  received  training  in  a  wide variety  of  musical  instruments  and  she  completed  her  Bachelor’s  and  Master’s  degrees  in  Vocal 
Performance  at  the  Musashino Academy  of  Music, where she graduated at the top of her cohort. 

Mako  was  First‐Prize  winner  of  the  56th  Student Music  Contest  of  Japan,  and National  Champion of both  the  Tuzuki  Music  Awards  and  the  NHK awards. 

She  has  portrayed  a  variety  of  roles  such  as Susanna in Le  Nozze  di Figaro,  Donna  Anna  in  Don 
Giovanni, Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte, Adina in L’elisir d’amore,  Mimì  in  La  Bohème,  Liù  in  Turandot, Angelica  in  Suor  Angelica,  Giorgetta  in  Il  Tabarro,  Nedda  in  Pagliacci,  Térèse  in  Le Mamelles de Tirésias and Micaëla in Carmen

Her  solo  symphonic  repertoire  comprises  major  works  such  as  Vivaldi’s  Gloria, Händel’s  Messiah,  Haydn’s  Missa  in  Augustinis,  Mozart’s  Requiem,  Beethoven’s  9th Symphony, Schubert’s Messe in G‐dur and Mendelssohn’s Lauda Sion

The Mad Scene: Firstly, what do you love about the opera Madama Butterfly?

Mako Nishimoto: I love everything about it! It has a lot of beautiful emotional music that reflects Japanese culture and Japanese spirit. The music will touch your heart and grab it by the heart strings.

The Mad Scene: If you are not performing in it, is Madama Butterfly an opera that you would watch? Why?

Mako Nishimoto: Yes, of course. It is one of the most beautiful operas in the world to me.

The Mad Scene: What special insights do you have about your interpretation of your character?

Mako Nishimoto: She is innocent and is strong in spirit, mind and belief as we Japanese are. So on the stage, I will show you the pride that the Japanese originally have, the purity of Cio-Cio San, and the beauty of faith. I get to express so many different sides of Cio Cio San's emotions that so inspires me as an opera performer.

The Mad Scene: Madama Butterfly has been sung by Japanese and non-Japanese sopranos alike. What special qualities do you think Japanese singers bring to the performance?

Each country has their own unique culture, including myself as an authentic Japanese who travels around the world, sharing my take on Japanese culture with everyone. I see, hear and have a mind of a true-blue citizen of my country, having lived there almost all of my life.

It is sometimes difficult to recognize or to be aware that you have a mind of your own culture, however once I am in a foreign country, I find it easier, and am more aware of who I am and where I came from.

Many Japanese sopranos, including myself, can relate to the same kinds of emotions and feelings as Cio-Cio San in this sense. We can agree and empathise with how she thinks, what she says and how she behaves.

I wouldn't say that all Japanese sopranos have better skills to perform Cio-Cio San compared to sopranos of other nationalities, but it is obvious that we, Japanese sopranos, would be better able to share Cio-Cio San's feelings and read her thoughts and emotions without any special effort. Being Japanese is a useful background support when we perform Cio-Cio San.

The Mad Scene: You have sung quite a number of leading roles in Japan but only Madama Butterfly outside so far. What other roles would you like opera fans to see you in?

Mako Nishimoto: Yes, I performed many roles in Japan., but there still are a lot of roles I would like to perform.And I would like to perform a lot of roles throughout the world. I would especially like to perform the heroines in Puccini's operas (Liù, Mimì, Tosca, Angelica and Giorgetta), Violetta in La Traviata and Nedda in I Pagliacci.

The Mad Scene: Speaking of which, describe to us your experience singing Madama Butterfly in the Philippines? Did you have a good time? What did you learn through working there?

Mako Nishimoto: Singing Madama Butterfly in the Philippines was my first time performing opera outside of Japan. Before the performance, I was really worried as to whether I could emote fully what Cio-Cio San felt in the opera to the Filipino audience. I felt some kind of "obligation" to succeed as Madama Butterfly in the Philippines as a Japanese soprano.

But, after the performance, I could feel that all of the audiences in the theatre understood the heart of Cio-Cio San  It was a wonderful and exciting experience for me. I believe that people all over the world can understand Cio-Cio San's heart through this opera.

The Mad Scene: Tell us a funny story that happened while you were working there?

Mako Nishimoto: There were many stories; here's one of them for you.The director had Pinkerton and I do a kissing scene with the Humming Chorus. Something unexpected happened during the first performance onstage in Manila: Lieutenant BF Pinkerton did not enter the stage!! So I did the kissing scene by myself...alone!

The Mad Scene: What are your favourite recordings of Madama Butterfly?

Mako Nishimoto: I have three favorite recordings that were sung by the 'Cio-Cio San's of Maria Callas, Mirella Freni and Renata Scotto. Recently, I listened to Maria Callas's recording again. She has so many colors in her voice. Her music gives me a lot of inspiration and imagination.

The Mad Scene: Other than Butterfly, what other CDs or DVDs have you heard or seen recently? Care to recommend any?

Mako Nishimoto: I recommend Maria Callas’s other recordings to you.

The Mad Scene: Lastly, tell us why we should all come and watch the Singapore Lyric Opera’s production of Madama Butterfly?

Mako Nishimoto: Opera is a live performance. You cannot see the same stage and same music again. Once a performance is over you will never see the same one again.This time, we have a special style with a mixture of many cultures. Come visit and you will see how the production makes you feel so many emotions!


Find out more about Madama Butterfly here.

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