Santa Fe Opera: Ask the Artist featuring Joyce El-Khoury

[originally posted on Santa Fe Opera’s ‘The Back Deck’, see original here.]

Do you have any hidden talents?  I don’t claim to have perfected the art, but I can belly dance.  Generally speaking, most girls who grew up in a Lebanese culture like I did learn to belly dance.  I learned to do it at parties organized by our church… if you can believe it!  I went as far as taking classes during my teens.  Perhaps it will end up on the stage one day?

What is the one thing you own you can’t live without?  My toothbrush.  Those who know me well can attest that I brush my teeth 32467 times per day.

One food you could eat every day for the rest of your life:  My mother makes this incredibly comforting and delicious cream of corn soup.  I ask for it every time I am home.  If that’s in front of me, I eat nothing else.

What is one question no one asks in interviews that you wish they would, and what is the answer?  Journalists are beginning to ask about this, and I’m delighted.  I was bullied as a child. I know all too well the longterm effects this can have on children and how difficult it can be to overcome.  I would like to continue to discuss this in order to raise awareness in our schools and communities and provide comfort to bullied children by telling them my story.

What is your most memorable Halloween costume?  I was 10 years old when I asked my favorite nun from Sunday School to lend me her habit for Halloween.  She said yes, being the sweet and generous spirit that she is.  I look back at that and shake my head at myself.

What is your guilty pleasure?  Nothing that gives me pleasure makes me feel guilty. Should I feel guilty about that?

What is your drink of choice?  COFFEE.  My parents own a coffee company in Ottawa, Canada called Montana Coffee.  Needless to say, coffee has played a big part of every waking moment. (See what I did there?!)

What is your favorite role to sing and why?  Of my most recent, Dvorak’s Rusalka would be my most favorite role.  The character is fascinating, and challenging to understand.  The music is complex, layered, colorful, magical… I could go on and on.  The role fits my voice like a glove and singing it at Amsterdam’s Concertgebow this season was the most rewarding musical experience of my career thus far.  

What role are you currently working on/studying?  I’m trying something new in my study method.  Instead of learning one role at a time, which I usually prefer to do, I’m learning 6 at once.  I’m currently learning Pauline (Donizetti’s Les Martyrs), Leonora (Verdi’s Trovatore), Emmeline (Tobias Picker), Rosalinde (J. Strauss’ Fledermaus), Juliette (Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette), and Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda.  They are all such diverse roles and I’m curious to see how they influence each other, both vocally, and dramatically.

What one role do you dream of performing, regardless of voice type?  Siegliende and Isolde. Wishful thinking, probably.

Best performance advice you ever received?  “Trust your voice” – Laurent Philippe, vocal coach extraordinaire.

Best performance advice you’d give?  Perform with your heart.  To me, this is what matters the most.  I am not interested in hearing a perfectly produced sound unless it is coming from the heart and telling me something about the person who is singing.